Cowboys Fantasy Football Outlook: Defense, Special Teams

There is value to be had at the end of drafts for your Fantasy Football teams. When it comes to strategy, this is where I tend to draft kickers and defense in standard leagues. In your dynasty or keeper fantasy football leagues, you may consider a young defense like Oakland or St. Louis before the final couple of rounds. When it comes to kickers, if you are drafting your kicker before the last round of the draft, you aren’t drafting right.

The Dallas defense going into 2016 will probably not be drafted in a lot of leagues, but if you are looking for a team with upside, Dallas may be your selection. Consider them for streaming purposes.

Team Defense

The first four weeks of the season has left many pundits with a bleak outlook on the Cowboys defense for the first four games. The suspensions to Rolando McClain (10 weeks), Randy Gregory (potentially season long) and DeMarcus Lawrence (4 games) has left us with a bitter taste in our mouths. However, there is still a lot to like moving forward.

The front office made moves to bolster the interior of the defensive line by signing Cedric Thornton to be the 1 technique and drafting quick-twitch 3-technique Maliek Collins. Added to Tyrone Crawford, this makes up a very interesting 3 down interior that can collapse the pocket for the outside rushers.

In Charles Tapper, the Cowboys may have selected the steal of the draft when they chose him in the 4th round. Playing out of position as a 3-4 defensive end didn’t allow Tapper to develop much of a pass rush repertoire as an Oklahoma Sooner, yet he still managed to tie for the team lead with 7 sacks.

He may have a chance to be an impact player in 2016 even when Gregory and Lawrence return from suspension.


Individual Defensive Players (IDP)


Sean Lee, as an IDP, has been tremendous when healthy. In a recent article ranking the top 10 Linebackers in the NFL, Cameron DaSilva ranked Lee as the 5th best linebacker.

Like (Bobby) Wagner, Lee has elite speed and flies around the field making plays against the pass and run. Entering 2016, there is obviously reason to believe he’ll miss at least one game, but perhaps he’ll play all 16 and earn his first All-Pro selection. ~ Cameron DaSilva

Anthony Hitchens has a long shot at Fantasy Football relevance if he can earn the starting middle linebacker spot. The competition at Mike will be one to watch before deciding to draft Hitchens.

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Defensive Players To Watch In Training Camp 1
Nov 8, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones (31) during the second half of a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Eagles won 33-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Back

The defensive backfield is largely intact with Orlando Scandrick returning from injury, Morris Claiborne returning on a one year deal, Brandon Carr taking a pay cut to remain with the team, Barry Church looking to continue to start at strong safety, and Byron Jones being moved to Free Safety permanently. Another year in Rod Marinelli’s system can only help this group.

Of the secondary, Jones is the best bet to have an impact as an IDP for your Fantasy Football team. He has the athleticism to cover the back third, as well as make plays in the running game.

Barry Church 42Going into his second season, it is expected that he improves upon a solid rookie campaign.

Church may also have some value. He will play down in the box often against run heavy teams as one of the team’s best run defenders. Tackles are an important stat when selecting your IDP, and the strong safety should get plenty.

Defensive Line

On the Defensive line, this group is largely unproven.

DeMarcus Lawrence has shown the ability to get to the passer, but not consistently enough yet to warrant being drafted as an IDP.

Tyrone Crawford has been up and down with injuries, and Cedric Thornton is mostly a run stopper who isn’t going to get you many sacks. And in fantasy football, sacks are important when playing a defensive lineman.

Cowboys Headlines - What can the Cowboys Expect from DeMarcus Lawrence in 2016? 1
When Demarcus Lawrence returns rom suspension, he has the potential to score big at the defensive line position in your fantasy football leagues with IDPs.

Unless you’re in a league that starts many IDPs, you aren’t drafting anyone outside of Lee, Jones, and Church.

Ranking Dallas Best IDPs

  1. Sean Lee
  2. Byron Jones
  3. Barry Church
  4. Tyrone Crawford
  5. DeMarcus Lawrence (after he returns from suspension)
  6. Anthony Hitchens
  7. Morris Claiborne
  8. Orlando Scandrick
  9. Cedric Thornton
  10. Kyle Wilber

What will help this defensive unit more than anything is the improvement that will occur on the offensive side of the ball. This defense will also be on the field with leads more in 2016 than they were in 2015. This will allow the pass rush to focus more on the quarterback.

If you are looking for an upside Team Defense, Dallas could be your answer.

Cowboys Draft - Beyond the Clock: Cowboys Undrafted Wonder, Dan Bailey
LANDOVER, MD – DECEMBER 7: Kicker Dan Bailey #5 of the Dallas Cowboys kicks a second-quarter field goal against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 7, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Special Teams


Dan Bailey, since coming into the league as a rookie, has become affectionately known as “Split-em”. Bailey is worthy of being picked among the top 5 kickers, and has a great chance to finish in the top 5 at his position.

Kickers are dependent upon opportunity and Bailey will get his opportunities.

In 2015, he didn’t have as many extra points as some of the top kickers in the league, but he got nearly as many field goal opportunities as guys who finished in the top 5 of scoring. He converted all of his extra points (25/25) and 94% of his field goals (30/32). With a healthy and more dynamic offense this year, he will see an uptick in his extra-point opportunities.

For comparison, Stephen Gostkowski, who finished first for kickers, had 27 more extra points than Dan Bailey. 27 points is nearly 2 more points a game during the regular season. With Tony Romo and Dez Bryant returning healthy, that should increase his opportunities tremendously. Draft and enjoy.

Fantasy Prediction: FGs 33/36, Extra Points 48/48. 

ADP: 5th Kicker taken (in Yahoo leagues, the 17th kicker taken)

Want more from Inside The Star on Dan Bailey?

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Under the Radar Cowboys Who Can Be Huge in 2016 1
The Cowboys need to find a bigger role for Lucky Whitehead. Plain and simple. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands and could be a dynamic WR/KR for your Fantasy Football Team

Kick/Punt Returners

It’s always been a bit of a sketchy proposition to rely upon return yards and touchdowns. Now even more so with rule changes the NFL has implemented to make kickoff returns safer. But for leagues that offer return yards, it would be a mistake to ignore them.

Lucky Whitehead has a chance to be the lead kickoff return guy. With his offensive role as the gadget-guy, he has the opportunity to make a major impact for your Fantasy Football team in leagues that utilize kick return yards. Whitehead showed he had a dynamic ability to return kicks in 2015. He led the team with an average return of 28.3 yards/return.

Morris Claiborne has been getting an opportunity to return some kicks in training camp thus far and was very productive at LSU, as Kevin Brady notes here. If your league employs IDPs and return yards, Claiborne should be a player to watch for you. Not only will he get the benefit of tackles, interceptions, sacks, and the newly popular fantasy stat, pass breakups, he will get the added benefit of return yards as well.

Check out the other positional reviews.

Quarterback, Running BacksWide ReceiversTight Ends

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


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