Welcome to this weeks’ edition of the Monday Morning Sleeper. Last week I profiled a backup running back for the Bills, named Jonathan Williams, who should inherit the goal line work as the primary backup to LeSean McCoy. This week I will be profiling another running back who most fantasy managers know very well, who may be given the lead back duties for a large portion of this season, should his team’s star running back be suspended.
A Fantasy Football Sleeper is a player that is in a position to play beyond their rankings or expectations, is a relative unknown, and who may provide you with some value at their draft position.
As I’m sure you may have already guessed, I will be profiling the backup running back for the Dallas Cowboys, Darren McFadden, who is playing behind Ezekiel Elliott on the depth chart. According to FantasyPros.com Dynasty rankings, McFadden is currently the 83rd ranked running back and is unranked overall. Alfred Morris, who is another backup running back for the Cowboys, is the 95th ranked running back and is also currently unranked overall. If you do decide to draft McFadden, he could be an intriguing late round gamble, which could pay high dividends on a small investment.
PLAYING BEHIND A FUTURE LEGEND
Playing behind someone as elite as Elliott will affect a player’s opportunities, and ultimately, their fantasy value. Unfortunately for McFadden, playing for the Cowboys has done just that. However, there are other reasons that his value has plummeted. First of all, his injury history has been well documented, and many fantasy managers felt the pain of drafting him early, banking on his performance, only to be let down by one of his various ailments. Another reason he has been overlooked is his advanced age. McFadden will be 30 by the time the season begins, and this is the common period in which running backs begin a significant decline in their abilities. As a result, many teams have decided to go in different directions this offseason, effectively limiting his opportunities on the open market. McFadden re-signed with the Cowboys for an extremely team friendly one-year deal with his value down.
POTENTIAL SUSPENSION MAY LEAD TO OPPORTUNITY
Normally, I wouldn’t suggest drafting McFadden as anything more than a late round handcuff for Elliott owners. However, recent news suggests that there may be more opportunities than first thought for the backup running backs in Dallas. Elliott has been under investigation for just about a year now for domestic assault. His alleged formal girlfriend claimed that she was the victim of an abusive relationship with Elliott which he denies. Despite her claims, no charges were brought against Elliott as a result of the police investigation. However, the NFL is still investigating and has not made a decision as of yet. To further muddy the water, on July 16th Elliot allegedly knocked out an unknown victim during a fight in a Dallas bar, as reported by ESPN. While the full details of this incident have yet to come to light, it is rumored that Elliott was the aggressor, and that the NFL is now investigating. It is possible that this new incident may lead to a small suspension for Elliott, and with the ongoing investigation into the domestic violence incident, the results of these investigations and potential suspensions, could lead to significant expanded playing time for McFadden.
WHAT ABOUT ALFRED MORRIS?
Alfred Morris is another talented back who is signed with the Cowboys. Morris has seen his play fall off from when he was playing in Washington, where he excelled in their zone rushing scheme. Unfortunately, Morris seemed to slow down, potentially as a result of a heavy workload, and ended up splitting carries with Matt Jones before signing with the Dallas Cowboys prior to the 2016 NFL entry draft. Once he signed with the Cowboys, he thought he was entering into a competition with McFadden for the number one job, but then Jerry Jones surprised everyone by drafting Elliott. This effectively relegated Morris and McFadden to indefinite backup running back status, as Elliott is a clear cut future Hall of Fame level talent.
Playing running back for the Cowboys has its privileges, as they like to run a lot. The Cowboys rushed 499 times for 2396 yards, in 2016. Of those attempts, Elliott had 322 of them, for an average of 20 carries per game. McFadden, who missed all but three games in 2016 as a result of an injury to his arm, was limited to just 24 carries for 87 yards. Should Elliott miss any time due to suspension, McFadden would assume the lead back responsibilities, and he would see the majority of the carries in Elliott’s absence. Should the NFL decide to send a message regarding personal conduct, the carries that McFadden would bring would be a welcome addition to your fantasy roster.
FANTASY DRAFT POSITION
I would try to grab McFadden in one of the last two rounds in a redraft league. However, he doesn’t have much value as a Dynasty asset unless you’re in ‘compete now’ mode, are extremely short at running back, or you are a nervous Elliott owner getting stressed out by his alleged violent incidents.
Thank you for reading The Monday Morning Sleeper, and follow me on Twitter, @HaehnelJames
Have an opinion? Let me know in the comments below.