The preseason is in full force and Fantasy Football drafts are happening all around us. It's hard to know sometimes exactly how a draft is going to play out until you are in the midst of it. It's good to have a strategy, but it's just as important to be flexible in that strategy.
Below is a 10 team mock draft. This is my best guess at how the first 10 rounds of a standard fantasy football draft will go.
1.01) Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Antonio Brown was the number one wide receiver in all of fantasy football in 2015. For three straight seasons, the Steelers' wide-out has averaged 125 receptions for 1,677 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those are his averages!!!
He has a tremendous floor, but has a 2,000 yard upside. With tight end being a question mark, and Martavis Bryant out for the season, Brown will easily reach the 193 targets he saw a year ago and may top 200.
Three years ago, you would never dream of taking a wide receiver number one overall. The NFL has changed and so has fantasy football. Adapt and enjoy the returns.
1.02) Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons.
Julio Jones has a legit shot to dethrone Brown from the top of the Wide Receiver perch.
Atlanta has zero receiving threat outside of Jones. In 2015, the Falcons' star saw 203 targets and caught 136 passes for 1,871 yards and 13 touchdowns. They added Mohammed Sanu to the wide receiver mix, but that isn't going to take away Matt Ryan's love for Julio Jones. While many are taking Odell Beckham Jr. 2nd overall, Julio Jones -- to me -- is the number two guy.
1.03) Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings.
They say that age is just a number. For Adrian Peterson, that is actually the case.
Many running backs begin to see a decline in production after they turn 27 years old. In his age 27 season, Peterson led the league with 2,097 yards, averaging 6 yards per carry (YPC). In his age 28 season, he played 14 games and had 1,266 yards rushing.
He was suspended for all but 1 game of his age 29 season.
At age 30, he came back and led the league in rushing again, with 1,485 yards. Adrian Peterson doesn't show any signs of declining.
1.04) Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
In the three seasons prior to 2015, he averaged 91 receptions, 1,311 yards, and 13.667 touchdowns per season.
Bryant never caught less than 88 passes in those seasons. He is consistent and his targets will be similar to the 2012-2014 seasons.
1.05) Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
Yes, he has flashy catches... in losses.
Yes, he gets into fights with Josh Norman and is a dangerous human on the football field.
The dude has talent.
Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the best handful of receivers in the league. In just his first two years in the league: 90+ Catches, 1,300+ yards, and 12+ touchdowns. That's incredible.
Now enters Sterling Shepard. This can have an effect on Beckham's numbers in one of two ways. 1) It could either take targets away as Beckham is double-teamed and QB Eli Manning looks to Shepard. Or, 2) it could keep defenses honest since Shepard isn't your typical rookie receiver.
1.06) Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
I've gone back and forth on Todd Gurley, David Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliott. I've decided that Gurley is the next running back off the board because of what he was able to accomplish in limited action last year, after returning from an ACL injury.
In 13 games, he put up 1,300 total yards and 10 touchdowns. In 13 games!
Yes, there is nothing around him offensively. But there wasn't anything around him last year either. They are going to run the ball and there is no one on the roster to take substantial carries away from him, aside from a couple a game to Tavon Austin.
1.07) David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
The hype surrounding David Johnson is connected to a three-week stretch where he accumulated 472 total yards. I've been high on Johnson for a couple of reasons, like that three-game stretch and the talk of a big time workload. I've since downgraded him below Johnson because after that three-game stretch, he did very little.
In the last four games -- including two playoffs -- he played, Johnson had 159 yards on 50 carries (3.18 YPC). He does a lot in the passing game, but to me hasn't shown enough to go ahead of Gurley.
1.08) DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Last season, at age 23, Hopkins had an awesome season. Despite catching passes from four different quarterbacks (Brandon Weeden included), Hopkins caught 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns. It doesn't matter who is throwing the ball.
