Watch out now! Fantasy Football is back!
It's August already folks. As the newness of training camp starts to wear off on many of us, our attention will start to move to the small piece of the NFL landscape that we fans can actually control; fantasy teams.
I know, there are still many of you that aren't into fantasy football. You can save yourself the keystrokes; we don't really need to hear how uninterested you are; thanks. For those of us that love extending our participation beyond rooting for the Cowboys, it's time to shine. Honestly, if you haven't started gathering your facts by now, you're running behind at least one or two gung-ho members of your league. So, let's catch you up a little bit.
You know why I love being in leagues with fellow Cowboys fans? Because we always overdraft Cowboys players, that's why! When Tony Romo took over for Drew Bledsoe in 2006, Dallas became a bit of a hotbed for fantasy football owners. Jason Garrett's offense has proven to produce, though not always at the level expected by the owners of the individual players. Let's take a look at what we should expect out of the Cowboys personnel in 2012.
Based on 2011 opponents defenses, Dallas' offense should be in a position to have a dominating season statistically. If their own defense can create more turnovers, then Dallas' O should really roll. The Cowboys should be able to take advantage of the tail end of their schedule; meaning that if you don't get your Cowboys during the draft, don't be afraid to target their skill players in midseason trade offers. The running game, especially, should have success during the playoff stretch.
Cincinnati, Pittsburgh (surprisingly) and New Orleans in Weeks 14-16 should allow Dallas to get them some December scoring. Overall, Dallas has a favorable schedule when projecting their running totals. Dallas has 9 games against teams that are in the bottom half of the league for rush defense (PFF).
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All projections are based off a 12 team, point-per-reception league.
QB Tony Romo (4200 yards, 30 TDs, 13 INTs, no rushing value)
Here's what you have to balance with drafting Romo. In each season that he's started all 16 games, he is a top quarterback. He'll throw for over 4000 yards and 30 TDs. (Fantasy tip: Interceptions, unless the dude has a sickness like Eli Manning in 2010, just don't hurt that much. A QB scramble for 10 yards negates it in most leagues).
He's missed significant time in both 2008 and 2010 though, and that makes him a little bit risky. Cam Newton has become Vick 2.0, passing yards galore plus ground touchdowns. His ascension pushes Romo down the list a little bit. Romo is still a Top 10 QB prospect for 2012, but is Dallas looking at trotting out a passing offense along the lines of Green Bay, New England or Detroit?
That puts him in the second tier of QBs, which in all honesty is the perfect spot to draft a QB. Passing offenses are so elite, the difference in any of the Top 5 is negligible, so why waste an early pick when you could be stockpiling running backs?
Advice: Late 4th round, early 5th round
RB DeMarco Murray (1300 total yards, 10 TDs, 26 catches)
If you have to have a Cowboy on your team, my advice is to target Murray at the end of the first round. He should bring the value of a Top 8 running back after the usual suspects are gone, but don't plan on waiting until after the snake turn. Folks aren't going to take him before Foster, Rice, McCoy, CJ or Jones-Drew; they just aren't. He's in the group with McFadden, Matthews and Lynch, so if you see any of them go, be prepared to make your move.
Advice: Late First - Acceptable lead back for those drafting late
WR Dez Bryant (1100 yards. 70 catches, 10 TDs)
People are afraid of Dez Bryant for numerous reasons. Suspension, injury and undeniable talent. If you believe the first two will overpower the third, stay away from him; let him be someone else's burden.
If you believe in the third, than you know that stealing Bryant could be the move that wins your league. He's that talented and could easily put up a 1400 yard, 85 catch, 14 TD season, even with all the weapons that Dallas has. At the worst, he's a top 20 wideout, at the best, he could be Top 3. He has the talent to put up a season like Terrell Owens did for Dallas in 2007. Will he have the opportunity?
Advice: 3rd -championship winning compliment to two stud running backs
WR Miles Austin (900 yards, 60 catches, 8 TDs)
Don't lie, having a camp injury that is the same as what ruined your 2011 season is a cause for concern. At this time, I'd unfortunately have to advise against drafting Austin, even though he's capable of turning in a 1200 yard season himself.
If you don't fear any lengthy time off for the 2009 superstar, then his numbers could be comparable to Bryant's projections above.
Advice: Early 5th round - solid 2nd receiver
TE Jason Witten (900 yards, 75 catches, 7 TDs)
For all the greatness that is Jason Witten, it's doubtful that he will be able to maintain pace with the new wave of tight ends. It looks like he will rise back up to the Cowboys third option again, but that still isn't enough to select him in the first five round.
Advice: Late sixth, early seventh - still a great top TE. In 2TE leagues or w/ TE flex a great 2nd option
It's always hard to project defenses and special teams. My rule of thumb is unless you are picking a top 2 unit, just wait until the last 2-3 rounds to get your defense. With a solid front seven, hopefully improved secondary and Dez and Felix on the return units; Dallas definitely deserves to be taken in the draft. San Francisco and Baltimore they are not, however.
Handcuffs / Sleepers
- I love having Kyle Orton as the team's backup quarterback, but I would probably go a different direction fantasy wise should Romo miss significant time. Taking a fifth round QB means that your backup will be 9th round or so and you should have good value already.
- Mark my word, if you take DeMarco Murray in the first round, you have to select Felix Jones as his handcuff. You have to. The 10th round should be good enough to grab him, but go ninth round to be safe. If your league awards points for individual returners, Felix could be worth a seventh or eighth round selection.
- Handcuff Jason Witten with James Hanna in the next to last round. I think a Witten injury means more blocking duty for Phillips, but that's just a hunch.
- The Dallas third wide receiver position is so up in the air right now, I can't legitimately say I feel safe calling any of the options a good sleeper choice. If anybody, I'd say Raymond Radway would have the best chance to fill in for Austin or Bryant if they were injured; but he'll be available on waivers the following Tuesday, so why draft him?
So there you have it, my best advice for navigating your way through your Cowboys fetish. Again, if you have fellow Cowboys maniacs in your group, it's doubtful these players last this long because... well, it's more fun to have them on your squad. Let me know where you differ in opinion in the comments and good luck to your team in 2012.