2018 Team Preview: The Dallas Cowboys
(Photo by Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
Howdy y’alllll. Today I have the distinct pleasure of previewing the fantasy relevance of none other than cringes internally “America’s Team”. Man, it’s like hearing nails on a chalkboard every time, ESPECIALLY when declared proudly by Troy Aikman or Joe Buck. Anyway, like always, we’re going to cover the team’s overall outlook before we dive into each players’ outlook. And. Here. We. Go…
How’s the Team Lookin?
Well, things don’t really change all that often in JerryLand, so pretty much the same. Oversized finger puppet Jason Garrett is still the team’s head coach, and all of the major coordinators remain in place save for some accessory coaches. On the offensive side of the ball is where perhaps the “biggest” change can be seen, as Dez Bryant and his massive contract were released in favor of veteran acquisitions Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin, 3rd round rookie Michael Gallup, and team mainstays Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams. I’ll say quite a bit about how that mix of “talent” will divvy up targets in Big D. Unfortunately, a pretty damn good draft this past April also saw the addition of rookie guard Connor Williams to an already imposing offensive line, while the ‘Boys defense got a surge of young talent in Leighton Vander Esch at MLB and Dorance Armstrong Jr. at the already stacked DE position. As I’ll mention later, don’t sleep on this defense. Well, with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the only guy I like on my least favorite team in the league…
Dak Prescott (QB2)
Guys, I’ve gotta just come out and say it. I love Dak Prescott. He’s a stand-up guy, tough in the pocket, and makes things happen even when the play seems all but dead. But he HAD to go and play for the Cowboys. Sheeeessh. Well, fanboying aside, Dak’s case is quite simply a tale of two seasons: Prescott’s QBR and passer rating in 2016 were 81.7 and 104.9 respectively, while in 2017 those numbers regressed to a middle-of-the-pack 66.3 and 92.2. I believe his talent can elevate his game to levels similar to his 2016 performance, but how that will happen remains to be seen. Everyone and their mom know Ezekiel Elliott is the main attraction in the ‘Boys offense, but with a top-tier O-line and an influx of receiving talent, the potential is there for a big season. However, with the huge number of fantasy viable QB’s coming into the season, I can’t in good conscience elevate Dak past QB2 status.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB1)
The last RB of the BIG 4 (in case you’re unfamiliar, that refers to Gurley, LeVeon, DJ, and good ol’ Zeke here), the fantasy community has slowed down the hype a bit on Zeke. Fears of stacked boxes, over-usage, and lack of targets in PPR have many owners reluctant to take Zeke at the #4 pick. Well, I’m here to dispel these absurdities. Many Cowboys writers, fantasy outlets, and even members of the Jerry Jones voiced coaching staff have noted a likely uptick in targets for the 3rd year back due to the departure of Jason Witten. That’s VERY big folks. Furthermore, the Dallas offensive coordinator has stated publically that “the only players who will touch the ball more than Zeke this season are Dak and center, Travis Fredrick. That’s a LOT of touches, which if you look back to last season, is supported by Zeke’s 24+ carries per game. So, the man will get an absurd number of touches, but can he beat the defenses that fully expect him to be rushing each play? YES, as he did so last season to the tune of almost 1000 yards rushing in 10 games! Despite minor injuries to studs Zack Martin and Travis Fredrick, the entire O-line, plus newly drafted LG Connor Williams, is expected to return for the boys, which means all is well for the young D-Town stud. Draft Zeke confidently as RB #4.
Michael Gallup (WR2/5)
Well, now we’ll touch on the first, and perhaps most intriguing of the plethora of wide receivers vying to fill Dez Bryant’s proverbial shoes in Dallas this season. Gallup was drafted in the 3rd round of this year’s draft, and while he wasn’t taken along with 1st round talent Calvin Ridley, or the 5 receivers taken in the 2nd round, history tells us that unlike running backs, pedigree isn’t all that important. That aside, all indications from the Cowboys training camp and preseason practices have Gallup performing exceedingly well. Now, the final meaningful preseason game for the ‘Boys will go a long way toward determining which receiver is in a groove with Dak coming into the season. but a young, impressive talent like Gallup is sure to get a shot at producing with no clear #1 receiver option. All this being said, Gallup’s ADP is low at 143. I’m not going to tell you to take him over guys like Marquis Lee or Peyton Barber, but maybe you nab Gallup before grabbing your defense. I see WR 2 upside, and that’s not something you see every day.