Hopkins is going to get targeted and he's going to put up numbers. This year, Houston is going to have a few more receiving targets to lean on, but that isn't going to change Hopkins too much.
1.09) Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott was the top running back selected in the 2016 NFL draft. He runs with speed and power, pass protects, and has good hands. There isn't anything the number four overall pick can't do.
Running behind the best offensive line in the world, with a great quarterback, and great receiving options, Elliott is poised for a big season. Dallas didn't draft him to be in a committee, so don't worry about him getting touches. He will -- at a minimum -- get 20 touches a game.
He may not get the over-400 that DeMarco Murray got, but if he gets close to 300, he will have top-10 fantasy numbers.
1.10) AJ Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Five years in the league, five 1,000 yard seasons, and five Pro Bowls.
Andy Dalton loves to throw to him. At the back-end of the first round, or the front end of the second, AJ Green is a great pick up. He plays through injury and puts up numbers.
2.01) Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Don't let the three-game suspension scare you away from drafting a top-5 talent at the end of the first, or beginning of the second. Yes you miss out on three games, but you will enjoy the other 13 that he plays for you. Just try to get DeAngelo Williams later on.
2.02) Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Many people have him in the top 10, and he is definitely worthy of that. In standard leagues, he finished 15th out of non-quarterbacks in scoring, ahead of David Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Latavius Murray.
Rob Gronkowski was nearly a point per game better than Jordan Reed. Many pundits will place him in the top ten, but I like other players that I could have there.
2.03) Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
In his second year in the league, Robinson had an awesome breakout season in 2015. 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in a prolific offense. Many believe that Robinson is going to regress this year. If he does, that's ok; he's still going to put up solid second round numbers.
He is an elite wide receiver who is Blake Bortles' favorite target. Continued success is expected here.
2.04) Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Yes, he's coming off another season ending injury. Yes, he's injury prone. It's important to consider all of that, but don't forget his career 5.5 yards per carry or his dual purpose usage in Kansas City. Andy Reid loves to give the ball to his backs a lot. Don't be afraid of Charles here in the second round.
2.05) Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
Don't ask me what the Miami Dolphins were doing with Lamar Miller's usage. He has a career 4.6 YPC, yet they only gave him 200 carries one season. He's been durable, not missing a game since his rookie season in 2012.
Despite his under-usage in Miami, Miller finished as the number six running back in fantasy football last season. He has a legit chance to finish as the number one running back with his move to Houston.
2.06) Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets
There have only been two seasons where Brandon Marshall did not reach 1,000 yards receiving: his rookie season, where he started only one game, and in 2013 where he missed three games. He's dependable, durable, and quarterback-proof.
Marshall's produced with four different teams, and 13 different quarterbacks, and he's only had two un-Marshall like seasons.
2.07) Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
Jordy Nelson has had a full year to recover from his ACL injury. He is the favorite target of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, played two full seasons prior to the ACL, and produced WR 1 numbers. Excellent second WR if you are using the Zero RB approach.
2.08) Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
The lead-back in the New Orleans backfield is going to have an excellent time playing football. Head Coach Sean Payton loves to get his backs active in the passing game as well as the running game.
2015 was the first time that Ingram received a full complement of starting running back touches, and he produced handsomely until he was slowed by injury late in the year.
2.09) Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Devonta Freeman came out of nowhere last year against the Cowboys and put up huge numbers in a six-game stretch that catapulted his fantasy stock to Apple-like heights.
From week three against Dallas to week eight, Freeman totaled 913 yards from scrimmage and nine TDs. He slowed dramatically after that, but still finished with RB1 numbers.
He needs to start strong to hold off 2015 draft pick and week 1 starter, Tevin Coleman.
2.10) Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin had a bounce back year after poor 2013 and 2014 campaigns. He's locked in as the starting running back heading into his age 27 season. He has tremendous value on a team that wants to run the ball, but be aware of the age 27 cliff.
