Eric Moody analyzes the impact of Tony Romo’s injury on the Cowboys other players.
I have watched every single offensive snap Tony Romo has taken under center as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. I was a season ticket holder when he emerged from behind Drew Bledsoe’s shadow during the 2006 season. It was buzz in the air among Cowboys’ fans during that season and it was a magical ride until the carpet was pulled out from under the team in the playoffs against the Seahawks due to a fumbled snap. Romo, the undrafted player from Eastern Illinois, became the Cowboys’ solution at quarterback for the decade to come. His place in Cowboys and NFL history may be defined by that single play, a lack of postseason success, or his fragility as a quarterback. Romo is the greatest statistical quarterback in Cowboys’ history. Fantasy football players are well aware of his exploits. The irony is that his undoing as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback may come under similar circumstances as when Romo replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe on Monday Night Football against the Giants back in October of the 2006 season.
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The loss of Romo has a ripple effect on the entire Cowboys’ offense, and fantasy owners have questions. Should I continue to roster Romo? What will the offense look like moving forward? How will Dak Prescott respond? How should I view Dez Bryant moving forward? How early should I draft Ezekiel Elliott. This article will provide a rapid reaction on all of those questions in order to provide recommendations you can take action on moving forward.
Should I continue to roster Romo?
Hope is not a strategy. Jon Machota, who covers the Cowboys for Dallas News, broke the news on Twitter that team owner Jerry Jones said he is not sure when Romo will return. The time frame of four to 10 weeks is broad. How much upside will you miss out on by continuing to roster him? Romo profiled as a low-end QB1 prior to his back injury. If you are in a position where he was your QB1 I would recommend streaming the position. Another school of thought is to embrace the unknown that the rookie Prescott provides.
What kind of player is Prescott?
Prescott owns 38 collegiate records at Mississippi State. He was a two-time first-team All-SEC selection and led the Bulldogs in passing and rushing from 2014 to 2015. Only two players have accomplished this in back to back seasons in NCAA history: Prescott and Tim Tebow. Here is a visual of what he did his final two seasons at Mississippi State:
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*Includes Bowl Games
Source: Sports Reference
Prescott has the frame you look for in an NFL quarterback. He has a thick and muscular body type that can handle the physicality of the NFL game. Prescott has very good arm strength, has displayed the ability to accurately make throws to any part of the field and threaten opposing defenses vertically. He has a solid vision of the field, but he is still developing as a passer on the NFL level. Prescott has very good ball mobility and has displayed the ability to extend plays with his athleticism and generate positive yards with his legs. He also displayed mental toughness last season. Prescott was the only legitimate offensive weapon the Bulldogs had in 2015 and was able to thrive in that environment.
Prescott did endure a number of hits his final year at Mississippi State due to poor offensive line play. He must also develop a willingness to slide as opposed to seeking contact. Prescott was adequate at going through his progressions as a quarterback at the college level. This could become a problem in the NFL in addition to his footwork. Prescott also displayed a tendency to lead wide receivers which could be problematic against NFL-caliber players.
The Box Score Scout is a great resource at RotoViz to compare the measurables and collegiate production of one player relative to another. This presents a career range of outcomes for the subject player.
Prescott can develop into an NFL starting quarterback. The areas of opportunity mentioned above need to be addressed. Prescott can make an impact as a rookie, but it is up to the Cowboys offensive coordinator to protect him through proper play calling.
What will the Cowboys offense look like with Prescott under center?
The bottom line is that the Cowboys’ running game and defense will have to play well. The Cowboys coaching staff may attempt to replicate what was very successful during the 2014 season: A ball control offense and opportunistic turnovers from the defense. It will be difficult to ask Prescott to carry the offense, but the Cowboys have built a solid supporting cast around him. He also has the confidence of the coaching staff and most importantly his teammates. I anticipate the Cowboys’ offense will lean toward the run while strategically layering out pass attempts. Prescott will be asked to throw the football, but only make one to two reads. I anticipate him having anywhere from 20-to-24 passing attempts per game. Prescott is already on the QB2 radar for fantasy football due to his rushing ability.
Should I change my perspective on Elliott and Bryant?
This does not change my perspective on Elliott. I would not draft him any higher based on Romo’s injury. Elliott should still receive 20-to-24 touches per game behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. The only other running backs I would draft ahead of Elliott are Todd Gurley, Lamar Miller, and David Johnson.
Bryant remains a top-six fantasy wide receiver. The perception is that without Romo the Cowboys will not throw the football. The Cowboys’ game plan should stay intact despite the loss of Romo. The offense was not going to lean on the passing attack in 2016 with Romo under center. Bryant will continue to get fed a high percentage of targets in the passing game. Prescott’s ability to improvise with his athleticism benefits Bryant. I recommend continuing to target him in the mid-to-late first round of your fantasy drafts. I would view Bryant, A.J. Green, and DeAndre Hopkins through a similar lens when drafting.
We have many examples to refer to where rookie quarterbacks have made a fantasy impact immediately. Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Jameis Winston come to mind. The one comparison that reminds me of Prescott’s situation is Russell Wilson back in 2012. The preseason production of both quarterbacks look eerily similar as pointed out by One Cool Customer (@OCC44) from BloggingTheBoys.com on Twitter using data from:
Source: Pro Football Reference
I plan on targeting Prescott in 2QB or SuperFlex formats. I could see him being the most highly owned quarterback in DFS formats Week 1. Bryant and Elliott will be fine this season, but embracing the unknown of Prescott as a QB2 with upside could be the decision made in August that wins fantasy championships.
What were your initial thoughts on Romo’s injury? Feel free to leave a comment below of reach out on Twitter. You can find me @EricNMoody.