As I've stated many times, the tight end position is as deep as it has ever been. When a guy like Jason Witten is ranked number 12, there is a lot of quality at the top end.
I really like the prospects of Jason Witten returning to TE1 form this year, but the guys in front of him have just as much upside, or more.
Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots is the creme of the crop. The Washington Redskins' Jordan Reed and Carolina's Greg Olsen aren't far behind in the second tier, but it all starts with Rob Gronkowski.
Pittsburgh Steelers second year tight end Jesse James is a relatively unknown player. James was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Steelers. Ladarius Green isn't healthy and is now on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) for six weeks. The Steelers are prepared to go with James as their starting tight end.
In the week three preseason game, James recorded 4 catches for 25 yards and a touchdown. He has the size and the trust of the quarterback. In that high volume offense, Jesse James has a chance to make an impact.
The New York Giants have had a camp battle going on all summer between Will Tye and Larry Donnell. Neither has stood out, which in standard leagues leaves neither player deserving of a roster spot.
The same could be said for the Baltimore Ravens' tight end group. Benjamin Watson is out for the year with a torn Achilles. Injuries have limited Maxx Williams and Crockett Gillmore throughout training camp, so neither one has been able to establish themselves.
The Tight End Rankings
[table id=57 /]
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Follow me on Twitter at @john9williams for more fantasy football tips.
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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