On Friday we received more news in the ongoing Ezekiel Elliott suspension situation, and as of Tuesday morning, the Cowboys RB is suspended by the NFL and won’t feature for six games.
But let’s start here: This case is far from over. It can change on a moment’s notice — Friday was evidence of that. For now, here’s where we are: Elliott is currently set to sit the next six games, meaning he’ll return on Week 13. Could that change? Yes. But let’s — for now — deal with the information we currently have.
Naturally, the two reserve running backs of note in Dallas top this waiver column, but allow me to say this: We don’t know for sure which one will be the starter or if it’ll even be a singular starter. Maybe Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will share top duties. In an ideal world, you can add both players and roster them for as long as it takes to sort this out. That’s an unlikely luxury to have, but for practical purposes, that’s the best-case scenario.
And whether you’re looking to replace Zeke or the recently injured Aaron Rodgers, we’ve got you covered in this week’s free-agent finds.
Note: Players available in less than 50 percent of leagues on ESPN.com do not qualify for this list.
Remaining bye weeks are as follows:
Week 7 (two teams): Detroit, Houston
Week 8 (six teams): Arizona, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, Tennessee
Week 9 (six teams): Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota, New England, Pittsburgh
Week 10 (four teams): Baltimore, Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia
Week 11 (four teams): Carolina, Indianapolis, New York Jets, San Francisco
Alfred Morris, RB, Dallas Cowboys (rostered in 44.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
Here’s the case for Morris over McFadden as the full-time starter in Dallas: He’s been playing this season. While McFadden has been a healthy scratch, Morris has handled backup duties thus far, albeit a small workload (just eight carries). He was a tremendous rookie back in 2012, emerging as an unlikely standout after being drafted in the sixth round. He should be picked up in all leagues.
Darren McFadden, RB, Dallas Cowboys (49.5 percent)
Here’s the case for McFadden over Morris as the full-time starter in Dallas: He spent the preseason — when Elliott was expected to be suspended — as the starter. He also rushed for over 1,000 yards during the 2015 season when he was last a full-time starter. For those asking why Run DMC has been a healthy scratch all year? One explanation is that he’s too similar in style to Elliott. Morris adds a bit more of versatility. McFadden obviously now has an open window to playing time. He should be rostered in all leagues.
A huge credit to Agholor, as many thought he was destined to be a nonfactor after two quiet seasons. The former first-round pick has turned his game around and is becoming a familiar target for Carson Wentz. He’s a vertical threat who is excellent after the catch. He should be added in 12-team or larger leagues.
It’s tough to forecast how the Patriots will distribute their backfield work week-to-week, but Lewis’ recent results are impossible to ignore. He has 18 rushes for 105 yards and a touchdown during his past two games, carrying a heavier load in Week 6 after Mike Gillislee was essentially benched following a fumble. Gillislee has been just average so far this season, opening the door for Lewis to earn more work. He’s a savvy add in 12-team or larger leagues.
Orleans Darkwa, RB, New York Giants (4.3 percent)
The Giants got on track under unlikely circumstances Sunday night, dominating the Broncos in Denver. Darkwa was phenomenal, rushing 21 times for 117 yards. For context, the Broncos had previously allowed 50 carries for 95 yards combined by Melvin Gordon, LeSean McCoy, Elliott and Marshawn Lynch. Darkwa ran hard and if he maintains this lead job going forward, he has value in all types of leagues. He should be added, for now, in 12-team or larger leagues.
With Terrance West out, Collins continues to absorb a healthy workload for the Ravens and is running effectively in those opportunities. He pounded 15 carries for 74 yards on Sunday and while he’s yet to find the end zone and has zero catches this season, he’s a player whose value is elevated in non-PPR scoring as a borderline flex play in 12-team or larger leagues.
With Mohamed Sanu out, Hooper saw an increase in targets and workload for the Falcons. He netted seven catches, giving him 12 during his past two games. If Sanu is out in Week 7, look for Hooper to stay involved in this Falcons passing game — he’s an add for any tight end-needy manager.
With Rob Kelley out in Week 6, Perine split backfield duties with the electric Chris Thompson. It was a bit surprising, as Perine had previously been a bigger factor when stepping in for Kelley, but his Week 6 outing was aided by a touchdown catch. If Kelley sits next week, Perine would float onto the flex radar.
Leonard Fournette left the Jaguars’ Week 6 game with an ankle injury, and though he was cleared medically to return, the value of Ivory was highlighted. He’s a more-than-capable backup in the event that Fournette were to go down and should be picked up by all of Fournette’s managers and is actually involved enough (9.33 touches per game this year) that he’s an add in 16-team leagues for someone who might need a long-shot flex play.
As the C.J. Beathard era begins in San Francisco, another rookie is on the radar for the 49ers. Kittle is a terrific athlete and natural pass-catcher. There’s plenty of promise in his game. During his past two contests, he has 11 catches on 17 targets for 129 yards and a touchdown. He’s another consideration for a tight end-needy manager.
We’ll find out more about Emmanuel Sanders‘ injury status as the week goes on, but if he misses time, Fowler is due to see an increased workload. Denver doesn’t want to throw 50 times in a game like it had to in Week 6, but Fowler’s eight targets showed that he could be in line to be the second wideout behind Demaryius Thomas if Sanders has to miss games. He’s a deeper league consideration.
Quarterbacks available on the waiver wire
Arguably the game’s best player, Aaron Rodgers, suffered a broken collarbone and could miss the rest of the season. Many are working to replace Rodgers, a near impossible task given his brilliance as a player. While the waiver wire is one avenue to explore, do not overlook options through a trade.
Most of the quarterbacks who crack our top 15 in the consensus ranks each week on ESPN.com are not available in enough leagues to make this column. We’ll note some here, but I would encourage you to explore trade options, as you might find one available from a fellow manager who rosters multiple signal-callers. Some other fantasy players may hold multiple QBs either to get through a bye week, to make a decision based off of matchups each week, or to have a trade chip. Scan the fellow rosters in your league for a potential quarterback trade possibility.
Again, it’s worth noting that the best path to finding a starter for your lineup is likely via a trade, as the list of quarterbacks who are available in over 50 percent of leagues is relatively slim. However, while Taylor has a razor-thin group of reliable pass-catchers right now and has struggled of late, he has a favorable Week 7 matchup against the Buccaneers and a track record of success from a fantasy perspective.
Like Taylor, Dalton has produced at a high level in fantasy football before. Cincinnati returns from its bye in Week 7, but the issue facing Dalton right now is his schedule. Over his next five weeks, he faces three of the toughest defensive tests in football: the Steelers, Jaguars and Broncos (all games on the road). That limits his upside.
The Packers have developed Hundley for three offseasons now since using a 2015 fifth-round pick on him. He played his first snaps of consequence when filling in for Rodgers in Week 6, throwing one touchdown and three picks. This is a huge projection, but Hundley has as good of a supporting cast in terms of receivers and running backs as any other quarterback who is widely available. Is he a safe bet? Nope, but he’s a name to consider.
Trevor Siemian, QB, Denver Broncos (31.9 percent)
One more option to consider here is Siemian, who had a great opening to the season with six touchdown passes in his first two games. But he’s tapered off since, throwing just two touchdown passes and four interceptions in his past three games. The Broncos now travel for three straight games, starting with the Chargers this Sunday.