The 2016 All-Suspension Team

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For most of our lives we are told, “Your actions have consequences” and “Think about how your actions affect others.” In the world of fantasy football, these nuggets of wisdom are as true as they ever were. When our players perform well, we welcome them to our family with open arms; we can’t wait to share their accomplishments with others. They become our favorite children (apologies to my actual son). When they fail or get suspended for 4 games, we’re not even sure we want them anymore…that’s how family works, right? This year, 4 key contributors begin the year missing 1/4 of the season. They are a virtual All-Star team, but let me help you decide if you want them on your fantasy team.

QB Tom Brady

Last year’s #2 fantasy QB will miss the first 4 games of 2016 due to 2014’s Deflate-Gate scandal.

When should you draft him? Brady’s current ADP is QB7 in the 6th Round, and to that, I say no thank you. If you look at typical QB fantasy points per game, Brady is not so much better that he is worth an early or even mid-round pick. With this suspension, I put Brady around QB12, and QB12 is currently being drafted in the 9th Round. If you must have him, the 9th is fair, but with guys like Matt Stafford, Tyrod Taylor, and Kirk Cousins going a round or three later, I wouldn’t touch Tom Terrific ’til after the 10th–say that 5 times fast!

One more thing to think about: Just about the entire Patriots team will be affected by this suspension. Let’s start with Brady’s primary backup, Jimmy Garoppolo.  Unless you play in the deepest of leagues, Garoppolo is not fantasy relevant. He has thrown 31 passes in his NFL career and will immediately find the bench in Week 5. The players most affected by this suspension will be Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Dion Lewis. Julian Edelman has benefited from Brady’s precision passing more than any other Patriot over the last few years. Only 2 players caught more balls than Edelman between 2013-2014. While I don’t necessarily see his targets going down, I do expect less efficiency. His current ADP is 3rd Round, WR19, and at that spot, he carries a huge risk. If I can’t get Edelman as my WR3, I do not want him. In his lone significant playing time, Garoppolo threw only 1 TD pass. That pass went to Rob Gronkowski. Gronk will suffer least from this change. He is still the top TE in fantasy and should still be taken at the back end of the 1st Round. Lastly, we have Dion Lewis. Lewis may actually benefit from Brady’s suspension. For those first 4 games, the Patriots will look to run the ball more and Lewis should be the primary back. When Garoppolo does throw, he will certainly look to make the safe play, which a lot of times will be dumping off to Lewis out the backfield. In short, Dion Lewis could see more volume in both the running and passing games when Brady is out and should have no problem living up to his 4th Round ADP.

RB Le’Veon Bell

Two years removed from finishing the season as the #1 RB in all of fantasy football, Bell finds himself suspended for the first 3 games due to his adoration of Miss Mary Jane and his inability to show up for a drug test. It should be noted that Bell insists, and the Steelers seem to agree, that he will win his appeal and be ready for Week 1.

When should you draft him? As is “Rule 86” for Jordan Reed, such is “Rule 26” for Le’Veon Bell: when he plays, he is the best RB in the league, especially in fantasy football. He runs as well as Adrian Peterson and is as involved in the passing game as much as any RB in the entire league. His 2014 stat line pretty much earns him 1st Round consideration every year until he retires:

2014 Stat Line Rushing Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Total TDs
Le'Veon Bell 1361 83 854 11

On top of his suspension, he is also returning from a serious knee injury. All camp reports say that if he were allowed to play Week 1, he would be ready to go. He is already cutting on his reconstructed knee and is apparently just about ready for full speed practice. So with that in consideration, I am still drafting Bell in the 1st Round of any PPR draft. Missing 3 games I expect his stat line to look like this:

2016 Projection Rushing Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Total TDs
Le'Veon Bell 1100 55 425 9

That would be good enough to finish in the RB Top 5 using 2015’s rankings and makes him well worth a 1st Round pick in 2016. While I would take all of the top tier WRs before Bell, I would have no problem with him still being the 1st RB off your board.

