Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fantasy Football Augury, Chapter 11: Dallas Cowboys

QB:  I'm not a Cowboys fan, let me make that clear.  I am still bitter about Drew Pearson's push off on Nate Wright in the Vikings/Cowboys 1975 NFC divisional playoff game.  What a bullish*t no call.

It is nothing for me to hold a grudge for 40 years, even if I was just a kindergartner at the time.  But I digress.

You can say whatever you want about Tony Romo; how he chokes in big games, how he's overrated, how he wouldn't get half the attention if he didn't play for the Cowboys...

But if you say he's not a top-of-the-line fantasy football starting quarterback, then you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.  

Over the past seven seasons, you will find Romo's name among the top ten in passing yards and passing touchdowns on a consistent basis (with the exception of his injury-shortened 2010 season).  

He threw for at least one touchdown in every game last season (including ten multiple touchdown games); in the past three seasons combined, he's failed to score in only three games.

And he's missed just one game in those three seasons.

Consistency.  Reliability.  Those are the key words.  (If you've been reading this series, you've heard that before.)

But there is cause for concern here.  Romo is recovering from his second back surgery in two years.  Any injury/surgery involving the spine is unsettling at best.  The reassuring part is he was whipping the ball around in May's minicamp.  It sounds he will be 100% by September.

As long as Romo is healthy, he is top tier material.  But as I've said before regarding quarterbacks, don't reach for him.  He will be there in the middle rounds of your draft.

RB:  When DeMarco Murray finally took the starting job away from Felix Jones in 2011, he made the most of it.  "Rookie phenom" were the words describing Murray.  

In 2012, Murray was a top ten fantasy pick.

Then the sophomore slump nipped at his heels like a mad chihuahua.  Murray missed six games to injury and disappointed fantasy owners terribly.

 He fell to the second and third rounds in the 2013 draft, which made him a steal last season.  

Murray almost made it through last season uninjured (he missed two games) and he ended up with nearly 1,500 combined yards (10th in the league rushing) and 10 touchdowns.

The problem with Murray is his durability.  Missing eight games in the last two seasons is cause for concern: he doesn't help your fantasy team if he's not on the field.  

That being said, he's proven himself to be a top ten performer.  I will label him mid-level top tier material; he's got the skills to be very special and he has virtually no competition for the ball.  However, be prepared when he misses a game or two to injury.

WR:   Fantasy football is not "all about numbers."  There is much more to it than that, but there are rare circumstances when the numbers speak for themselves.  

In the past two seasons combined, Dez Bryant has had 297 targets, 185 receptions, 2,615 yards receiving and 25 touchdowns.  Those are big boy numbers, friends.

Bryant has come a long, long way in four seasons as player and as a person, and he's just entering his prime.  He's not only top tier stuff, he's got the potential to be the best in the game.

Lost in Bryant's considerable shadow is Terrance Williams.  In his rookie season last year, Williams grabbed fantasy owners' attention (including yours truly) when he exploded week five for 151 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Broncos.  

Williams did not come close to those numbers the rest of the year, but he ended the season with 736 yards and five touchdowns and he let everyone know that there was another receiver in Dallas.  He's not more than a third tier prospect; but if something happens to Bryant, Williams' stock would skyrocket.

TE:  I admit when I think of great fantasy football tight ends, Jason Witten isn't always the first name to pop into my head.  But when I look at his production, he's among the best ever.

What if I told you 2013 was Witten's worst season in the past seven years?  You'd say, he's 31 years old.  You'd say you're not surprised.  You'd say a decline is expected, right?

But then what if I told you Witten had 851 receiving yards and eight touchdowns (both top four among tight ends) last year?

Yes, it was his worst season in seven years.  That's how good Witten has been.

Even though he's entering his 12th season, he's showing no signs of slowing down.  Romo loves to throw the ball to him (258 targets in the past two seasons) and Witten has got terrific hands.  He's still among the top three tight ends in the business.