The Dallas Cowboys were a pretty fun team in 2014 if you picked the right guys – and at the right spots. If you drafted right, you could have splurged on the mighty Dez Bryant, snatched up DeMarco Murray in round two and waited all day for Tony Romo until later in your fantasy football draft. Those three guys were really the only Dallas players you could trust in, but they also finished 4th, 1st and 11th at their respective positions.
That’s pretty good. Heading into 2015, the Dallas offense has the ability to once again produce some quality results and owning some of that real estate isn’t a bad idea. Of course, it’s worth wondering which guys are still reliable and whether or not any new faces beg to be drafted. Murray is gone and leaves a gaping hole at running back, but that also could give someone else a chance to run behind a beastly o-line that more resembles The Great Wall of China that a run-blocking unit. If someone approaches 300 carries in that offense again, they’re going to be worth owning.
Then there are the cases of Jason Witten, Terrance Williams and even Cole Beasley. Are these guys worth drafting? Are Romo and Dez still elite? Let’s break it down, player by player as we try to figure out which Dallas Cowboys players you’ll want to target in fantasy drafts this season:
Tony Romo attempted less than 500 passes for just the second time in his career (in a season he didn’t miss games) in 2014. In 2015, that could happen again. While fewer passes took away some of the still borderline elite Romo’s upside, it made him more efficient than ever. Romo excelled in a run-based offense, as he completed a career high 69.9% of his passes, still managed to top 3,700 yards and put up a gaudy 34:9 touchdown to interception ratio. All off of just 435 pass attempts.
Romo’s efficiency was through the roof, and with a studly o-line still in Dallas, there’s a decent chance it happens again. The best part? I do think Romo will have to pass a little more in 2015, but not so much it should have negative results. A risk-taking Romo might throw a few more picks (although he’s kept that number at 10 or less in three of the last four years), but he also carries slightly more upside. Even so, Romo was 11th among quarterbacks last year despite getting the training wheels put on, while he actually only finished three points out of the 10th spot and less than 20 out of sixth.
Romo isn’t going to put up 300+ fantasy points like Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck, but quarterback is insanely deep and you don’t need those guys to win your league. Romo can help you win the title just as easily, because you can stack your roster and wait to snatch him up in the seventh round or later. That’s a total steal for a top-10 or better quarterback, which is clearly why he’s a fantasy passer to target once again in 2015.
It’s Joseph Randle versus Darren McFadden or it’s Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle. Heaven help us. This is a nightmare situation for fantasy owners, as Run DMC is a walking injury with ever lasting upside, while Randle’s inexperience combined with his gaudy 6.7 ypc average of a year ago is a threatening tease. If one of these guys wins the job all to himself, he’s going to be worth owning. Obviously. But as it stands, this is a competition with no clear winner and it hasn’t sounded like the ‘Boys are sold on replacing Murray with just one guy. That could mean some kind of combination of McFadden, Randle, Lance Dunbar and even something named Gus Johnson could slap your fantasy skull around all season long.
The smart money is on the value. Randle doesn’t provide that, as you currently need to draft him in the freaking third round (12-team leagues via FFC). That’s insane. We don’t know if he’s the starter, if he’s going to get the bulk of the load or if he can even do this. All we know is that he was graded out as a slightly above average talent coming out of Oklahoma State, was insanely productive at the college level and has produced mixed results as a pro. McFadden, on the other hand, strangely looks like the safe bet. Safe is an interesting word that no one has ever used to describe Run DMC, but since he’s the only other viable rusher in Dallas and you can get him a ridiculous FIVE rounds after Randle on average (round 8, for those keeping track at home), he’s the far better value. And it’s not close.
The other key thing we need to factor in here, is that McFadden isn’t some scrub. His main knock for forever has been what? He can’t stay healthy. It’s true that McFadden gets bit by the injury bug on the regular, but he was a total monster for 13 games back in 2010 and he did appear in all 16 games a year ago. Another thing about McFadden is he’s probably been handed a crappy deck. He played for a really bad Raiders team for his entire career. Like, he was starting out when JaMarcus Russell had hope. It wasn’t good.
