The NFL’s penal system has already made an impact on the fantasy community. In light of the recent suspensions, here is a panel discussion among CCSN staff writers addressing what they mean for fantasy football owners this season.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Stephen Logsdon: For me, Bell's value is hurt a bit but not a ton. I would probably prefer to take him late-1st, early 2nd and I would aggressively target DeAngelo Williams after that to handcuff. Bell averaged 15.6 points (standard scoring) in 5 games he started and finished (got hurt in his 6th game). He's a stud when healthy/playing, just has been a bit unreliable in his career. Only having him for 9 games of your regular season hurts but if you're able to protect yourself with Williams or another RB, I think he's worth risk thanks to his upside.
Andrew Fossett: Bell’s coming off injury so a suspension might actually do him some good. We still don't know what his discipline will be, so that will definitely affect his draft stock. Last year, when he had a 2 game suspension, I took him with the 2nd overall pick in one draft. If he gets 4 games this year, draft day will be like a game of chicken.
Phil Gentile: Someone is going to get a great value when they take Bell in the late 1st/early 2nd round. When healthy (and not suspended) he's a legit top five fantasy back. Only problem is you will probably need to grab DeAngelo Williams in the 6th or 7th round but it's a small price to pay for the value. Finally, another negative is drafting Bell and holding him on your bench for four weeks will probably prevent you from taking a chance on some of the other players we will be discussing later in this article.
Dan Trader: Earlier in the off-season I indicated that Bell would most likely not end up on many, or any, of my re-draft teams in 2016, and as it stands, that’s not likely to change. Reason being, I firmly believe in being as risk-averse as possible in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts. If you look at Bell’s injury history, even if we’re assuming he is going to be operating at full health, this leaves us debating drafting a player that I can only imagine is at a greater risk for injury, or perhaps more susceptible to re-injury, who also might not play a full season due to suspension, who you’d additionally have to draft early, and have to draft DeAngelo Williams around the sixth round to secure. I can’t help but feel like the juice ain’t worth the squeeze, all things considered. However, I can’t argue the logic considering his pedigree, especially if his price continues to fall and you’re comfortable investing two early picks to lock up Pittsburgh’s running game.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Stephen Logsdon: Gordon, to me, is the ultimate high risk/high reward player. I was fortunate enough to draft him that magical 2013 season where he finished with 1,646 yards and 9 touchdowns despite missing the first two games of the season (which he was suspended for in violation of the substance abuse policy). We know he has the talent, unfortunately, he hasn't played much since then.
He was suspended 12 games in 2014 then suspended all of 2015 and now will miss the first four games of 2016. The fact that he can be banned from the league at any moment is an uneasy feeling. That said, I would probably bite the bullet again in the middle rounds of the draft but I wouldn't go out of my way to snag him. But if he's still on the board come 7th round or later, I think it's worth a shot as your 3rd or 4th WR.
Gordon is in the last year of his rookie contract. If he comes back and explodes again, he could find himself with a big pay raise come free agency. I think that will be enough to keep him on the straight and narrow for a few months. But I don't trust him at all. How lucky do you feel?
Andrew Fossett: There are too many question marks surrounding not just Josh Gordon, but his entire team. Unlike in the past, the Browns may not be so starved for pass catchers this year. Gordon will likely compete with Cory Coleman, Gary Barnridge, and even Duke Johnson for targets, especially coming off his suspension. There's too much depth at the WR position on today's NFL to take Gordon anywhere other than the mid to late rounds.
Phil Gentile: Josh Gordon probably won't be on any of my fantasy teams this year. Not because I don't like his potential but because he's a name that everyone will be targeting as a sleeper. Gordon is super talented but he's a knucklehead and his QB is one hit from being out of the league. Give me #2 receivers from high powered offenses like Allen Hurns, Marvin Jones, or John Brown over Gordon any day of the week.
Dan Trader: Gordon's upside is high but he does come with a lot of risk, and fantasy owners will most likely have to reach a little in order to secure him, possibly as high as the 5th round. But by the time he plays in October, if he stays out of trouble between now and then, it will be two months shy of two full years since Gordon last hit the field. His 2012 season is what people remember most and focus on, but his contributions in 2014 were underwhelming and he rejoins a team with monstrous potential…for a dumpster fire. On the other hand, if a few things go right in Cleveland, we could be looking at an explosive and productive fantasy unit in the future, but I don’t see it happening in 2016. Drafting Gordon simply depends on how much of a gamble you're willing to take.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Stephen Logsdon: I'm someone who has no issue with drafting Tom Brady, even with his 4-game suspension. This year is as good a year as ever to draft QBs in the fantasy world. Legitimate cases can be made for 15-18 players to be productive fantasy QBs this season so you should have no issue being able to find a solid QB to get you through the beginning part of the season. Brady finished last season as the #2 fantasy QB in standard leagues and returns Gronk, Edelman, Amendola and Dion Lewis while adding veteran TE Martellus Bennett. I don't see a reason for his play to drop dramatically with that arsenal of weapons. Plus, "Angry Brady" is always fun to own. I'm always of the "wait on QB" strategy so that would be my first priority. However, if Brady is available in the 7th or 8th round, I'd have no issues with taking him and drafting another QB in the 10th or later. On ESPN, David Carr, Kirk Cousins, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford all have an average draft position of 109 or later. Any of those guys are more than capable of keeping your team afloat while you wait on Brady.
Andrew Fossett: Tom Brady is probably the player who's fantasy value is least affected by a pending suspension. Picking Brady only means you need a 4-week placeholder until the 11-time Pro-Bowler returns and starts putting up points. In fact, the league's levied punishment might even allow players to take a QB later than usual, and that should be pretty late. All other position groups, excluding kickers and defenses, should be stocked before a QB is taken. Brady, with or without a suspension, is no exception.
Phil Gentile: Brady will miss the first four games. Everyone knows that, including the people in your league. When he comes back, however, he will be one of the most dominant players in fantasy. With the depth at QB I would be willing to take Brady in the 8th round and then snag a Dalton or Rivers or Tyrod in the later rounds for Weeks 1-4. If you are able to grab a sleeper QB you'll be able to trade them when Brady returns. It's risky but the depth at the position is there to make it worth it.
Dan Trader: Anyone who drafted Brady last year most likely didn’t invest much considering at the time of most drafts we all were under the assumption that he was missing four games. He ended up playing a full season and ended with 402 completions (4th), 624 attempts (3rd), 4,770 yards (3rd), 36 touchdowns (1st) and only seven interceptions (25th fewest). This was all in spite of a litany of inconsistencies, injuries and offensive line combinations. Depending on what the rest of my roster looks like, I most likely won’t have a problem picking him up and streaming the position for the first four weeks. An angry Pats offense will do wonders for your fantasy squad.