This week the Dallas Cowboys return to the site of "Dez Caught It."
Heading to Green Bay to face the Packers for what seems like the 100th season in a row (seriously does Green Bay ever get scheduled to play in Dallas?), the Dallas Cowboys will face another test on the road, and another chance to prove themselves legitimate contenders.
What we're concerned about right here is how the Dallas Cowboys Fantasy Football assets are going to perform for our teams.
As should always be obvious: a real win for the Dallas Cowboys is far more important to me than a win for Team JDub, Eze Dez It, or any of my other teams.
When Dallas Drops Back to Pass
When the Dallas Cowboys drop back to pass they are going to be facing a Green Bay Packers team that is 24th in the NFL in yards allowed (274.5 yards per game). They've allowed seven touchdowns this season, which ties them for 14th in the NFL.
As a team, they've only intercepted two passes, which ties them for 25th in the NFL. The Packers rank 6th in sacks as a defensive unit with 14 on the season.
Against the Green Bay Packers, Dak Prescott must continue to be his efficient self. He will also need to take advantage of their poor defensive play in the secondary to take pressure off of the running game and the defense.
I'd start Prescott in all formats. He has shown he is a dual-threat and has scored a rushing touchdown in more games than he hasn't.
The pass catchers for this team can be a little unpredictable. Why? Because Dak Prescott is spreading the ball around to whoever is open. He isn't trying to force it to just one guy.
With Green Bay's effectiveness against the run so far this season, Dallas may need to throw to open up the running game.
Jason Witten is worth starting in all formats.
When Dallas Runs the Football
The Dallas Cowboys have been absolutely dominating on the ground the last several weeks.
It was the difference in the football game this past Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Dallas Cowboys run game dominated a Bengals team that had only been allowing 3.8 YPC.
Led by Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys ran for 180 yards and Elliott averaged over 8 yards per carry. As a team, the Dallas Cowboys scored three rushing touchdowns on a team that hadn't previously given up a rushing touchdown.
Alfred Morris has been getting some looks, but for all intents and purposes, his only fantasy football relevance is as a handcuff to Elliott.
The Green Bay Packers currently rank first in the league in rushing defense. They've held opponents to 2.0 YPC, 171 yards rushing in four games (42.5 yards/game), and only one rushing touchdown.
What doesn't show up in the numbers is the teams that the Green Bay Packers have faced in 2016. They've Faced the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who rank 21st, 26th, 30th, and 32nd in rushing this season, respectively.
They haven't faced a running game like the Dallas Cowboys yet.
All that said, we saw last week how the Dallas Cowboys were able to make a team's strength look like a weakness. In order to win in week six, they'll need to do it again.
Elliott is averaging 18.3 fantasy points per game on the season. That ranks third behind Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson and Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray. Over the last three weeks that number has jumped to 22.27 points per game, which is first amongst running backs over that span.
Ezekiel Elliott, as a rookie, has turned into an every week must-start for Fantasy Football.
When Dallas is on Defense
The Dallas Cowboys are one of two teams to not allow a 100-yard receiver or 100-yard rusher in any game in 2016.
The Dallas Cowboys defense has been playing really good in the 2016 season. They're allowing on average 18.2 points per game this season. That number ranks them 9th in the NFL in scoring defense.
In week 5, they were dominating a very good Cincinnati Bengals offense through three quarters before taking the foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. Yes, they allowed the Bengals to score, but they didn't allow them any big plays.
The Dallas secondary did an excellent job keeping A.J. Green bottled up.
On the afternoon, Green only had four catches for 50 yards. That's one of the best five receivers in the NFL that they contained. Combine that with the work they did on Odell Beckham Jr. in week one (four catches for 73 yards) and we have the makings of a secondary that can be relied upon to win games.
However, Aaron Rodgers is having a down year.
He's yet to throw for more than 260 yards and has been held under 200 yards passing twice this season. Through four games, Rodgers is only completing 56% of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 87.7, the lowest he has posted since becoming a starter in the NFL.
The wide receiving threats remain Jordy Nelson -- who is still working his way back from his ACL injury a year ago -- and Randall Cobb -- who in week four posted his first 100-yard receiving game since week two of 2015.
While Rodgers is always a threat to have a big game, my real concern is running back Eddie Lacy.
In his three career games against the Dallas Cowboys (including the 2014 playoffs), Lacy has carried the ball 64 times for 366 yards and two touchdowns.
That's 5.72 yards per carry.
Dallas has had some difficulty stopping the run in 2016. While they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in any game this season, they've allowed a 4.6 yard per carry average.
What you do like about the Dallas Defense in 2016... they only allow opposing teams to score on 33.3% of their drives. Meaning 66.67% of the opponent's drives end in a punt, turnover, turnover on downs, or missed field goal. That's pretty good.
