Fantasy Football season continues to draw ever-nearer. It’s time for you to get into your draft prep if you haven’t already started. FantasyCPR has extensive coverage in our draft kit which we will continue to add to over the next several weeks as we come to the start of the season.
Today we focus on one of the highest profile teams in the league, the Dallas Cowboys. We’re privileged to be joined by Steven Mullenax from The Landry Hat which is the fansided blog dedicated to all things Cowboys. Here’s what he had to say about the fantasy football prospects for the Cowboys this season.
Zach Thompson, FantasyCPR: Hey Steve, I’m excited to have you with us to break down the Dallas Cowboys. Thanks for taking the time to answer some quick fantasy questions. Let’s start with the biggest position on the team (and some would say in all of pro sports)—the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo was solid last year and played in all 16 games. He was a solid fantasy QB as well. Can his offensive line keep him healthy enough to repeat his numbers from last year? What does he need to do to enter that “elite” QB discussion and will he do that this year?
Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat: Last year’s offensive line was really young and inexperienced. They should improve this year with a full off-season program under their collective belts. But Tyron Smith will be switching places with Doug Free and two free agent veterans, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings, were brought in to add veteran depth. So the Dallas line is still very much a work-in-progress. I’d expect a minor improvement over last year based on all the moves and the addition of new offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. I think Tony Romo’s health is in pretty good hands. I wouldn’t expect the same amount of production from Romo this year because of the difficult schedule and the lack of a third wideout option. Remember, Laurent Robinson played a huge part in Romo’s success last season. Without Robinson’s contribution, Romo will be relying on Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and DeMarco Murray more than ever. Expect Romo’s numbers to be about average, but everyone else’s numbers around him to go up. Finally, I think Romo will need another great statistical year and a deep playoff run to be considered “elite”.
Z: Your backfield went through quite the transition last year. Coming into the year everybody loved Felix Jones as a sleeper. That didn’t work out so well, but it was DeMarco Murray who stepped up and looked awesome before leaving with an injury of his own. I like Murray a lot and am hoping the other guys in my draft leave him for me. I think he can easily be a top 10 RB this year. Am I crazy? What are your expectations of the former Sooner?
Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat: DeMarco Murray has struggled with injuries during his entire football career and last year was no different. For most guys, that is a negative, but not for Murray. The former Sooner has a resilience that quite possibly has never been seen before in the NFL. I’d expect him to be in top form this year. In saying that, I think we should all temper our expectations for him. Last season, teams didn’t know what to expect and they were surprised. They will be game planning for him this year. Also, I’m not sure he’s an every game 100 yard rusher in this “Air Garrett” offense. Honestly, I think fantasy owners will be surprise how many receptions Murray will get this year. But if your looking for rushing yards and rushing touchdown, you’ll most likely be disappointed. The Cowboys are mediocre in the red zone. The best fantasy advice might be to let the “hype train” surrounding Murray pass you by and cause a more proven gem to fall into your lap in a later round.
Z: Even with Murray in the backfield the focus of this offense is the air assault. With Miles Austin and Dez Bryant at WR, Romo has some elite weapons to throw to. Which of the two WR should be drafted first and why?
Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat: Dez Bryant over Miles Austin anyday and twice on Sundays. Why? Potential. Bryant had nine touchdown catches last year and he disappeared in the second half of a majority of their games. If his conditioning is as good as advertised this year, his numbers could almost double! With Austin, you know what you are getting…YAC! Miles is a burner and will get you plenty of yards after the catch, but his biggest concern is injury. He missed six games last season and had only 15 catches in the last four games of the year. (and only two receptions in the final game against the Giants that denied the Cowboys a playoff berth) Simply, the dude is the weakest number one wideout in the league, but a great number two or three.
Z: Do you see think either one of them will be a top ten receiver statistically by the end of the year?
Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat: Dez will have a chip on his shoulder this year. I think he’ll finally crack that list of top tier of wide receivers in the NFL.
Z: Last year Laurent Robinson had some pretty surprising success as the team’s third WR and is now making crazy money in Jacksonville because of it. Is there a third WR who you see sliding into that role and producing this season?
Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat: The easy answer is no. Unless the Cowboys bring in a free agent veteran, I don’t expect anything close to Laurent Robinson production from any of our current prospects.
Z: Jason Witten was one of the targets who was hurt a bit by Robinson’s looks (especially in the Red Zone). He was passed by some of the younger TE’s in everyone’s rankings for this year. Most people have him outside of the top five after finishing with just under 1,000 yards and 5 TD’s last season. Do you think he’s going to have a bounce-back year, produce about the same, or take another step backwards?
Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat: With the absence of both Laurent Robinson and Martellus Bennett, expect Witten’s numbers to go back up as Romo’s lone security blanket. I think Witten will be a steal in the later rounds for fantasy owners who like consistency. (and who doesn’t?)
Z: I love what Dallas did this offseason on the defensive side of the ball. They moved way up in the draft and were aggressive in free agency as well. I think the Cowboys will be a top 5 defense especially in leagues that don’t penalize heavily for points/yards allowed. What was your take on what the Cowboys did defensively and what is Rob Ryan going to do with all his new toys?
Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat: I’d expect to see more of the defense we displayed in the first half of last season as opposed to the second half. With a full off-season program and another year to teach his complicated defensive schemes, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan should have the defense “hitting on all cylinders” this year. The additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne only enhance what they are trying to accomplish on defense. Expect an upswing of sacks and interceptions, but also consider their schedule. Dallas will be facing some tough teams this season along with an overall improved NFC East. Becoming a Top Five defense will be a challenge.
Z: What was your reaction to the Cowboys draft?
Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat: I loved the Morris Claiborne trade but hated we couldn’t get back into the second round. Dallas could have used the offensive line talent available in that round. I don’t foresee any starters past Claiborne in this bunch, for this season at least. But who knows? I’ve been surprised before.
Z: Last one, give me your realistic expectation for the Cowboys this season. The NFC East looks beastly once again, so how does Dallas survive and make the playoffs? What needs to go right for them to succeed once they get to that level? Is this the year they deliver on their owners Super Bowl bluster?
Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat: I think it will be difficult for the Cowboys to make the playoffs this year mainly due to the toughness of their schedule. The tone will be set in the first game of the season against the Superbowl Champion New York Giants. If Dallas can do more than just split their games against their NFC East rivals, I’d expect them to have a good chance to go into the post season. Beyond the playoffs is anybody’s guess.
If you enjoyed this fantasy football team preview, check out our draft kit for other teams, positional rankings, and player spotlights for the upcoming season.