With week 14 now upon us, and a chance for Dallas Cowboys redemption too, I thought it would be interesting to hear from a Cowboys fan who resides in enemy territory; New Jersey. Her name is Jen Ryan and you can find all of Jen's fantasy football work exclusively on FootballDiehards.com.
She appears on the Diehards Sirius XM Fantasy “7 at 7” on Thursdays at 7 PM. She has also been published on USAToday.com, has contributed to The Cowboys Wire, and is thrilled to contribute her thoughts to Inside The Star. She is a proud Cowboys fan since birth, even though she can see MetLife Stadium from her backyard. No Sunday is complete without her Cowboys and her crock pot.
John (Inside The Star): Thanks a lot for taking the time to join us here at InsideTheStar.com. I'm looking forward to your insights into this week's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. Let's get started, shall we?
If you were starting your fantasy team and could choose one of the three to start it with, who would you choose?
Jen Ryan (Football Diehards): I am a ZeroRB fanatic, which essentially dictates kicking off your draft with at least two receivers before addressing the running back position.
The idea is that there is value to be found outside of the first few rounds, such as your DeMarco Murray's and Melvin Gordon's of the world. With that said, given the option between the three, I would be going with Ezekiel Elliott.
He is a rare breed in the sense that he is one of very few true bell cows left in the league. You can count on him for volume, he is not impacted by a change of pace back, and most importantly there is no goal line back that comes in to vulture his touchdowns. Throw in the fact that, in terms of age, he is a baby and no real injury history to speak of outside of a sore hamstring this summer, and you can see why he is a viable first rounder.
This is not to say that Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant aren't worth your consideration. Both are top-tier wide outs, with Beckham slightly edging out Bryant due to his target share. While Beckham has the receptions and the yards, there is not a receiver in football with bigger touchdown upside than Bryant, it just requires him to be on the field for 16 games to flirt with that upside.
John (Inside The Star): Agreed, Elliott is one of a few running backs I'm taking in the first round of 2017, along with David Johnson, Le'Veon Bell, and Melvin Gordon. I'm not as big of a ZeroRB guy, but I understand the philosophy.
I like to see how the draft is going to play out before committing to a strategy completely.
Q: There has already been a changing of the guard at QB for the Dallas Cowboys, is it possible we are seeing the same thing in the NFC East with the emergence of Dak Prescott as a top 10 fantasy quarterback?
Who would you rather have as your fantasy quarterback, Dak Prescott or Eli Manning?
Jen Ryan (Football Diehards): Dak Prescott has those two things that we are looking for when we draft the likes of Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Tyrod Taylor and those two things are his legs. Both he and Newton have five rushing touchdowns and Taylor has six. Now, if we remove those rushing touchdowns, Prescott would have just 14 touchdowns through 13 weeks.
That doesn't seem like a lot but it really doesn't matter because those rushing touchdowns carry more weight at six points than the passing touchdowns do at four points (in most leagues). So you get the advantage having a mobile quarterback, and right now Dak is the best mobile quarterback in fantasy.
Of the top ten quarterbacks, he has the fewest attempts, but he is super efficient with a 67.8% completion rate. Eli Manning, on the other hand, is the QB16 in fantasy football. He has thrown the ball almost 100 times more than Dak, but it's the interceptions that separate them.
Dak has thrown two interceptions this season, as opposed to Manning's 12. In fact, Manning has thrown for the fourth-most interceptions this year, and those interceptions kill a quarterback's value. Dak's legs, efficiency, and limited turnovers are the reason me and most others would take him over Manning as their fantasy quarterback, any day.
Q: I've cautioned fantasy footballers to have low expectations for OBJ this week as the Dallas Cowboys have been able to hold him under 100 yards in four out of five match-ups.
Why should those owners be optimistic this week?
Jen Ryan (Football Diehards): I think with Odell Beckham Jr. you always have to be optimistic. The fact of the matter is he is a marquee talent and a top fantasy asset. If we want to call this his “down” year we can, but he is still the WR11 in PPR scoring. There is not a player in history who hit 3,500 yards faster than Beckham.
Manning does not spread the ball around in the same manner that Prescott does, and when a player has the ability to see 16 targets like Beckham did in Week 13, you have every reason to be optimistic. The thing with Beckham is his breakaway ability is very, very dangerous. He can turn a short pass into a 60-yard touchdown and that is where Beckham really makes his money. We have done an incredible job of containing Beckham but those who own in him fantasy football should clearly not hesitate to start him.
