Summer is upon us. Time to go to the pool or the lake or the beach. Summer is also the time we who play fantasy football begin gearing up for fantasy football drafts. If you’re in a dynasty league, you’ve probably already drafted your team or are in the middle of a rookie or startup draft. If you’re in a redraft league, those drafts will be coming soon.
As I’ve done each of the last four years, I want to give you my take on the principle Dallas Cowboys and their outlooks for fantasy football in the 2019 season.
First, however, I want to share some tips as it pertains to being a fan of the Cowboys and how to draft your squad.
- Don’t reach for Dallas Cowboys. It’ll be tempting to take guys with The Star on their helmet for your squads, but if you’re taking them more than a round higher than their average draft position (ADP), you’re missing out on value to be had elsewhere.
- Remember the team’s identity. The Dallas Cowboys want to run the football. Therefore, don’t get locked into drafting Cowboys wide receivers. Outside of Amari Cooper, it’s hard to predict where the targets are going to go for this team. Dak Prescott loves to spread the ball around, opting to find the open receiver in his progression as opposed to force-feeding a particular player. You may get up and down results from your Cowboys receivers after Amari Cooper.
- Don’t draft a kicker before the last round of your drafts, unless you plan on not drafting a kicker at all.
- Have a strategy but be willing to adjust. If you go into a draft with a “Zero Running Back” strategy and everyone else in your league does too, you may want to adjust and grab the value that you’ll get at running back. Conversely, if everyone is going running back in the first 10 picks, don’t be afraid to go wide receiver-wide receiver with your first two picks, because you could end up with DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr as your top two WRs and can find running backs in the third or fourth round. Don’t be beholden to any particular strategy. Instead, try and find the best values throughout the draft that you can. Not necessarily a “best player available” strategy, but something like it.
- Don’t let others in the draft room know what you’re thinking. Too much talk can mean you lose out on a player that you really like. You can also use information to your advantage to steer other owners towards players you aren’t all that interested in. Drafting, especially a live draft, is a lot like poker.
- Finally, have fun. After all, it’s only a game.
With that, here’s the 2019 Dallas Cowboys Fantasy Football Preview I know you’re dying to read. Enjoy.
Entering his fourth season, Dak Prescott’s been a very consistent player in fantasy football. Despite some down games, he’s finished as a low-end QB1 or high-end QB2 in each of the first three seasons of his career.
After Amari Cooper came into the fold in the second half of 2018, Dak Prescott was huge for fantasy players.
With right at 28 combined passing and rushing touchdowns per year, Dak Prescott provides a really safe floor at QB at a really nice price. Currently, his average draft position (ADP) has him being selected as the 22nd quarterback in fantasy drafts, but will very likely outperform his draft status. If you can get Dak after the 15th quarterback off the board, it’s a steal. According to FantasyPros.com, Prescott’s being drafted after the likes of Jameis Winston, Mitch Trubisky, and Kyler Murray.
Prescott is a tireless worker who has already shown an improved deep ball in offseason training activities. If he can get more efficient on those downfield throws, he’ll push for top 10 fantasy quarterback status. In addition to an improved passing game that the Cowboys displayed in the second half of the 2018 season, Dak Prescott’s rushing prowess provides an additional bonus to fantasy football owners.
Prescott’s rushed for six touchdowns in each of his first three seasons. Only Cam Newton has rushed for more. At quarterback, you’d be hard pressed to find someone with as much upside as Prescott after the top 10 quarterbacks in fantasy football.
If your league offers any bonuses for passing yardage greater than 300 yards, you may want to wait on Dak a bit longer than you might in standard formats. It’s unlikely he’s going to throw for a bunch of 300-yard games in 2019, if only because he won’t need to for the Dallas Cowboys to win games, and that’s not his game anyway.
If you’re of the mind to wait on a quarterback, Dak is an excellent target in the middle to later rounds of the draft.
In 2018, Ezekiel Elliott was the only running back that saw 300 carries.
In his first three seasons in the NFL Elliott’s touches the ball more than 350 times twice. In 2017, when he sat six games due to suspension, Elliott touched the ball at a 16 game pace that would have exceeded 400 touches on the season.