3.01) Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Chicago Bears
Were it not for his injury history (a lot of foot and ankle stuff), we'd be talking about Jeffrey in the top half of round two. When he is healthy, he is a Jay Cutler favorite, and will put up big stat lines.
3.02) Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The former Texas A&M product hit the ground running in his first two years in the league. He's developed a nice rapport with Jameis Winston and uses his size and jumping ability to do damage all over the field.
3.03) Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Typically, rookie wide receivers don't make much of an impact their first season in the NFL. Cooper did. Starting 15 out of 16 games, he immediately developed into a favorite target of Derek Carr, posting 72 receptions, 1,070 yards, and six touchdowns. The Raiders are a team to watch in 2016.
3.04) LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
Several years ago, LeSean McCoy would have been a surefire top-ten pick. With injuries, age, and usage catching up to him, he's fallen out of favor a bit. The former Eagle is still a dynamic back with dual purpose ability.
3.05) C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
C.J. Anderson has traditionally been a slow starter, but finishes seasons strong. If you draft him, don't get rid of him if he starts slow. He will be useful come Fantasy playoff time.
3.06) Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Supposedly back in shape and ready for the 2016 season, the former Alabama product is heading into a contract year.
I like his chances to finish the season in the running back top-10.
3.07) Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
Before the injury last season, Keenan Allen was a top-5 wide receiver in both standard and PPR (points per reception) leagues. He is primed for another big season entering his third in the NFL. You are most likely going to see him go at the end beginning of the third round.
3.08) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
My top Quarterback in fantasy, Aaron Rodgers is getting Jordy Nelson back and Randall Cobb will be able to return to the secondary receiver role that he thrives in. I expect Rodgers to pace the quarterback field in 2016.
3.09) Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
Brandin Cooks is the top target in a pass-happy New Orleans offense. Cooks will benefit from plenty of targets. In Mock drafts, I'm starting to see him go in the late second round.
3.10) Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
Size, speed, hands, and jumping ability. The only thing that has slowed Sammy Watkins down has been injuries. As your WR2/3 at this point in the draft, Watkins could be a steal.
4.01) Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Taking over for an accomplished running back like Marshawn Lynch is no easy task. In seven starts and 13 games in 2015, Thomas Rawls averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
4.02) Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
2015's top quarterback, Cam Newton can get it done through the air and on the ground. Expect him to continue to evolve as a passer.
4.03) Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton's top target from the 2014 season returns from a preseason ACL injury. Many expect Kelvin Benjamin to take a back seat in the offense, but he is going to pick up where he he left off.
4.04) T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
T.Y. Hilton has had three straight 1,000 yard seasons, averaging at least 16 yards per catch the last two and receiving at least 130 targets per season the last three.
4.05) Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
For four seasons in a row, Demaryius Thomas has put up at least 1,300 yards receiving. As much negative publicity as the Broncos' offense got last year, he still shined with 105 catches. Thomas -- this late -- would be a tremendous pickup for your team. The QB situation for Denver is what drops Thomas to the fourth round.
4.06) Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders
Started 16 games in his sophomore year and produced a nice fantasy line. Just over 300 touches (catches + carries) for nearly 1,300 total yards. He was a little light in the touchdown department. He's a dual threat.
4.07) Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets
Last year, the New York Jets provided nice fantasy value for two running backs in the running and passing game. Matt Forte, who has been the best dual-threat running back of his time in the NFL, is going to a place where they know how to get the runner the ball.
4.08) Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
The unanimous second tight end off the board had a wonderful season last year, posting 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. If you aren't liking any of the RBs or WRs at this point in the draft, getting one of the top-three tight ends could pay dividends.
4.09) Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Injuries have kept Carlos Hyde from truly breaking out. The former Buckeye has produced well when healthy, but hasn't put together a full season. Expect heavy usage in Chip Kelly's offense.
4.10) Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
The number two receiver in Green Bay had a down year last year as he was asked to be the number one. Jordy Nelson returns to take the focus of opposing defenses. Expect a bounce back season from Randall Cobb.
