In a short manner of hours Friday, the fantasy football landscape seismically shifted as the Eagles traded Jordan Matthews to the Bills, the Bills traded Sammy Watkins to the Rams and the NFL announced it was suspending Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games this season.
How will the moves impact your fantasy draft in a few weeks? Here are the earliest implications from the three moves.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott will reportedly be suspended for six games this NFL season but he will assuredly appeal the suspension. Which makes things murkey for fantasy purposes. If he appeals, how long will it take? Will he be able to play for the entire season during the appeals process, much like Tom Brady did before his 2016 suspension for Deflategate? If so, his stock remains the same and he’ll go as a top 4 pick. However, if he serves the entire suspension or received a ruling on the appeal during the season, he will miss time.
Whether that time is lessened to two games or four games there still lies uncertainty that Elliott could miss valuable time for the Cowboys — and if it’s early in the season that’s a problem for fantasy owners.
Whether or not he’s worth a gamble in the first round is up to team owners, but the best advice is to take a calculated risk on him if he’s still around in the second or third round.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Bills
Matthews went from being in a tight competition to earn a spot in the slot (against Nelson Agholor) to being, perhaps, the No. 1 guy in Buffalo in a manner of minutes. Anquan Bolden will likely flank Matthews on the outside with rookie Zay Jones vying to play in the slot. Other contenders at wideout for Buffalo include Rod Streeter and Corey Brown.
The competiton isn’t exactly fierce, and the big bodied Matthews could easily become Tyron Taylor’s top target. Matthews, entering his fourth NFL season, was a mid-round target at best but should beg consideration more toward the top part of your fantasy draft, perhaps in the first five or six rounds.
Matthews will not be the deep threat Watkins was, as the No. 11 projected receiver, but he will command possession as he has made more than 220 catches in his first three seasons and will be valuable in a PPR league.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams
The Rams will also gain a No. 1 wideout with Watkins’ move to the Rams. Will a change of scenery help the oft-injured speedy wideout stay on the field? That is unlikely. The injury risk is always in play for Watkins, but he reamins the top option and will be a gift for former first overall pick Jared Goff. Tavon Austin, Robert Woods and Mike Thomas will flank him at wideout in Los Angeles.
As Goff’s top target Watkins is worth taking in the top half of a fantasy draft but could take a half step backwards with a novice quarterback throwing to him. His stock is slightly down as Matthews’ ticks way up.