Among your top running backs, Elliott’s production is as predictable as the sun rising in the East.
He’s averaged 100 yards rushing per game through three seasons and 131 total yards per game. Elliott’s scores 34 total touchdowns in his 40 game career which puts him at 0.85 touchdowns per game. For his first two years, he was averaging a touchdown per game before red zone issues hit the Dallas Cowboys in 2018.
With Kellen Moore on board to fix those issues and planning on giving Elliott the ball a lot, I’d imagine we see his touchdown rate climb back up to his first 25 game pace.
After Elliott, the handcuff or backup to own is Tony Pollard. His dual-threat ability will be put to use, though it’s unlikely he’ll see more than five offensive touches a game as a rookie. He has more value in leagues that award points for return yardage but has the potential to be a 10-15 touchback in other circumstances. Specifically, if Ezekiel Elliott were to experience an injury or receive a suspension for his offseason “altercation.”
Mike Weber and Jamize Olawale would be nothing more than rotational backs if Elliott were to miss time. They’d split time with Pollard and it’s likely that none of the three would see enough work on their own to be a viable candidate to replace Elliott’s production.
Elliott’s my top running back in fantasy football because you know what you’re going to get with him. The Cowboys want to give him the football and they’ll be in favorable game situations to give him the football a lot.
2018 was the tale of two seasons at the wide receiver position.
In the first half of the season, the team struggled offensively while they attempted to deploy their wide receiver by committee approach. Realizing it wasn’t working, they sent their 2019 first round pick to the Oakland Raiders for Amari Cooper.
The second half of the season was a much different story.
The offense had life. It hit big plays, was able to sustain drives, and more importantly score points and win games. Though they continued to struggle in the red zone, things were much better offensively for the Dallas Cowboys in the second half. And Amari Cooper was a big reason why.
After struggling with the Raiders for the previous year and a half, Amari Cooper game to Dallas and immediately made an impact. He caught 53 of his 75 receptions in nine games after joining the Dallas Cowboys and had 725 yards and six touchdowns. In his 15 games, Cooper caught 75 passes for 1,005 yards and seven touchdowns. All while having three games in Oakland where he saw fewer than three targets.
Cooper and Dak Prescott built nice chemistry and they were able to erupt for a huge game against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 13 when Cooper caught 10 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns.
With a full offseason to work with Dak and as the passing game focal point, I’d expect big things out of Cooper. He’s currently being drafted on average as the 12th wide receiver ahead of AJ Green, Stefon Diggs, and Brandin Cooks. That’s a pretty solid spot for him, though I can see an argument for taking AJ Green ahead of Cooper.
While Michael Gallup may be the starter, the next wide receiver that you’d most like to have is Randall Cobb in my opinion. That’s no slight to Michael Gallup who is on his way to being a really nice weapon for the Dallas Cowboys.
The problem is that Gallup’s game in 2018 was very boom or bust. As the Cowboys primary downfield weapon, he needed to hit a big play in order to have a stat line of significance. He’s a player that’s capable of being a short to intermediate threat, but that’s Amari Cooper’s space to run.
Cobb, on the other hand, is likely to be second on the team in targets as the new slot receiver for the Cowboys. We know from Cole Beasley’s time with the Cowboys that Dak Prescott likes to Target his slot receiver and Cobb offers more juice after the catch than Beasley did. In PPR and half-PPR format, Cobb would be a nice WR4 with WR3 potential in certain matchups. Cobb and Prescott have already developed a nice rapport this offseason and with Amari Cooper drawing much of the attention in the passing game, there’s going to be plenty of room to run for Randall Cobb.
Michael Gallup is an ascending player who has a higher ceiling than just a deep threat. He showed in the playoffs that he can be relied upon to make plays in the passing game. I just don’t see him seeing a significant enough bump in his target share to be more than a bench stash and boom or bust play. If you have deep rosters or are in a dynasty format, Gallup is definitely worth a spot on your roster. I could see him having a similar impact for the Dallas Cowboys that Laurent Robinson had for the team back in 2011 when he caught 11 touchdown passes. It’s unlikely that he’ll catch double-digit touchdowns, but I could see him leading the Cowboys in touchdown scores.