5.01) DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
Two seasons removed from over 400 touches and leading the league in rushing, now on his third team in three seasons, DeMarco Murray needs a bounce back season.
5.02) Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Tremendous second half of the season totaling 14 touchdowns. May not reach his 2015 totals, but 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns should be easily attainable.
5.03) Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Before last season, Andrew Luck was being considered the top fantasy quarterback in the league. Injuries cut his 2015 short and now he's poised for a bounce-back campaign. Needs to be more efficient with the ball.
5.04) Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins
Jarvis Landry was a target-machine in Miami last year, and is a favorite for PPR players going into 2016. Many people are expecting a breakout for DeVante Parker, but Landry is the player I am interested in.
5.05) Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
The last of the top-tier tight ends and easily a top target for Cam Newton. With Kelvin Benjamin back and the emergence of Devin Funchess, there is a lot to like about the Carolina passing game. Greg Olsen may be fighting for targets.
5.06) Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
When Marshawn Lynch went out with an injury, the Seahawks offense began to lean on the passing game. Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin immediately began to produce. Wilson can contribute to your fantasy team through the air and on the ground.
5.07) Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is still Drew Brees. If he's your number one quarterback, you will get a lot of great games out of him.
5.08) Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Fumbles and the effectiveness of Giovanni Bernard have limited Jeremy Hill to an extent. Last year, he was inefficient with a 3.6 YPC. Needs to do better if he wants to keep his hold on the early down work.
5.09) Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets
Eric Decker is the number two guy in a passing attack with four quality targets. Decker finished with over 1,000 yards and compiled 12 touchdowns in 2015. The TDs may not repeat themselves, but the yardage will. The Jets want to throw the ball.
5.10) Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
When healthy, Julian Edelman is a target-machine in the Patriots' offense. His problem has been staying healthy as a small slot player.
6.01) Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers
6.02) Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions
6.03) Jeremy Langford, RB, Chicago Bears
6.04) Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
6.05) Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
6.06) Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
6.07) Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers
6.08) Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
6.09) Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
6.10) Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
7.01) Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
7.02) Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville Jaguar
7.03) Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans
7.04) Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts
7.05) Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
7.06) Coby Fleener, TE, New Orleans Saints
7.07) Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns
7.08) Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
7.09) Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
7.10) John Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals
8.01) Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears
8.02) Arian Foster, RB, Miami Dolphins
8.03) Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
8.04) DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins
8.05) Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
8.06) Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
8.07) Chris Ivory, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
8.08) Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts
8.09) Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
8.10) Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions
9.01) DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins
9.02) Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
9.03) Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
9.04) Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants
9.05) Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants
9.06) Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders
9.07) Matt Jones, RB, Washington Redskins
9.08) Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
9.09) Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers
9.10) Gary Barnridge, TE, Cleveland Browns
10.01) Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens
10.02) Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
10.03) Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
10.04) T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
10.05) Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
10.06) DeAngelo Williams, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
10.07) Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns
10.08) Denver Broncos, Defense/Special Teams
10.09) James White, RB, New England Patriots
10.10) Phillip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
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.
2017 Dallas Cowboys Fantasy Football Primer
The Dallas Cowboys were one of the more surprising teams in 2016. Both on the real side of the game and the fantasy football side as well. Armed with a top-notch offensive line and a shiny new running back in Ezekiel Elliott, fantasy footballers and fans alike saw big things from the Dallas Cowboys offense.
That is until Tony Romo was injured in the third preseason game, against the Seattle Seahawks.
With only his preseason work to go off of, which was Tom Brady-esque, we saw a glimpse of what Dak Prescott could do leading the way for the Dallas Cowboys.
Little did we know, Prescott would end up in MVP conversations with Mr. Brady.
Heading into 2017, expectations for Prescott & Co. have sky rocketed. From a team perspective as well as a fantasy football perspective.
Dak Prescott heads into his second season in the NFL with a lot of exposure as the quarterback for "America's Team."