This is round one of the fantasy football playoffs and he played a huge role in getting you here. Fire him up against our Cowboys, look for that 100-yard bonus and a score, but for the Giants to come up short and for us to walk away with the victory.
John (Inside The Star): Yeah, I wouldn't ever recommend sitting someone with Beckham's talent and situation, but this is one of those weeks that could be disappointing for fantasy owners.
Q: Let's look at another New York Giants wide receiver, Sterling Shepard. This was a guy I hoped the Dallas Cowboys would look at in the early part of the second round, but alas, we get to sit and wait and hope for Jaylon Smith.
Shepard, like Ezekiel Elliott, was another hot rookie fantasy football prospect in preseason drafts, albeit to a much lesser extent, and he's been slightly underwhelming. Why do you think that is?
Jen Ryan (Football Diehards): I think Shepard got off to a hot start and was excelling from the slot. He was unknown, shifty, and for a few weeks was an automatic flex play.
He's under-performed after this hot start because, let's face it, you're not going to put up WR1 numbers if your teammate is Odell Beckham. He is the man in that offense and anyone else is second fiddle, just ask Rueben Randle. Randle managed eight touchdowns last season alongside Beckham and is proof that the Giants' WR2 is a viable fantasy asset, but that asset should not be viewed as anything more than a fringe WR2/flex with touchdown upside. Elliott and Shepard, in my opinion, are players you simply cannot compare.
There is little comparison between a receiver and running back, especially the running back on the most run-dominant team in football. We all knew Elliott was going to be a star and we had high hopes for Shepard coming into the season, but we also know that for most receivers their breakout year comes in their sophomore season.
John (Inside The Star): Absolutely true. We saw Allen Robinson have a huge second season in 2015 after showing some flashes in his rookie campaign. I think Shepard is going to be a difficult cover in the years to come.
Q: Looking to 2017, where does Ezekiel Elliott get drafted?
Jen Ryan (Football Diehards): Probably first overall, and I'd say right now definitely top-five. As of September 7, 2016 Elliott was drafted on average 1.07 overall as the RB4. David Johnson will still possibly be drafted ahead of him but Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley most certainly will not. It will be a toss-up and highly debated all summer whether it will be Johnson or Elliott as the RB1.
I can say with confidence that Elliott will go from a mid-late first to an early first. I believe we will all be hard-pressed to find a league where he is not drafted as a top-five pick.
John (Inside The Star): David Johnson's dual-threat ability and usage in the passing game has me debating it already. He and Elliott have sure-fire touch rates it seems like, and then when you include a guy like Le'Veon Bell, it gets even murkier.
Jen Ryan (Football Diehards): Well, in terms of real football, we need this win. We have to get our Week 1 revenge, but more importantly we need to do what we can to lock up home field throughout.
I'm terrified of playing the Seahawks in Seattle, and we all should fear that. Our chances of winning against them greatly increase if we play that game in Jerry's World.
I see the Giants keeping it close because, let's face it, this is the time of the year that team clicks and gets hot, but we are certainly at an advantage knowing that we don't have to worry about Jason Pierre-Paul coming for our rookie quarterback.
The player I think is going to make fantasy owners smile this week is Jason Witten. Last week, he was blanked in the fantasy scoring department for the first time in eight seasons. He is not a sexy name at tight end but, in PPR scoring, he is consistent enough as a top-half tight end and is currently the TE12.
I'll just go ahead and leave you this little stat in case there was any hesitation in firing up Witten this week.
In 219 career games, Witten has faced his division rival Washington Redskins 28 times, Philadelphia Eagles 26 times, and New York Giants 27 times. In those games between the Redskins and Eagles he has eighth career touchdowns against both. In those games against the New York Giants, however, he has 13 career touchdowns. Against the Giants, he averages seven receptions, 60 yards, 0.8 touchdowns, and 17.4 PPR points.
When you search Witten on Football Diehards, you will see his career numbers vs. the Giants, and those numbers speak for themselves. He will certainly make you smile this week.
John (Inside The Star): I agree that the New York Giants will likely keep it close because of their offense, but I think that it's going to come down to which quarterback protects the ball the best, and even in a limited amount of playing time, that is Dak Prescott.
I was on the fence about flexing in Witten at my second flex in one dynasty league this week, but now I'm convinced. Thanks again, Jen for taking the time to answer a few questions for Inside The Star readers.
Don't forget to send me your sit/start questions for week 14, which for many of you is the first round of your Fantasy Football Playoffs. Good Luck!!!