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September 01, 2019

Fantasy football: Ezekiel Elliott could return this week, Melvin Gordon exploring trades, LeSean McCoy signs with Chiefs

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Zeke-Gordon-Shady_090119_usat USA Today Sports/File

Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon and LeSean McCoy

While all the general managers around the league spent Saturday trying to trim their rosters down to the mandatory 53 players, there was plenty of news coming out about some big-name players to keep fantasy GMs busy as well. 

With some fantasy drafts still to take place, and many others already in the books, the reports surrounding three NFL running backs — Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon and LeSean McCoy — could have a big impact on the season, especially if you own one of those players.

Let's take a look at the latest... 

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

UPDATE [10:25 a.m., Saturday] — According to NFL Network's Jane Slater, things may not be going as smoothly as was reported earlier in the weekend. 

Additionally, according to Slater, the Cowboys have added another running back, Jordan Chunn, from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, giving them three for their season opener.

FROM EARLIER...

Elliott has yet to report to Cowboys camp this summer as he hangs out in Cabo and demands a new contract. And while a disgruntled Elliott was music to Eagles fans' ears, it appears the two sides are closing in on a deal and Dallas' start running back could be back on the field for Week 1 next Sunday.

Talks between the Dallas Cowboys and running back Ezekiel Elliott are intensifying, with both sides aiming to wrap up a new deal this weekend, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Saturday.

The momentum marks a change in the talks between the Cowboys and their star running back. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones had said after his team's final preseason game Thursday that he was "operating as though right now he's going to miss regular-season games."  [espn.com]

Additionally, Cowboys insider Patrik Walker of CBS Sports reports that Elliott could be back to practice as early as Monday or Tuesday, meaning he could even get a full week of practice in before facing the Giants.

Sources with knowledge of the situation confirm Schefter's report, and have affirmed to me for weeks that a deal would likely be done that ends the holdout prior to the regular-season opener against the New York Giants. Furthermore, I've been told the goal is for Elliott to return to the facility on Monday or Tuesday of next week, giving him ample time to get a full week of practice in before the Sept. 8. battle.  [cbssports.com]

You only have to look at the Cowboys current 53-man roster to know that they're optimistic they'll have Zeke back next weekend — they only kept two other running backs.

If you went out and drafted Zeke with he was originally projected to go before the holdout, you no longer have to worry about a wasted fantasy season. If you drafted Elliott much later after the holdout started, congrats, you likely got the steal of the draft. And if you haven't had your draft yet, it's safe to assume you can go ahead and draft Elliott in the early first round and not have to worry about the repercussions. 

Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

There's a reason for the question mark next to Gordon's team — because that might not be where the 26-year-old running back suits up this season. 

Heading into the fifth year (team option) of his rookie deal, Gordon is set to make $5.6 million for the season, but obviously feels like he's worth considerable more, and would like to be on par with the league's top running backs (and perhaps Elliott will reset the market with his new deal this weekend). The Chargers have previously offered Gordon $10 million per year, but the holdout continues with no end in sight and the start of the season just around the corner. 

Now, there's potentially some good news for Gordon owners — or those who still hope to land him in their drafts. The Chargers have reportedly agreed to allow Gordon's reps to seek a trade deal and gauge not only what he might net in return for the Chargers, but also explore what a potential contract extension from another team might look like. That being said, there's still a chance that Gordon returns to Los Angeles after seeing what kind of demand there is for his services.

Though Gordon has stated publicly that he wishes to remain a Charger, if both sides find a RB-needy suitor eager to compensate both Gordon and the Bolts in a way they seem fit, then the running back might enjoy a future in football elsewhere.

Los Angeles is operating from a point of leverage because of its deep running back room. The Bolts employ Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, both of whom thrived down the stretch of the 2018 season when Gordon was hampered by injuries. Gordon is also statistically not in the realm of the top-paid backs in the league like Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell.  [nfl.com]

Should Gordon go elsewhere, his landing spot will likely determine exactly how high his value will be, but it's certainly better than if he continues his holdout with the Chargers. And if he leaves, that greatly increases the value of guys like Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, who both played well last season with Gordon sidelined with injury.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

After being released by the Bills in a somewhat surprising move (but actually not that surprising when you look at the money involved), LeSean McCoy will be reunited with old friend Andy Reid, signing a one-year deal with the Chiefs. And that changes things.

In Buffalo, McCoy was slated to be the lead back in a crowded backfield before suddenly being cut on Saturday. Now with Kansas City, McCoy joins a backfield with Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson after the Chiefs traded Carlos Hyde to the Texans. 

So will Shady be the lead back in Kansas City? Probably not — at least not right out of the gate — but that doesn't mean McCoy is less valuable now than he was in Buffalo. If anything, it's the opposite. Here's more from Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports:

I still expect Williams to lead this backfield in touches if he remains healthy, but he already battled a hamstring injury in training camp that kept him out for a week. And it's clear by this signing that Reid and the front office weren't fully comfortable with Williams in the No. 1 role. We'll see if he can prove them wrong.

McCoy's ADP had him going in Round 10 prior to joining the Chiefs, and anyone who drafted him in that range has to be excited. While he was expected to be the lead rusher in Buffalo, he was always going to share work. And you'd much rather be in a timeshare with the Chiefs than the Bills.  [cbssports.com]

Now, according to Eisenberg, McCoy's ADP is up to Round 8. And it's also worth wondering what Reid and the Chiefs told McCoy before his signing as he reportedly turned down a similar offer with the Chargers, presumably as insurance for Melvin Gordon.

The addition of McCoy, however, is bad news for those who drafted Thomspon and expected him to be the No. 2 in Kansas City. Many of his touches will likely now belong to Shady. Here's more from Eisenberg:

You should draft McCoy ahead of Thompson now. We've seen Thompson's ADP on the rise over the past several weeks when it appeared he would be the No. 2 running back in Kansas City. He was up to Round 9 as of Saturday, but his value is now on the decline in seasonal leagues. The earliest I would consider drafting Thompson now is Round 12. 

He could still get some playing time on a weekly basis, but you have to assume he'll be third on the depth chart behind Williams and McCoy.  [cbssports.com]

Stay tuned as we'll keep you updated with the latest fantasy football news and rumors throughout the NFL season... 

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