With little-to-no expectations for his rookie season, Prescott came out and provided plenty of QB1 finishes on the season. In total scoring, Prescott finished 6th at the quarterback position in fantasy football. At 18.4 points per game, he ranked 11th. That also includes his one series against the Eagles.
The Dak Knight finished in front of fantasy football stalwarts Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, and 2017 hype-man Jameis Winston.
Prescott was quite good and is a safe bet to repeat his QB1 numbers in 2017.
Currently ranked 13th in FantasyPros.com's consensus quarterback rankings, that is an excellent price to pay for someone who was a solid contributor to fantasy teams a year ago.
Not much has changed for Prescott. In fact, his offense may have gotten better. They will be younger on the offensive line and have a potential upgrade at right tackle. His receiver core is exactly the same as it was a year ago and they made an addition during the draft by adding Ryan Switzer out of North Carolina -- more on him later.
I would be willing to take Dak Prescott as high as the 7th quarterback drafted in fantasy football drafts.
My Top 20 Quarterbacks for Redraft leagues:
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
- Tom Brady, New England Patriots
- Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
- Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
- Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
- Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
- Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
- Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
- Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
- Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
- Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
- Eli Manning, New York Giants
- Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
- Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
The running back position for the Dallas Cowboys is pretty much set in stone. Ezekiel Elliott is the man.
Currently the third ranked running back in FantasyPros.com's consensus rankings, Elliott finished as the RB2 in total points and third in points per game. Elliott is my number one overall player in standard league scoring and PPR formats.
As I argued earlier in the offseason, Elliott is the only one of the top three 2016 FFB running backs to see a potential increase in workload in 2017. Elliott is the only running back in the NFL to have over 300 carries in 2016 and he remains the focal point of one of the top offenses in the NFL.
Le'Veon Bell's near 450-touch pace last year would be very difficult to replicate, especially for a player who has only played 16 games once in his four-year career. Though Bell is going to get at minimum 20 touches a game, I think it's unlikely he matches the 28-touch per game average he played in 2016. With the addition of James Conner in the 3rd round, Bell will cede some carries. With Martavis Bryant returning and the drafting of Juju Smith-Schuster, Bell isn't going to be counted on as much in the passing game.
On David Johnson. Yes, he led the league in touchdowns and yards from scrimmage. But he needed an extra game and 19 more touches than Zeke to do so. If we talk about carries+targets, Johnson had 52 more total opportunities to have the ball in his hands than Ezekiel Elliott.
Johnson scored only four more touchdowns and had only 124 more yards from scrimmage than Elliott. Remember, Elliott sat out week 17. If Elliott played all 16 games like Johnson, Elliott would have led the league in yards from scrimmage.
Johnson is unlikely to see 25-touch opportunities per game (Carries+Targets) in 2017 with John Brown back and healthy. And with Andre Ellington moving to wide receiver, they won't be leaning on Johnson near as much in the short passing game.
The Dallas Cowboys coaches have already expressed interest in getting Ezekiel Elliott more involved in the passing game. As he should be. Go back and watch the highlights from the Pittsburgh game and see his ability in the screen game.
Ezekiel Elliott is flat-out dangerous anytime he has the ball in his hands.
After Elliott, the running back to own is former thousand-yard rusher, Darren McFadden. You might see a lot of people giving you Alfred Morris as the back up to own; don't fall for it.
Yes Morris is younger than McFadden. The team, however, showed the world what they thought of the former Redskin in the second half of 2016 after McFadden returned from the Non-Football Injury list.
From weeks 10 to week 16, Morris saw a grand total of... four touches. His most extensive work in the second half of the season was week nine -- where he received four carries -- and week 17. With everyone resting against the Eagles, Morris was only given eight carries.
McFadden, on the other hand, received 27 touches from weeks 14-16, including 14 in a pivotal game against the Detroit Lions.