McFadden gets to start anew in Dallas, where the Cowboys have a really good quarterback, a stud wide receiver, reliable supporting talent in the passing game and one of the best offensive lines you’ll see. Talent isn’t the issue. McFadden is mostly a straight line runner, but the speed, athleticism and versatility remains at a very high level. He’s also very much in his prime at 28 years old, has had just two seasons with anything close to 200+ carries and there just isn’t much risk in drafting him. He’s an 8th round pick that maybe – just maybe – could sniff what DeMarco Murray did last year if given the chance. Maybe he never gets that chance. Perhaps Randle is a machine that never stops. Or maybe he does get that chance and he breaks every bone in his body in week two. A lot of things could happen. But passing on McFadden because of his history really isn’t a good excuse when the risk is so minute. Taking Randle in round three, now THAT is a gamble. Splurging on Run DMC in round eight or later, now that just feels like old times. Take a gamble and see if McFadden can finally pay off and party like it’s 2010.
Of course, there’s the other side of the argument, as well.
Dez Bryant is in that upper portion of the league’s elite wide receivers and we all know it. No analysis is needed here, other than to say he absolutely could be the first wide receiver off the board this year and no one should raise an eyebrow over it. Bryant was fantasy football’s #4 wide receiver last year, #6 the year before and #3 in 2012. He’s really good, his role isn’t going anywhere and you know you can trust him.
The only other truly viable receiver in Dallas is Terrance Williams, but even he is going to be touch and go. Dallas runs a more balanced offense these days, while Williams in general lacks consistency. He can hit the deep ball and have a few random explosion outings, but what we saw last year (40th overall) is about what we can expect. There is definitely some upside here, especially considering you can get him in round nine or later, but keep your expectations in check. This offense just doesn’t look like it will allow two guys to go nuts in the passing game.
Beyond Dez, Dallas spreads the ball out a bit between Williams, the tight ends and running backs, and third receiver, Cole Beasley. Beasley is a poor man’s Wes Welker and can be a shifty slot guy, but he’s not explosive and he won’t score a ton of touchdowns. He came on pretty strong late last year and got paid over the summer, but his role should remain pretty limited. The 37 receptions we saw a year ago (39 the year prior) isn’t a ceiling, but it’s pretty darn close. He’s a WR4 candidate in PPR leagues, but there isn’t much upside to be had here.
Once a PPR darling, Jason Witten has seen his role and game regress since catching a career high 110 balls in 2012. He needed a mammoth season finale performance to even top 70 catches in 2013 and last year barely got over 60. Never a reliable touchdown scorer in fantasy leagues, Witten isn’t even a reliable reception hoarder. Witten still has value, luckily, because his regression has dropped him down draft boards in the eyes of fantasy league managers. Despite his mild slide, Witten was the 6th best tight end in 2013 and was still the 10th best in 2014. His system and role are handicapping him quite a bit, but even outside of PPR leagues this should be a guy who can get around 60 balls, 700 yards and roughly five scores. Considering he’s being disrespected as fantasy football’s 9th best tight end in drafts, you can get him in the 9th round or later. The disrespect is fair, but the value still exists. Landing Witten late in drafts as your TE1 doesn’t feel sexy, but it’s a lot safer than some would you think.
When you draft a kicker, you want a guy who has a decent leg, preferably kicks indoors most of the year, works out of a strong offense and is fairly accurate. Dan Bailey is all of those things and more, as he’s been one of the most reliable kickers in fantasy leagues since taking over as the main placekicker in Big D back in 2011. Since then, he’s never finished outside of the top-10 at the position. Kicker is a waste to analyze, but when you can get high level consistency for value, you jump on it. I’ll never condone drafting a kicker before the final round of your draft, but with that line of thinking more universal than ever, you really don’t have to. It also allows more high quality kicking options to be hanging around when you finally do pluck one off the board. Dan Bailey is no lock to be there when you take your kicker in the final round of your draft, but if he is, there aren’t many better options you could choose.
Dallas was the 19th best fantasy team defense last year, and that makes sense, since their entire unit lacked flash across the board and was painfully “meh”. That was fine enough to help Dallas win their division, but it didn’t do it for you in fantasy football, nor should it have. There is hope for this unit to ascend with the addition of Greg Hardy and the return of Sean Lee, but this still isn’t a unit to trust. Track the Cowboys defense, but don’t draft them.
Overall, the Cowboys are a solid offensive team to exploit in fantasy football. Just don’t stray from their studs and if you take a running back, you may want to make sure it’s McFadden and not Randle.