The NFL just announced Ezekiel Elliott will be suspended for the first six games of the season. Whether Elliott actually sits out six games remains to be seen.
It’s a situation that needs to play out. Elliott likely will appeal the decision, and once that process gets underway, a move down to a suspension of 3-4 games becomes possible. When Ben Roethlisberger was suspended four games at the start of the 2005 season, that began as a six-game suspension.
Or maybe Elliott or Jerry Jones goes after this aggressively, taking on the league in court. Jones has said multiple times that he didn’t think there was anything to these charges. If it goes this route, the suspension could get pushed into 2018 as the lawyers battle it out in court. That’s the way it played out with the Starcaps lawsuit (with Kevin and Pat Williams of Minnesota) and also with Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension.
This suspension could be a killer for the Cowboys, putting them in an early hole that takes them out of contention in the NFC East. Their first six games include four where not having Elliott could potentially turn a win into a loss. Those six are: Giants, at Broncos, at Cardinals, Rams, Packers and at 49ers. (The Rams and 49ers are the two I’m figuring they win regardless.)
Too early to say with certainty, I think, that Elliott is missing six games. If I were walking into a draft today, I would probably plan on him missing 4-5 games. Considering the quality of the player, I don’t expect him to make it out of the second round in drafts.
Those who draft Elliott will have to have some plan in place for how to replace him for some games. Darren McFadden should be decent as a fill in (a lesser back, but one running behind a great offensive line). But when Elliott returns to action, he should be one of the top 2-3 running backs for the stretch run of the season.
In the rankings we’ve been putting out recently, we’ve been planning on an Elliott suspension. We were expecting it would be about three games. With this news breaking, makes sense to move him down some on boards.
Some may be drafting this weekend. For those guys, we’re re-working our projections, and we’ll get those posted on the site before 5 p.m. Eastern today. Those will include new Elliott numbers, and they will also include some of the changes caused by the games played last night (we’re working on those games now – they take time to work through carefully). The complete write-ups for Week 1 of the preseason will come on Monday morning.
The text of the NFL release is as follows ….
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT SUSPENDED WITHOUT PAY FOR SIX GAMES
Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys was notified today by the NFL that he will be suspended without pay for the team's first six 2017 regular-season games for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy.
Over the course of the last year, the league conducted an extensive investigation. League investigators interviewed more than a dozen witnesses, including Ms. Tiffany Thompson, who had alleged multiple instances of physical violence in July 2016, and Mr. Elliott. The league also consulted with medical experts. League investigators examined all available evidence, including photographic and digital evidence, thousands of text messages and other records of electronic communications.
Pursuant to the Personal Conduct Policy, Commissioner Goodell sought the views of four external advisors (see below) to assist him in evaluating potential violations. These experts range in experience from law enforcement, judicial and public service, and other specialized subject areas.
The advisors participated in a meeting on June 26, 2017 in New York City with Elliott, who was represented by his legal team and the NFL Players Association. The group also reviewed the league's investigative reports and materials, the expert medical reports, and multiple NFL Players Association submissions on Elliott's behalf.
In a letter to Elliott advising him of the decision, Todd Jones, the NFL's Special Counsel for Conduct, said these advisors "were of the view that there is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016."
After reviewing the record, and having considered the views of the independent advisors, the commissioner determined that the credible evidence established that Elliott engaged in conduct that violated NFL policy.
Elliott may appeal this decision within three days. If he does not appeal, Elliott's suspension will begin September 2, the day of final roster reductions for NFL teams. He is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games. Elliott will be eligible to return to the team's active roster on Monday, October 23 following the Cowboys' Sunday, October 22 game against the San Francisco 49ers.