Morris is as far down on the depth chart as one can be and it's likely he doesn't make the 53-man roster out of training camp. A potential suspension to Elliott will be a factor in that decision, however.
McFadden is a better backup because he can play all three downs and even return kicks, if needed. He's a good pass blocker and showed just two years ago he can carry the load for a team if needed.
My Top 30 Running Backs:
- Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
- Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
- David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
- LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
- Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
- Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
- Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
- DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
- Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
- Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
- Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
- Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
- Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
- Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
- C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
- Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders
- Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers
- Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs
- Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers
- Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
- Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks
- Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
- Paul Perkins, New York Giants
- Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
- Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons
- Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
- Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
- Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots
- LaGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles
The wide receiver position for the Dallas Cowboys saw a bit of turnover in 2016. Not in personnel, but in production. Dez Bryant, who had been a sure-fire WR1 finisher from 2012-2014 was hindered by injuries in 2015 and then again at the beginning of 2016.
Bryant missed three games -- from week four to week six -- which kept Dez from a 1,000-yard season for the second year in a row.
After a slow start prior to the injury -- only one game with more than 70 yards -- Bryant had an excellent second half recording only two games under 70 yards receiving.
If you take away the Philadelphia game at the end of the season (where he played one series) and project his total over 16 games, Dez was on pace for 67 catches on 128 targets for 1,061 yards and 11 touchdowns.
If you look at the second half, after he came back from injury, it seemed he and Prescott began to really hit their stride, the numbers are quite staggering. If we look at his numbers from week seven through the playoff game and taking away week 17, we get a better appreciation for Bryant's ability.
Here are his numbers for those 10 games: 48 receptions on 84 targets for 778 yards and nine touchdowns. If you take those 10 games and project them over 16 games Dez looks like a monster; 76.8 receptions on 134.4 targets for 1,244.8, and 14.4 touchdowns!!!
Those numbers look a lot like the Dez Bryant who had three straight double-digit touchdown seasons from 2012-2014.
While many in your fantasy league will sleep on Bryant as a top-24 overall selection -- unless they are Cowboys fans -- don't let the injury issues fool you. Dez is easily a top-12 fantasy wide receiver with a top-24 floor. He's a safe bet for 1,000 yards and close to double-digit touchdowns.
Don't overthink it. Bryant is the WR9 in FantasyPros.com's consensus wide receiver rankings. That's about right.
You'll find a lot of people who'd rather have Amari Cooper instead, but not me. I would actually be more likely to draft Dez ahead of the 7th and 8th-ranked wide receivers on their list, T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts and Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints.
While Dez and Prescott seemed to struggle to get on the same page at the beginning of the season, the rookie quarterback had no such struggle with Cole Beasley.
Beasley in his 5th season in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys posted career highs in nearly every statistical category including targets, yards, receptions, catch percentage, and tied his career high with five touchdowns.
While the man who provides "The Sauce" benefited from extra targets during Bryant's absence, his statistical output wasn't much different when Dez was out of the lineup.
Beasley is going to be a late round addition for your team and is going to be hindered a bit by the run-first mentality of the Cowboys. As someone who will be a bye week fill-in, however, you could do worse in PPR leagues.
His consensus ranking as the WR73 is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too low. To me he's more in the 50-55 range with the likes of Rishard Matthews and Sterling Shepard.
Bease may not repeat his 2016 output, but he will have some big games. Week one versus the Giants is a game I could foresee him leading the team in targets, catches, and yards with Bryant's difficulties with them last year.
Terrance Williams and Brice Butler aren't really worth your consideration unless you are in 14 team leagues or deep bench best-ball leagues. Their values would increase if there is an injury -- God forbid -- to Dez Bryant or Cole Beasley.
In leagues that offer return yards, Ryan Switzer could be worth a late round flier as a flex play. It's likely he will beat out Lucky Whitehead as the punt returner and 5th wide receiver for the team. He will get some opportunities in the pass game as Dallas began using more empty backfield sets in 2016.
