Three transactions rocked the NFL and fantasy football Friday, including a six-game suspension for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott was handed the suspension following the NFL’s drawn out investigation into allegations of domestic abuse.
Also Friday, the Bills traded top wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams and acquired former Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews in another trade. There were some draft picks and cornerbacks involved with both trades but we’ll stick to the fantasy relevant players here.
First, the suspension of Elliott means a large shakeup in the first round of the draft, if he actually serves the suspension. Elliott will likely appeal and the NFL would have 10 days to schedule a hearing. If for some reason, the process gets drawn out, Elliot could play until the appeal is resolved.
If Elliott serves the suspension, his draft value takes a hit and he’d fall to the second, third and maybe the fourth rounds. Backup Darren McFadden will figure to start while Elliott is out. He would be viable in fantasy as a starting running back.
Matthews joins Anquan Boldin and Zay Jones as the Bills’ wide receivers. Matthews’ becomes the No. 1 wideout with Buffalo, but doesn’t hold as much value as Watkins did in the same role. That isn’t to say Matthews will be a bust. He had a career-low 804 receiving yards with three touchdowns last year. This year he bounces back as a WR2 in fantasy.
The fantasy winner in this trade could be Philadelphia wideout Nelson Agholor, who will see an expanded role with Matthews gone. Since becoming the Eagles’ first-round pick in 2015, Agholor has had a tumultuous start to his career, struggling with confidence issues that led to underwhelming numbers. It seems that Agholor is ready to put it all behind him. He’s drawn a lot of praise from Eagles’ beat writers, including NFL Network analyst and former Eagles’ scout Daniel Jeremiah. Jeremiah said Agholor “has had a total rebirth.” Though he has to compete with veteran wideouts Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, Agholor could make a sneaky pick as a WR4/5 for fantasy owners. He’s not being drafted in most leagues.
Watkins reunites with former teammate Robert Woods and joins Tavon Austin in LA. It’s good news that Rams quarterback Jared Goff has more weapons but going from Tyrod Taylor to Goff throwing the ball isn’t great news for Watkins. Also, Watkins’ competition on defense just got much better as he’s leaving the AFC East for the defense-heavy NFC West. He’ll square off against Seattle’s Legion of Boom featuring cornerback Richard Sherman and Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson twice a year. Watkins has missed 11 games over his 3-year career. The upside is that he should see plenty of targets, giving him more value in a points per reception league. Bottom line: I’ve passed on Watkins in my mock drafts and his situation is now worse.
If there’s a winner from this trade in Los Angeles, it could be running Todd Gurley, who saw stacked boxes all last season. The addition of Watkins and Woods along with the presence of Austin should force defenses to respect the Rams’ passing game in 2017.