2020 Fantasy Preview: Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys

 

The 2019 Dallas Cowboys enjoyed an offensive rejuvenation amid a season of disappointments. The offensive unit was explosive, leading the league in yards, sixth in scoring and dominated defensive units throughout the season. However, the team failed to make the playoffs after another Jason Garrett lead team underachieved. Dallas finished 8-8 and did not resign Garrett for 2020. Instead, former Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike McCarthy signed on to lead the team. The Cowboys also retained their offensive play-caller, coordinator Kellen Moore, who has shown a unique understanding of how the NFL game is evolving. Fantasy owner’s hopes are high, as they should be, with offensive talent in spades across the Dallas offense.

 

Quarterback

 

Dak Prescott

ADP: 60.5, QB5

Since coming into the league in 2016 Dak Prescott has been a consistent fantasy producer at quarterback. Prescott has never finished worse than the QB11 in his career, and was second overall at the position last season. He performed as a QB1 in 63% of his games and has been a startable player in 90% of his career games. Last season Dak enjoyed a breakout season with career highs in passing attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns. Credit this improvement to outstanding efficiency and aggressive passing. However, if you look back to Dak’s rookie season you find similar performance, just at a lower volume. With weapons in the passing game and another year in the system, Dak should continue the success we saw in 2019.      

 

Best Case: Volume comes down a bit but efficiency stays at the same clip and touchdowns improve. A thirty-five touchdown season is not out of reach. A top-3 quarterback finish is a lock, as Prescott fully takes advantage of one of the most talented offenses in the league. Dallas’ defensive struggles also help Prescott find himself in numerous shootouts, boosting his overall line.

 

Worst Case: The Cowboys deal with injuries along the offensive line, and the team returns to the middle of the pack on offense. McCarthy doesn’t jump-start this franchise like hoped, and it is more of the same in Dallas. Still, Dak finishes as a top-8 fantasy quarterback, as his ceiling is high with this talented group of skill-position players surrounding him.

 

2020 Projection: 4,304 yards passing, 26 passing touchdowns; 276 yards rushing, 4 rushing touchdowns

 

Running Backs

 

Ezekiel Elliott

ADP: 5.3, RB3

Throughout his career, Ezekiel Elliott has averaged 93 yards and nearly a touchdown per game. He’s become one of the more consistent backs in the league, money in the bank for fantasy owners. Anyone who watched Zeke last season could see his explosiveness has slowed, but whether that is due to scheme or age is anyone’s guess. After leading the league with 30+ runs of 20-yards or more from 2016 to 2018, Zeke had just a handful last season. Still, Zeke finished with more than 1300 yards on the ground and 54 receptions. His usage actually increased last season, seeing more than 23 opportunities per game. Elliott has also never missed a game due to injury in his four-year career. He might not be the sexy pick at the top of your draft, but he will be the safest first-round selection you can make and an anchor to your fantasy team. 

 

Best Case: Zeke’s explosion is back and he challenges for the rushing title with more than 1500 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns. He continues to be a factor in the passing game with 50+ receptions. 

 

Worst Case: Zeke slows way down and averages less than four yards-per-carry for the first time in his career. He carries the ball less than 250 times and is not a factor in the passing game, as Pollard begins to force himself onto the field. Elliott finishes just outside the top-12 running backs on the year.  

 

2020 Projection: 1282 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns; 522 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

 

Tony Pollard

ADP: 115.7, RB49

Dallas drafted Tony Pollard in the 4th Round of the 2019 draft, and the rookie did not disappoint in his first season. With limited volume, Pollard was electric when he touched the ball, breaking multiple explosive plays in the running and passing games. However, more than half of his total yards came in two games, so we are dealing with an extremely small sample here. Opportunity will be the deciding factor on whether or not Pollard is a fantasy league-winner this season. He is a player you should be targeting once the every-down backs are off the board, as he provides stand-alone potential while remaining one of the elite handcuffs in fantasy football.

 

Best Case: Pollard gets half a season as the lead back due to injury and finishes as an RB1 down the stretch. He proves he has the frame and the talent to lead a backfield and adds more in the passing game than Zeke can.

 

Worst Case: Pollard continues as a part-time player, with limited opportunity behind a healthy Zeke all season. He continues to add to his highlight reel, but it’s anyone’s guess as to which games he can be a dependable start for fantasy purposes. Still, this makes him an ideal best ball target with upside for more.

 

2020 Projection: 524 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns; 223 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

 

Wide Receivers

 

Amari Cooper

ADP: 35.7, WR12

Last season Amari Cooper set career highs in yards and touchdowns, his first full season with the team. What’s troubling is that his trademark inconsistency was in full view. Cooper performed as a WR1 in just 25% of his games last season, slightly above his 22% career average. We want to see that number at 40% or above in elite wideouts. Anyone who’s ever rostered Cooper for a season knows exactly what these ups and downs feel like. Still, Cooper is a valuable fantasy asset, just don’t expect his consistency to drastically improve even with another year in a stable system. If you are drafting Cooper you are banking on the weeks where he wins you the matchup single-handedly, making him a prime best ball candidate. Just be prepared to surround him with more consistent performers to help manage the weeks where he disappears.

