This is the “big lull” in the NFL. Perhaps no other time of the year is quite as dead on the NFL calendar than the time between the end of minicamps and the start of real training camps. This being the NFL, news never really stops, but the big things are few and far between.
One thing that has popped up in recent times to fill this time is fantasy mock drafts. Yes, not even real fantasy drafts, but mock drafts for the fantasy season. Okay, there may be some deserved mockery for these mocks, but let’s see if it tells us anything about the Cowboys players, specifically the offensive skill positions.
In this ESPN mock draft, there are 16 rounds, 10 picks per round, and it’s a half-point PPR league. Seven Cowboys players were drafted.
Leading all Cowboys players by a mile was Ezekiel Elliott who was picked sixth overall. As you might assume, running backs dominated the first round where nine of the ten picks were running backs. Who says running backs don’t matter!? That is actually one of the differences between real football and fantasy football, where running backs are king. The five picks before Elliott where Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley.
While we debate the effectiveness of Elliott’s game and his 2021 offseason of resurrection, he still ranks among the elite in the NFL for production in the eyes of guys paid to watch and write about the game. Elliott is helped here by the Cowboys elite offense, their penchant for giving Elliott the majority of carries, and Zeke’s ability to help in the passing game. In a fantasy world, Zeke has all the ingredients for production. In the real world, we’ll see, but there are signs of optimism for a bounce-back season.
No other Cowboys player is selected until the fourth round. Here is where fantasy and real football also diverge. The Cowboys have a trio of high-quality receivers, but the fact that they will share the ball much more than a team with just one top-quality receiver actually hurts their fantasy value. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb go back-to-back in the fourth round and are the 14th and 15th wide receivers taken overall.
Whither Michael Gallup? He falls all the way to the ninth round. His game is built a little more on the long ball, which can lead to up-and-down consistency on a week-to-week basis, while Cooper and Lamb are primary targets in all areas of the field for the Cowboys.
Squeezed in between the wide receivers in the eight round is quarterback Dak Prescott. While the eighth round might seem low, it’s another difference between the real world and fantasy. Quarterbacks are devalued in fantasy comported to how they are valued in real football. A better indicator is where he ranks among his QB counterparts and in this mock he is the fifth quarterback taken. Ahead of him are Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. As you can tell, this is pretty divorced from reality as it’s obvious dual-threat QBs who can also score touchdowns with their feet are highly valued here.
That takes care of the big-five offensive threats for the Cowboys, but there are still two players who manage to make this mock fantasy draft. Backup running back Tony Pollard is drafted in the 12th round. You would think this is because of the handcuff rule - if you are going to have Elliott on your team, then you should get his backup in case of injury if he’s a quality player. Pollard is a quality player and can add some value in his own right as he produces when given opportunities. But in this mock, it’s a different team that picks Pollard than picked Elliott. This is a pick based on the skills of Pollard and what he can do, and maybe a belief that he will be given opportunities not just as a running back, but as a receiver, too.
And that final player taken? It’s not Blake Jarwin or Dalton Schultz. The Cowboys strike out in the tight end category. It’s obviously not their defense. So there can only be one answer. Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein. Way down in Round 16, the second-to-the-last player taken is Zuerlein.
As noted, the fantasy football world doesn’t align perfectly with the real football world, but it does gives an indication of how people view players on the team through a certain lens.
Training camp can’t arrive fast enough.