Campfire Chat: Handling Suspended Players

Footballguys staff members discuss how to handle players who are or could be suspended

It seems there are more and more players getting dinged with suspensions these days. How are you treating these players? How does their suspension factor into their draft status? What about players who aren't currently suspended but will miss significant time with another misstep - how do you treat them?

Daniel Simpkins: For me, it's going to be weighed on a case-by-case basis. It will depend on the player, the reason they got suspended, and my evaluation of how likely they are to be repeat offenders. That last qualification is a big one for me. If the player is already a repeat offender, I'm very unlikely to want that kind of cloud of risk hanging over my team.

For example, players like Josh Gordon and Martavis Bryant are players that I want nothing to do with in dynasty formats. They've recidivised often and spent cumulatively more than a year away from football. The historical odds to return to fantasy prominence for players in that scenario are not good. Unless I can acquire them for pennies on the dollar and are relying on them as mere depth, they don't make sense for my typical team construction.


Adam Harstad: One horse I've been beating for literally years now is that, while everyone is terrified of players who earn the dreaded "injury-prone" tag, past suspensions predict future suspensions much better than past injuries predict future injuries. Especially substances of abuse suspensions; I wrote last year about how many players in the league smoke marijuana, (estimates typically range from 40% to 60%), how easy the tests are to beat, and how many tests one has to fail before he misses any time. The upshot is that missing any time for this is usually indicative of a serious problem that is unlikely to resolve overnight.

Ryan Hester: As the guys before me mentioned, players suspended for drug use should be treated differently from a fantasy lens than those suspended for Personal Conduct or even PEDs. Grouping the conduct and PEDs guys into a bucket, I evaluate them based on where they'd be drafted if they weren't suspended at all and then determine a reasonable "discount."

An elite talent in a plus situation who is easily worth the "dead" roster spot until they return is worth drafting with little change to his "if-he-weren't-suspended" ADP. As an example, after last season's performance, I would likely advocate selecting Le'Veon Bell at 1.02 even if he were suspended three games this season.

For players lacking in either the situation or talent department, a discount has to be baked in. A player like Doug Martin, for instance, should come back to resume his role as the starter in an up-and-coming Tampa Bay offense. If Martin weren't suspended, I could see him being drafted in the mid-RB2 range.

Since Martin will miss three games and we still have some (though, likely not much) doubt about exactly how things will go upon his return, he should be knocked down a few places. His current ADP around RB27, however, is too far for me.

Evaluating these situations can rarely be done with a blanket approach. Each situation is unique. But one thing that needs to always be considered is average fantasy points in games played rather than fantasy points for the whole season.

Chad Parsons: I agree with Adam as substance abuse is my biggest avoid situation in general. Concussions are next for me. Someone like Ezekiel Elliott, for example, does not move the needle as missing a number of games to open the season is not a shift on my board. I am drafting player more for the stretch run than early weeks. Jacquizz Rodgers would be an exception with likely more work with Doug Martin out to start the season than otherwise.

Price is key for the factored in risk, but I need to have the juice worth the squeeze. For example, I am out on Martavis Bryant. He is priced far closer to his 'play the entire season and produce like we have seen in the past' level than 'what if he is suspended or the depth chart is more crowded than before' factors included. In general, I am more tolerant with risk if they are unquestioned impact players and there is a decent amount of discount applied to the purchase price.

Alex Miglio: I agree with being cautious with potentially suspended players -- particularly of the substance abuse variety -- but usually the risk is baked into ADP. Bryant's fifth-round ADP seems high to some, but he might be going in the second if suspension concerns didn't dog him.

Adam Harstad: I mean, I know hope springs eternal and all that, but I have a hard time seeing a wide receiver who missed all of 2016 and has never topped 800 receiving yards commanding a 2nd-round ADP even without the suspension risk. Maybe the 3rd or 4th.

Alex Miglio: Well theoretically Bryant hasn't missed 2016 because he's not a suspension risk in this hypothetical scenario.

Jason Wood: I agree with a lot of what's been said already. I generally am skeptical of addiction being easily overcome, and to Adam's point, players who can't beat the league's normal testing procedures repeatedly probably have a serious problem beyond normal immaturity. I can and do drop players I know to be in the drug-treatment protocol. There are exceptions, most notably Le'Veon Bell.

Other suspensions are less relevant to my fantasy rankings. For example, if Ezekiel Elliott gets suspended for his alleged domestic abuse, I won't change my ranking (he's 1.03 for me right now) one iota as long as the suspension remains based on the Commissioner's evaluation of circumstantial evidence, versus being charged by police with a crime.

Adam Harstad: Jason, I'm largely inclined to agree with you that Elliott's potential suspension falls more in the "not likely to be terribly predictive of future suspensions" bucket than the "major red flag for more missed time coming down the pike" bucket.

(More importantly from a redraft standpoint, it doesn't seem like the sort of suspension that can creep up on you suddenly and without warning like a failed drug test can. If Elliott ever faces a second suspension, it's highly unlikely it'll be handed down in 2017, so that risk can essentially be ignored outside of dynasty.)

With that said, I think as an owner the fact that the suspension is based on circumstantial evidence and Goodell's whim rather than any final output of our adversarial system of justice would make me more concerned, not less. The lower the bar is for suspension, the more likely it is that something will come up that clears that bar.

Dan Hindery: I'm going to disagree with Alex on Martavis Bryant. I don't think his suspension risk is fully baked into his price and that as his ADP continues to shoot up, the risk is going to start to outweigh the reward.

I'd argue that if he had zero risk of suspension, he should still be going in the fifth round. He's the clear #2 receiver on an offense that has been leaning more run heavy as their defense has improved. This won't be the same Steelers team we saw in parts of 2015 that was forced to win shootouts every week because the pass defense was atrocious. Plus, Bryant is on a team where the top receiver and starting running back are both superstars that will see a ton of targets. I don't see any way you'd take a #2 receiver in that situation the second round. Bryant is going in the same general range as other top #2 receivers like Michael Crabtree, Julian Edelman and Davante Adams, which is where he would still belong if we knew for sure he would stay out of trouble.

Adam Harstad: Prior to his suspension last year, Martavis was going 35th overall in MFL10s. Right now, he has an ADP of around 47th overall in MFL10s. So all the additional suspension risk plus the risk that comes with having missed an entire season of football combined knocked him down about 12 spots.

Dan Hindery: What was the change in positional rank? Seems like the resurgence in perceived RB value might have something to do with the 12 spot fall as well.

I was buying on Bryant early in the offseason, but his ADP keeps rising and I think he's starting to get drafted too high in a lot of recent drafts.

Chris Feery: I’m risk-averse to players that are either facing suspension or have a decent amount of red flags swirling about. There’s always situations where the talent of the player in question is hard to pass up, but my theory has always been to let someone else take the risk. I’ll go with a player that’s of comparable ability and not lose much sleep over it. If the player in question makes it through the season unscathed, then so be it. If he doesn’t, it’s not something I have to waste time adjusting to.

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