Allen Hurns (WR3/5)
And if Gallup is the exciting young talent, Hurns is the reliable veteran (only 27 though!). While Hurns was seemingly brought into Dallas to be a top receiving option in this offense, we must also consider Hurns’ previous roles, performances, and play time when determining his fantasy value. Not only was Hurns never “the guy” in his 4 years in Jacksonville, nor has he ever eclipsed 1100 yards in a season, even when receiving 105 targets in 2015, but the past 2 season he’s only been on the field for an average of 10 games. The AAV the Cowboys handed Hurns, $6 million a year, reflects what will presumably be his role in this offense: a steadying veteran presence and potential deep threat. With enough looks and a healthy year, Hurns could potentially return WR3 value, but my bet is more in the realm of WR4 value.
Terrance Williams (WR5)
Ask any Cowboys fan about Terrance Williams and you will get some manner of lukewarm response. “He’s ok. Looks good sometimes, but makes stupid plays. He’s alright I guess.” The man can run, can sometimes catch, and has always been a tertiary option in Dallas. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon with guys like Hurns, Beasley, and Gallup all presenting more upside and stability than him. Stay away from Williams in drafts.
Cole Beasley (WR4)
The Cowboys dynamic, undersized, gym rat, white guy receiver (everybody’s gotta have one!), Beasley has been hyped a bit this offseason as a primary beneficiary of Dez and Jason Witten‘s departure. Yes, he could absolutely see an increased number of tight yardage throws that originally would have gone to Witten, but what else will he gain? Not much, capping his upside to that of a WR4. I will say, however, Beasley could be a sneakily serviceable WR3 in full PPR if he does see a truly large uptick of 3rd down and red zone targets. Keep an eye on his preseason and week 1 targets.
Tavon Austin (WR5)
Austin is a gimmick and a change of pace player, be it as a receiver or a running back. Well, he is an incredibly talented returner, but that and his ever-changing offensive role are nothing to marvel at. MAYBE he’ll break out in Dallas as a dynamic option for Dak, but I’m not putting a single penny on that possibility.
Dalton Schultz (TE 3)
Since he’s the new guy of the bunch, I guess he’s the most likely to take over the primary TE job? Frankly, guys, I have no idea what will happen for the ‘Boys at TE. I think Schultz will most likely get the first crack at it, but as I’ll mention shortly, there are a LOT of warm bodies in that TE group that have been waiting for Witten to leave. If your league is deep deep deep, Schultz wouldn’t be the worst flier, but don’t get your hopes up.
Mike White is the newest backup in Dallas, and like all late round QB’s, no one has any idea what they will be in the NFL until they play. Here’s hoping Dak keeps White’s true talent a mystery. Rod Smith and Bo Scarborough back up Zeke, and although a Zeke injury would kill his team, Scarborough’s size and talent offer at least some hope of slightly-similar production. Any WR not mentioned above has 0 chance of making waves, injuries withstanding. Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers, and Blake Jarwin “highlight” the TE depth beside Schultz. Nothing to see here folks.
Now here’s an interesting story coming into the season: a healthy Sean Lee (for now), plus new MLB Leighton Vander Esch, AND a dominant pass rush highlighted by Demarcus Lawrence. That does not sound fun to try and score against. Luckily, despite employing several upside guys, Dallas’ secondary is still godawful, capping their upside. But don’t sleep on the ‘Boys D as a solid streamer against teams with porous O-lines, as they could rack up a TON of sacks.
And the Cowboys’ fantasy preview is done! Phew, the green blood in my veins can now settle back to a normal temperature. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed the review, and feel free to comment with thoughts, concerns, or any deep burning emotions this review stirred in you. Tomorrow we get to the real squad as I’ll review the Super Bowl Champs! Get ready!