If Scott Linehan's been reading my Twitter timeline, Switzer may even see some time as a Danny Woodhead-type of running back, where he dominated in high school.
My Top 30 Wide Receivers (Standard Scoring):
- Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
- Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
- A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
- Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
- Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
- T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
- Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
- Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
- Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders
- Brandin Cooks, New England Patriots
- DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
- Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
- Alshon Jeffrey, Philadelphia Eagles
- Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
- Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins
- Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
- Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders
- Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
- Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills
- Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
- Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins
- Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
- Cameron Meredith, Chicago Bears
- Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints
- Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
- Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
- Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers
It's the Jason Witten show once again for the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite the change at quarterback from best friend and passing game soul mate Tony Romo, to hot young thing Dak Prescott, Jason Witten still maintained relevance in fantasy football.
Yes, he saw a decline in receptions and yards and hasn't had a thousand-yard season since 2012, but Witten still had the 14th most fantasy points at the position. The future Hall of Famer's 5.6 points per game put him right there as a high-end TE2.
Still playing every game and never coming off the field, you could do worse than Witten.
Now entering his 15th season, Witten hasn't missed a game since his rookie season and has started every game since his second season. That's incredible durability for a tight end who made his living over the middle of the field.
Witten may cede some snaps in four and five receiver sets to rookie fourth round pick Ryan Switzer, but it's likely that Witten will still be on the field for 90% or more of the team's offensive plays.
He's a reliable player and knows his job, even if he's not performing at the same level.
Witten is the 16th ranked TE on FantasyPros.com's consensus tight end rankings. That seems about right. The guys in front of Witten have more potential and scoring upside while Witten is on the downside of his career.
Behind Witten are question marks.
James Hanna and Geoff Swaim are returning from injuries. Rico Gathers is still trying to re-acclimate to football, though reports are he is getting better and more comfortable.
Beyond Witten, you aren't going to roster a Cowboys tight end unless it's Gathers in a dynasty league.
My Top 16 Tight Ends:
- Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
- Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
- Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
- Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
- Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
- Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
- Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
- Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
- Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers
- Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
- Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions
- Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
- Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
- Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Coby Fleener, New Orleans Saints
- Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Team Defense and IDP
Sean Lee is the IDP to own from the Dallas Cowboys. Coming off his first NFL All-Pro selection after recording 145 combined tackles, Lee is at home as the weak side linebacker.
Jaylon Smith may be a consideration, depending on what he looks like when/if he plays. If he can rediscover the form that would have led him to be a top-five draft choice in 2016, he will be a dominant force.
As a team defense, the Dallas Cowboys made a lot of moves in the offseason trying to upgrade their defense.
Nolan Carroll was a veteran addition and had two interceptions last season.
Ball-hawking defensive backs Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, and Marquez White were drafted to add some play-making ability to the defensive backfield. They'll compete with Anthony Brown, Jeff Heath, Orlando Scandrick and others for snaps.
The defensive line is in need of taking the next step. There are some players with potential here, but they need to realize it.
As a team the defense shouldn't be high on your list when drafting the position. There are plenty of options, but Dallas does offer some potential sleeper opportunity later in your drafts or even off the waiver wire.
My Top 15 Defenses:
- Denver Broncos
- Houston Texans
- Kansas City Chiefs
- New England Patriots
- Seattle Seahawks
- Arizona Cardinals
- Minnesota Vikings
- Carolina Panthers
- New York Giants
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Los Angeles Rams
- Baltimore Ravens
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Oakland Raiders
- Jacksonville Jaguars
If your league still does kickers, which most still do, draft Dan Bailey. If he isn't taken in the first five kickers, your league is doing it wrong and you should disband. He's number two all-time in field goal accuracy and is a lock to finish in the top five at the position each year.
My only other advice on kickers is don't draft them before the last round of your drafts and don't draft more than one.
Who are you looking at in your fantasy football drafts?
Who are some of your sleepers?
Have a fantasy football question, leave it in the comment section.
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