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One more thing to think about: Due to this suspension, DeAngelo Williams’ ADP has skyrocketed to the 6th Round. While Williams was excellent in Bell’s absence last year, he was horrible when Le’Veon was in the lineup. If you can land him as a handcuff RB4, he is worth a look, but at his current price, he is buyer beware.

RB Karlos Williams

Karlos Williams came out of nowhere to finish as the RB38, but the surprise rookie from last year will miss the first 4 games of 2016 due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.

When should you draft him? Heading into 2015, there were literally no expectations for Williams. As LeSean McCoy’s backup, he was undrafted in fantasy football but became the first waiver wire grab of the year after going for 55 yards and a TD in Week 1. He battled his own injuries as well as McCoy last season and finished the year as a good RB4. One thing he was able to prove in his limited time, he could find the end zone. Williams scored 9 total TDs last year, 2nd among rookie RBs. Any and all of the good he built in 2015 was washed away when he showed up to camp terribly out of shape and was then suspended by the NFL. At this point, Williams is being drafted as the RB54 in the 13th Round. Once you hit these late rounds you are typically looking for a guy with high upside, and while Williams could finish 20 spots higher than he is being drafted, he won’t be anything more than an RB4 in 2016. His upside is horribly limited unless McCoy gets hurt. I would not draft him unless it were as a handcuff to Shady.

One more thing to think about: While I’m sure it was more motivational than truth, there was early talk that Williams’ roster spot wasn’t even secure. The Bills did draft another RB in the 5th Round this year and also brought in Reggie Bush after the suspension was announced. The backfield is crowded, and we won’t even know Williams’ true role until week 5.

Disclaimer: Turns out it was not motivational. The Bills released Williams and he is currently unemployed. When he lands a job we will update you but as of now STAY AWAY!

WR Josh Gordon

Remember Josh Gordon? The troubled, but talented Browns WR returns to the field in Week 5 this year after a 20 game layoff.

When should you draft him? This will all come down to which Josh Gordon we are going to get. In 2013, Gordon took the fantasy world by storm. He went for 1600 yards and 9 TDs in 14 games. He was Odell Beckham before Odell Beckham. Unfortunately, he also had drug and alcohol problems and missed all but 5 games of 2014 with another suspension. When he did play in 2014, he was not all that good. He averaged about 60 yards per game and did not score. This is a completely different Browns team than the one Gordon last played on. New coach, new QB, and new WR corps means Gordon will have to prove himself all over again. I need to see some preseason action to accurately project Gordon, but the question is where should you draft him. His current ADP is WR30 in the 6th Round. It’s not the highest of risks, but he’s going ahead of guys like John Brown, Allen Hurns, and Emmanuel Sanders. When it comes to Gordon, I like his “lottery ticket” type upside but would like to wait just one more round and try to land him as my WR4. He’s worth owning, but be sure you give yourself a WR corp that can carry you for about 6 weeks to get a feel for what Gordon is going to be.

One more thing to think about: With this new team, Gordon’s role is completely undefined. In 2013, he was really the only option the Browns had; they force fed him the ball. With the additions of Corey Coleman, Gary Barnidge, and new fan favorite, Terrelle Pryor, there will be fewer balls to go around. Even if Gordon is great, he is likely to see fewer targets than he did in 2013. When new head coach Hue Jackson was the OC with the Cincinnati Bengals, he had a clear cut #1 WR in A.J. Green. A.J. Green only averaged more than 10 targets per game one season under Jackson.

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Now I know we don’t have much of an All-Star team without a TE, but the season has not started yet. Somebody may get suspended or, worst case scenario, Karlos Williams looks to be about a dozen donuts away from playing TE anyway. Fantasy drafting is all about value. When your pick comes up, look at the guys on your board and decide who is the one that will help you win the most games this year. Yes, these guys will all miss the first 4 games, except maybe Bell, but that means they should be there for 8 games and the playoffs. When their value to you outweighs their risk, grab them.

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