Fantasy Outlook: Dallas Cowboys
Here’s the latest in our team preview series, a look at the 2015 Dallas Cowboys.
After losing the league’s leading rusher during free agency, the Dallas Cowboys present some new opportunities across all positions for fantasy football this season. Dallas ran the ball on just under 52% of their offensive plays in 2014, a percentage that will be nearly impossible to duplicate in 2015. After being ranked third in rushing attempts and 31st in passing attempts in 2014, the scales will tip in the other direction for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. Below is a positional overview for the upcoming fantasy season.
Expectations were at an all-time low in 2014 for the aging Tony Romo, who was coming off two back surgeries in an 18-month time frame. Those low expectations were confirmed when he turned in a putrid Week 1 stat line against the San Francisco 49ers. Romo threw three interceptions to his lone touchdown. He got his bad game out of the way quickly and went on to have the best season of his career. His 304 completions for 3,705 yards weren’t the most of his career, but his 69.9% completion percentage was. His 34 touchdowns were two shy of his career high in 2007, but his nine interceptions were tied for the lowest in his career. Romo only had one 300 yard game and threw for a career-low 247 yards per game, but he was efficient, and that’s something you want from your fantasy quarterback.
It is inevitable that the Dallas Cowboys will be throwing more this season. This is good news for fantasy owners who draft Tony Romo. His offensive line was phenomenal last season and got better this offseason. Romo is well protected and is given ample time to go through his progressions, get creative in his Romo-esque way, and find his players down field. I anticipate his completions, yards and touchdowns to increase this season. The more he passes, the more he opens himself up for interceptions. However, we saw a patient and smart Romo in 2014, and he’ll carry that over into 2015. We currently have him as our QB9, but I believe he has the talent within himself and around him to push for a top five finish.
Tony Romo’s arm gave his number one target, Dez Bryant, a career best, league leading 16 touchdowns. Bryant’s 88 receptions and 1,320 yards were enough for him to finish last season as fantasy football’s fourth-best receiver behind Demaryius Thomas, Jordy Nelson and Antonio Brown in that order. As previously mentioned, the Dallas Cowboys will be throwing the ball more this season. This obviously favors Bryant, who I expect to see an uptick in not only receptions and yards but also touchdowns. DeMarco Murray’s 13 touchdowns will not likely be eaten up by other running backs but by Bryant’s virtually indefensible end zone fade from the goal line. The new extra point rule favors Dez Bryant in this sense, and I can see Dallas going for two more than most teams. Bryant has three straight seasons with at least 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, and 2015 will be his fourth. We have Dez Bryant as our WR3, but I expect him to supplant Antonio Brown as the number one fantasy receiver.
In two seasons with the Cowboys, Terrance Williams has appeared in all games, totaling 81 receptions for 1,357 yards and 13 touchdowns. These are not eye-popping numbers, and he is third in line for targets behind Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Cole Beasley came on strong last season and will be fighting Williams for targets. Williams is not an above average talent and is mainly touchdown dependent as a fantasy contributor. He will still be drafted in most formats this season, and has the upside as a flex play in this offense that will be throwing more. We have Williams as our WR48, and I could see him possibly finishing lower than his current ADP. Those additional throwing targets will be headed in the direction of Bryant and Witten. Terrance Williams is one of my players to avoid in 2015.
Jerry Jones liked the rapport Cole Beasley developed with Romo last season enough to give him a four-year extension this year, keeping him around for likely the remainder of Romo’s career. Beasley may only be 5’8, 180lbs, but the little guy is not afraid to haul in those passes across the middle where men of his stature usually take brutal hits. He is small but speedy and shifty. His 37 receptions for less than 500 yards last season are not enticing, but his targets are. It is common knowledge at this point that Beasley had more targets over the final five games of the Cowboys’ season (including playoffs) than Dez Bryant. It should not go unnoticed that Beasley is also a third-down threat, converting close to 80% of his third down targets over the past two seasons. Beasley will never be your WR1 or your WR2, but his upside and his quarterback’s affinity for him makes Beasley a sleeper for 2015.
Randle has the makings to be a fantasy asset for your team. His small sample size still yielded 6.7 yards per carry, well above average. He is the favorite to land the title of RB1 on the depth chart, but it is tough to predict if he will actually have a RB1 season. The opportunity is there, and the offensive line is there, but Joseph Randle is one bonehead move away from being off the team. He is not a power back by any means, and in no way can he “replace” DeMarco Murray. We have Randle as our RB25, and his ADP continues to climb as we approach the season. Joseph Randle is one of my players to avoid in 2015, as his cost is too high for a back who could be destined for a committee.
The career plodder has finally found himself on a respectable offense, but it’s not enough to warrant much fantasy consideration for McFadden. In seven seasons, the former first rounder has managed just one complete season, which was last year. He has also had just one thousand-yard season. McFadden leaves little to be desired in the realm of fantasy, and although he is cheaper than Joseph Randle, the middle rounds are not worth the flier on McFadden. It would not come as a shock for Randle and McFadden to split carries, essentially canceling each other out in terms of fantasy. He is another player on this team to avoid in 2015. To put it simply, he is just not a good running back.
If there is an intriguing back to own in Dallas, it’s Lance Dunbar for me, as he’s another sleeper for 2015. He has close to zero chance of being a RB1, RB2 or RB3, but he is the passing down back who has upside as a flex play. His stats from 2014 are not worth mentioning, but his 2015 looks promising. Rotoworld likes his “Shane Vereenian space-back skills,” and the Dallas staff plans to get him “more involved” this season. The most appealing aspect of Dunbar is his cost, as he is currently going undrafted, making him essentially free. If you are going to throw a late-round dart on a pass catching running back, consider Lance Dunbar.
Romo’s security blanket saw career lows in receptions (64) and yards (703) last season, which I find promising for 2015. The down year has driven Witten’s price down, and he could be a steal in your draft this year. Witten is a perennially consistent tight end and has finished in the top ten since 2009. You know you are getting a top ten finish from Witten each season, and you know he has the upside to finish in the top five. This season is no different for Witten than it is for any of the receivers in Dallas. The offense will pass more and Romo will look to his guy more this season, especially in the red zone. Witten is our TE8, and his talent combined with the inevitable increase in targets could push him up to the top five by the end of the season.
In the same vein as Terrance Williams, Gavin Escobar is as touchdown dependent as they come. He is the heir apparent to Jason Witten but as long as Witten is on the field, Escobar can’t be considered for your fantasy team. He has some value in best ball and even more in dynasty, but for redraft the time has not come yet for him. Keep Escobar in mind for the future and off your team for this season.
The Dallas Cowboys offensive is a collective of fantasy value. Dez Bryant will be drafted high and will be a factor in your fantasy championship run. Tony Romo is a consistent fantasy quarterback and could see his best fantasy season this year. Cole Beasley and Lance Dunbar are the late round sleepers to target but proceed with caution when considering Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden. Terrance Williams can contribute to your team as a flex play, but I would not view him as anything other than bye-week filler. Finally, don’t ever forget Jason Witten.