 

Best Case: Cooper has the best season of his career with 90 catches and 1300 yards. He still has his peaks and valleys, but with more peaks and fewer valleys in 2020. Cooper finishes as a top-5 receiver in all fantasy leagues and continues to look like one of the young stars of the league.

 

Worst Case: Cooper loses volume to his talented teammates, and he becomes the short and intermediate target only. He scores less than five touchdowns for the first time in his career, leading some to wonder if his nagging injuries are beginning to take their toll.

 

2020 Projection: 73 receptions, 1,098 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns

 

Michael Gallup

ADP: 80.1, WR33

After flashing in his rookie season, Michael Gallup earned his first 1000-yard season despite missing two games due to injury. Gallup served as a primary receiving option for Dallas, and you could argue that Gallup was 1A to Cooper’s 1B. Gallup earned more targets per game and averaged more yards per game. His catch rate, however, leaves much to be desired. Gallup dropped 13 passes last season and he must improve on that if he hopes to be among the leagues elite. There is also some worry that his production will take a big hit with the addition of rookie CeeDee Lamb. I don’t subscribe to that theory, however. Gallup operates as the X in the scheme and with the amount of vacated targets that are leaving the team, there will be plenty of opportunities to go around. He will be one of the most important targets for owners to acquire in the mid-rounds, especially at his depressed price. 

 

Best Case: Gallup becomes the alpha in Dallas and improves his catch rate by 10%. He finishes with more than 1300 yards receiving and ten touchdowns. This propels Gallup into a top-8 receiver finish as his explosive playmaking ability is on full display. 

 

Worst Case: Gallup struggles with drops and the team loses confidence in him. His role in the offense becomes the third or fourth option in the passing game as Lamb excels. He struggles to produce 800 yards and finishes outside the top-24 receivers. 

 

2020 Projection: 64 receptions, 1,032 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns

 

CeeDee Lamb

ADP: 100.4, WR39

The Cowboys could not pass up CeeDee Lamb when he fell down the draft board to pick 17. Dallas went with the best player available and added to an already excellent stable of offensive talent. In hindsight, the decision is not a surprise, as the team has shown a tendency to add to team strengths rather than fill perceived holes. Lamb walks into a roster that should still have plenty of opportunities for him to produce. Dallas vacated 190 targets from 2019 and while the overall amount of passes attempted is likely to come down, the large amount still gives the rookie plenty of opportunities. Just don’t expect Lamb to take over as a primary receiver. He is certain to have some blow-up games but appears unlikely to get a consistent amount of targets in order to be a trusted every-week starter. Still, at his price, the amount of upside in this offense is too great to ignore, and he will make an excellent flex with upside.

 

Best Case: Lamb’s talent is too much to keep off the field and he steals snaps from Cooper and Gallup, and Cooper misses some time with his usual nagging injuries. Lamb earns 100 targets in his first season and leads all Cowboys wide receivers in touchdowns.  

 

Worst Case: With a shortened offseason, Lamb struggles to find consistency in his rookie year and plays in just 50% of Dallas’ offensive snaps. He finishes with 40 catches and less than 500 yards. 

 

2020 Projection: 54 receptions, 725 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns

 

Tight Ends

 

Blake Jarwin

ADP: 156.5, TE18

Blake Jarwin steps into a prime opportunity this season with Jason Witten exiting for Las Vegas. Witten was signed out of retirement last season to stabilize the tight end group and, in essence, pass the torch to Jarwin. After spending his rookie season in 2017 on the practice squad, Jarwin has earned valuable opportunities while still playing in less than 40% of the snaps. Last season he proved that he can be a complete tight end but also fit into a scheme that is more flexible than a typical Garrett offense. Jarwin is primed for a breakout and should take a big step this season. At his price, he is a steal that you can take a flyer on him in the late rounds of drafts.   

 

Best Case: Jarwin sees 90 targets and gains more than 800 yards. He scores seven touchdowns and is a TE1. 

 

Worst Case: Jarwin cannot handle duties as a full-time tight end. His opportunity only slightly grows from his first two full seasons and he fails to ellipse 400 yards. 

 

2020 Projection: 48 receptions, 541 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns

 

 

Photo by Rich Graes fourthsle/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Marc Salazar

Born and raised in Texas, and naturally a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan. I love everything about the strategy and complexity of NFL football, no other sport compares. I've been playing some form of fantasy football for 15+ years and I run dynasty leagues that include individual defensive players, contracts, free agency, and rookie drafts. I hope to introduce at least one of you to the joys of this format. I live in San Antonio, TX with my wonderful fiance and awesome daughter.

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