The NFL has suspended Ezekiel Elliott six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy related to domestic violence. Zeke is expected to appeal the suspension in the next few days, and the NFL then has 10 days to schedule a hearing. So while Zeke is not guaranteed to miss the first six games of the coming season, it seems very likely that he will miss six games at some point this year. But is it fair?
First of all, it’s important to understand that the courts threw this case out already due to conflicting evidence and witness testimonies; many claim to have heard the ex-girlfriend in question promise to ruin Elliott’s career if he broke up with her. It’s not that Zeke was found innocent in this; he avoided trial completely in the matter. As far as the legal system is concerned, Zeke is innocent until proven guilty… and since this case won’t go to trial, he’s innocent of criminal activity in the eyes of the law.
NFL discipline is a different animal, though. The league has a personal conduct policy that its employees must submit to in order to work there, and it includes rules that go beyond simply breaking the law or not. After conducting its own thorough investigation, the league concluded that Zeke violated that personal conduct policy in regard to domestic violence. I think that the NFL is finally showing a little consistency with their own policies. They have a 6-game suspension set as the penalty for violating the league’s personal conduct policy with domestic violence. The NFL does not rely on the courts for actual convictions in order to enact their discipline; they run their own investigation to determine whether a player has violated the NFL policies governing their employees (players). In this case, they determined – rightly, I think – that Zeke Elliot had violated that policy multiple times in a short career.
I applaud the NFL on this one – I think they got it right. Zeke needs to be redirected before he flames his own career, and a 1-2 game suspension doesn’t accomplish that. This sends the message loud and clear, and if Zeke doesn’t take it to heart he’ll have no one to blame but himself.
One thing I don’t like about this: during the suspension, Zeke will not be allowed to practice or enter the Cowboys workout facilities. It seems to me that cutting off a troubled young man like Zeke Elliot from the one thing that keeps him in line as a punishment for getting out of line is just asking for trouble. I don’t think he should be allowed to practice, but keeping him away from football entirely during the suspension is probably not in his best interest. If the NFL really wants to get this right, they should get this kid the help he needs rather than just pass down punishment designed to protect their image and brand.
In terms of fantasy football, this stings a little; I own Zeke in a keeper format and a dynasty league, and six games is a long time. I’ll absolutely hang on to him in the dynasty league, since his trade value is at an all-time low and I would only get pennies on the dollar for him now. The keeper league is trickier; if I had a viable alternative I would probably throw him back. Since I don’t, I’ll likely hang on to him on my bench and try to cobble together a starter for the first 7 weeks (suspension plus the Cowboys bye). In redraft formats I think this drops his value from the third pick to the third round. That means I’m still taking Zeke as a starter, and looking for a 7-week replacement in the later rounds… somebody like Rob Kelley, Terrance West, or Darren McFadden/Alfred Morris would potentially pair with Zeke to return top 10-level production during the course of a full season.