The rest of the Cowboys depth chart features Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, and potentially Noah Brown, Cedric Wilson, Jon’vea Johnson, or Jalon Guyton. None of these guys are going to have weekly fantasy impacts unless there is an injury to one of the top three guys.
Well, much like last year at the wide receiver position, the tight end spot provides little clarity for us as we inch closer to training camp.
Jason Witten came out of retirement and the buzz around The Star is that the future Hall of Fame tight end will be taking a lesser role for the Cowboys after taking a year off for the Monday Night Football booth. While that sounds like a reasonable plan, especially with the emergence of Blake Jarwin, when Witten practiced in front of the media last week, he took every one of the first-team snaps at tight end.
Now the Cowboys will employ a lot of two and three tight end personnel groupings, meaning Jarwin and second year Tight End Dalton Schultz will get snaps with the first team offense as well. However, the Dallas Cowboys, like much of the NFL, are running 11-personnel (3 WRs and 1 TE) approximately 70% of the time. That means Jarwin and Schultz will be battling for the other approximately 30% of snaps out of other personnel groupings.
Witten is a decent long-shot play in the later rounds of your drafts, but know he’s not going to give you much more than what he did in 2017 when he went for 63 receptions, 560 yards, and five touchdowns. If he exceeds that, I’d be surprised. His game is played within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage at this point of his career. Witten’s still a valuable guy on third down and in the red zone and in points per reception leagues (PPR), he’s got a bit more value, but his ceiling is pretty low.
For my money, Jarwin is the guy that offers the most upside with his plus athleticism and speed. He has the ability to threaten the defense deep down the middle of the field, as we saw in the finale against the New York Giants. In that game, he caught seven passes for 119 yards and three touchdowns. It was an impressive display that has me intrigued for what he could do as the first-team tight end.
Witten, as it stands now, is the starting tight end. How much of the offense he commands will be an unknown before getting to the season. If you want to draft one of these tight ends, you’d be best-served drafting both of them if you can afford the roster space.
Individual Defensive Players (IDPs)
There are three players that make a lot of sense to draft in your IDP fantasy leagues in 2019. Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and DeMarcus Lawrence are in the upper tier of their positions and each will provide an excellent return on their draft position.
Leighton Vander Esch was a second-team All-Pro selection in his rookie season in 2018 and Jaylon Smith was one of the more disruptive players in the league in 2018. They provide a dynamically disruptive element to the Dallas Cowboys defense that reminds of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. There aren’t many 4-3 teams that boast a linebacker duo as good as these guys are in the NFL. Both Vander Esch and Smith will rack up tackles like crazy. Vander Esch may have more interceptions than Smith, while Smith will probably have more sacks than Vander Esch.
DeMarcus Lawrence may have had a down year in sacks, but he was still as disruptive in 2018 as he was in 2017. He’s going to give you just as much in the running game as he will in the passing game. You won’t draft him ahead of Aaron Donald, but after Donald comes off the board, you can make an argument for Lawrence to be next. You can probably get him at a bit of a discount as he’s coming off of shoulder surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season.
In the secondary, your best bet for scoring is Xavier Woods. Woods, going into his second season as the full-time starter at safety is a sure tackler and a playmaker when the ball is in the air. Another season getting 100% of the snaps in the secondary should make him even more dynamic on the back end.
As always, wait on a kicker. If you draft a kicker before the final round of your draft, you’re drafting wrong. It’s always better to take a positional player than to take a kicker. Brett Maher is a decent choice as he provides value because of his propensity for hitting kicks from deep.
On field goals greater than 50 yards in 2018, Maher hit seven of eight. The only distance he was better was from 20-29 yards. On kicks between 30 and 49 yards, Maher was 13 of 18. If he can improve in that area of the field, he could finish the season as the leading scorer at the kicker position.
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Best of luck to all of you in your fantasy football leagues this season. The Dallas Cowboys offer a lot of firepower for fantasy rosters and they’re going to be a fun team to watch offensively this season.
As always, make sure to hit me up on Twitter for your sit/start questions and fantasy draft questions.