Dallas Cowboys Sit/Start
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Is Dak Prescott a Player to Avoid in Fantasy Football in 2018?
For the Dallas Cowboys, the plan is to stick with Dak Prescott to hopefully turn him into a successful long-term franchise quarterback. Going into his third year in the league, this could be a season that defines his future on America's Team.
However, after the entire team struggled in 2017 while trying to overcome several key absences (including Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith), Prescott's level of play has been questioned by plenty around the league. Fans, analysts and writers everywhere aren't as sure as they were in 2016 about the quarterback's future.
And now, according to NFL.com, Fantasy Football players should beware of drafting Dak Prescott once their "friendly" (we all know they're anything but friendly) seasons begin.
Earlier this week, NFL.com Fantasy Editor Marcas Grant published an article telling us ten players to avoid for the 2018 Fantasy Football season. Perhaps it may come as a surprise to some that Dak Prescott is in there among names like Ty Montgomery and Jack Doyle. You can read his full article here.
To be honest, I see his point here.
It's more than fair to say that it's not going to be an easy year for Dak. He's got to prove a lot in a year that could have a juicy extension at the end of it. After going through a sort of an expected sophomore slump, Prescott's third year in the NFL should be his best one yet.
There's a big but, though. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are long gone, leaving Dak Prescott with a promising yet unproven set of pass catchers.
Will a dominant running game led by five great offensive linemen and Ezekiel Elliott be enough to help Dak and the rest of the offense? Probably. but how much will Prescott be able to accomplish?
Through a painful 9-7 season in which the Cowboys never seemed to be able to find a steady pace, #4's stats took a hit. Here are his numbers from his two years in the pros:
- 2016: 311 completions, 67.8% completion percentage, 3,667 yards, 23 TDs and 4 INTs.
- 2017: 308 completions, 62.9% completion percentage, 3,324 yards, 22 TDs and 13 INTs.
- He also ran for six touchdowns in each of his two seasons.
Per FantasyData.com, his fantasy points dropped from 286.88 in 2016 to 260.66 in 2017.
Despite his numbers dropping, Dak certainly took huge strides as a passer. From taking command of the offense as a captain to making throws he wouldn't make as a rookie, Prescott was able to demonstrate improvements during a rough sophomore slump.
Even with Dez gone, the receivers the front office brought in throughout the offseason are expected to be Dak-friendly. If the receiving corps actually make his strengths shine, the Cowboys' offense will take a huge step in 2018.
Maybe, as Jason Witten mentioned on Adam Schefter's Podcast, Dez is as good as anyone going up for the football. But that's not what will make Dak shine. This revamped WR room might be just what he needs, though.
At the end of the day, even though I truly believe he'll have a good career in the NFL and that he's the future of the Dallas Cowboys, I doubt he should be marked as an early target in the Fantasy Football world.
As of right now, from a Fantasy Football perspective, I would barely rank him as a Top 15 quarterback for many reasons.
First of all, the Cowboys' game will revolve around Ezekiel Elliott. Secondly, it doesn't matter how much faith we put into these pass catchers, they haven't proved anything yet.
Dak is not a bad player at all. But taking Prescott in the middle or even late rounds of a Fantasy Draft might be the safest way to go right now.
Lastly, I leave you with some "Fantasy Nuggets" from fellow Inside The Star writer and Fantasy Football Guru John Williams:
- Dak failed to score 10 standard format fantasy points only four times last season. He scored 15+ points nine times and 20+ six times in 2017.
- In 2017 - even with a down second half - he finished as the 13th best QB in points per game and as the tenth best in total QB scoring.
- In 2016, he was in the top 10 in both categories mentioned in the previous bullet point.
- His ability to run and score touchdowns on the ground easily make him one of the best 12 QB options for fantasy football.
Fantasy Football Implications of Ezekiel Elliott’s Suspension
Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended by the NFL for 6 games for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy. This will leave a void in the backfield for the Dallas Cowboys and on many fantasy football rosters around the world. As it is with the real league, it's a next man up philosophy in the world of fantasy football as well.
At the moment, that next man up is Darren McFadden.
Just two years ago, with Dallas still clinging to playoff hopes in the wake of Tony Romo's injury, McFadden rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He finished fifth in the NFL that season despite not seeing more than 10 carries a game until week six. From week 6 until the end of the season, McFadden had 7 games with more than 90 yards rushing.
McFadden's touchdown total from that season leaves a lot to be desired, but let's not forget the quarterbacking chaos that went on that season. Between Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore, defenses weren't worried about being beat in the passing game.
Frankly, it's a miracle that McFadden rushed for 1,000 yards.
Over 11 games from weeks 6-17, McFadden averaged 21.45 touches per game and 108.27 total yards per game. At that pace, stretched over a 16 game season, McFadden would have totaled 1,732 yards, which would have led all running backs in total yards that season.
If you still have to draft, I would take a chance on McFadden around the 7th or 8th round in 10 or 12 team drafts.
As for Alfred Morris, he will get some touches as much as the Dallas Cowboys will look to run the ball. That being said the second half of 2016 showed who the coaches preferred as the backup.
The last time Morris ran for more than 1,000 yards was in 2014. In 2015, if you'll remember, he lost his job to Matt Jones who has since lost his job to UDFA Rob Kelley, who is starting but is being threatened by 2017 draft pick Samaje Perine.
When Morris played last year he was pretty ineffective averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry.
With McFadden's injury history, you can take a shot on Alfred Morris late in your fantasy drafts around the second to last or the last round.
How Should You Value Ezekiel Elliott in Upcoming Fantasy Drafts?
That's a difficult question to answer, because a lot will depend on your league settings. My simple answer is, if you can get any discount on Ezekiel Elliott from his average draft position of 3.0, then you're getting a good value for at least the second half of the season.
Just a week ago I wrote to not allow this absence to sway you too much. I stand by that.
Fantasy football is about getting as much value as you can with each draft pick. Elliott is a top 5 value in any setting, even if he has to sit out. I think you can comprise a roster good enough to get into the playoffs, then you'll want Elliott for a playoff run.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys, all you need to do is tread water while he's out. If you can make it through the suspension at or around .500, you will still be in good position to win your fantasy football league.
When Elliott comes back, he will be the starter.
Even if they make him earn it, it won't take long. He's just better than McFadden and Morris. If your league lets Elliott somehow slip outside of the first round, snatch him up and make sure you draft McFadden. You'll thank me for it later.
While many will look at this situation as a detriment to Dak Prescott and may feel deterred from drafting him as the 9th quarterback in your league, I actually see it the opposite. While Dak was very efficient in Dallas' run-first offense, he showed throughout the 2016 season that he could be leaned upon in a shootout or to bring the team back from a large deficit.
In fact, Dak might have played his best game of the season during the playoff loss to Green Bay when the team got down 21-3. Forced to pass, Prescott completed 63% of his passes for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in nearly leading the team back to victory.
With a full offseason in the Dallas offense and a really good compliment of receivers led by Dez Bryant, I fully anticipate Dak to have an excellent sophomore campaign.
Dallas may lean more on the pass during Elliott's absence, which will make Dak more valuable to me. Remember fantasy football is about acquiring stats and with Elliott out, Dak will have a great chance at putting up even bigger numbers. Especially if the run game is ineffective.
Fantasy Football: Draft Ezekiel Elliott Early, Don’t Be Swayed
Plenty of fantasy football drafts have come and gone, but many still remain as training camp is in full swing. The question has come up in the fantasy football Twitter community; what do you do with Ezekiel Elliott amidst rumors of a suspension? And the short answer is nothing.
Investigations into whether or not Ezekiel Elliott has violated any of the NFL's policies have persisted. Supposedly, those investigations have come to a close. The personal conduct policy, the domestic violence policy, and the substance abuse policy seem to all be in play as the league decides on the appropriate punishment for the Dallas Cowboys' star running back.
You could go the safe route and drop Ezekiel Elliott down your draft boards or you could take a chance at having one of the top scorers in fantasy football on your roster.
Say a suspension does come down. At worst, a drug suspension would be four games.
The domestic violence issue seems to be circumstantial evidence that even the Columbus Police and District Attorney declined to pursue. The NFL's personal conduct policy could apply, but that seems to be more of a threat than anything. So the question is, if Elliott is out for four games, does he lose his value somehow. I'd say no.
We don't have to go back very far to see a similar star running back with a similar suspension. In 2016, Le'Veon Bell was suspended for the first three games of the season and many people slid him down their draft boards. In some mocks, I saw him going outside of the first round.
Sure he missed the first three games of the season, but he finished as fantasy football's No. 3 running back and was there when you needed him most. Playoff time.
Bell only had three games where he failed to score less than 15 standard fantasy points during his 12 game season (didn't play in the season finale). The point being, anyone who drafted Le'Veon Bell in the first round or the top of the second was quite happy with the results.
If Ezekiel Elliott misses time, it will be at the beginning of the season, but like Bell, he will be around at the end of the season when you're trying to put away a championship win.
If you're drafting at the top of the first round, don't let Ezekiel Elliott's consistency and scoring ability get by you because of a threat of suspension. He'll be available to you when you need him most.
The first few weeks of the season are tough matchups for Elliott anyway.
Dallas will face the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Rams in the first four weeks--all teams with tough defenses. Though Elliott is a guaranteed starter for those four weeks, it's likely you're lowering expectations for him against some of the top run defenses in the NFL.
For me in 2017, the reward of having Ezekiel Elliott on my roster far outweighs the risk of any potential suspension. Draft Zeke and reap the benefits.
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