StrategyAugust 5, 2009

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Daily Preview: Dallas Cowboys

By Bobby Morris

On Jerry Jones’ team there never seems to be a down year — at least in the drama department. While players from America’s Team have thrived in fantasy football in the past seasons, that success hasn’t translated into a single post-season victory — and that won’t work for the team with stars on the side of the helmet and a brand-spankin’ new stadium. The biggest celebrity on the team, whether for his girlfriend or his charisma, has to be QB Tony Romo, but they have so many options on the team it’s tough to find a place to start.

Can Romo thrive without T.O.? Will the three-headed rushing attack give fantasy owners nightmares? Will Roy Williams become the WR1 he was brought back to Texas to be? Who will be the next viable receiving option for the ‘Boys outside of the ultra-consistent TE Jason Witten? Is OLB Demarcus Ware really this good? So many questions, let’s get going.

QB: Tony Romo, Jon Kitna
RB: Marion Barber III, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice
WR: Roy Williams, Miles Austin, Patrick Crayton
TE: Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett
PK: Nick Folk

Quarterback: Ever since taking over for Drew Bledsoe back in mid-2006, Tony Romo has become a bonafide star on and off of the field. Now for the first time he will be starting a new season without an elite caliber wideout. He still has his safety blanket best friend/tight end Witten, but the question remains if a wideout will emerge to be a consistent threat and take some heat off of the Witten-Romo connection. I look for Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton to compete for WR2 honors, but I see Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett looking to emphasis more of the running game with his stable of RBs, so that could limit some of Romo’s ceiling. It should also keep his scores more consistent. His average might dip just a little but I fully expect his CRANK scores to be higher with a more consistent spread of second-tier level points in a scaled-back Dallas offense.

Running Back: Talk about three-headed monster. No wonder people were so upset with their 2009 draft picks — they were spoiled with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice transforming the Dallas Cowboys rushing attack. Both did it differently though, and I think it’s due to both of these guys that we can see Marion Barber’s best year coming ahead of him. Two years ago Barber played in all 16 games, but started zero of them. Now-Seattle Seahawk Julius Jones started every game that season, but it was Marion Barber that got all of the fantasy glory, finishing seventh among all RBs. Look for a similar roles from the Cowboys rushing attack this season. Jones will be a scat-back type of runner, trying to get in the open field as much as possible, while Choice will take a lot of the in between the tackle, more abusing carries in between the 20s. Expect to see this for the first 2-3 quarters, but when the defenses are tired in the closing minutes or in the redzone, Barber’s dreadlocks will be flopping in the Dallas backfield as he puts up another top-10 season. Barber is arguably the best closer in football, and Dallas should start saving up their Mariano Riviera for the times when they need him to capitalize the most. Jones should put up the next best fantasy season out of this backfield, with his big-play ability, but if Barber was to get injured expect to see Choice take a much larger role and be sought after immensely in leagues.

Wide Receiver: Ah, the Dallas Cowboy wide receivers. By far the most controversial and drama-filled position in all of football has seen its fair share of drama in Irving, Texas over the past couple of seasons. Even the departure of “the player” hasn’t stopped all the attention on Romo’s main pass-catchers. No longer is the drama based on off-field nonsense — now, the pressure and drama all stems from questions of whether a combination of these guys can fill the enormous void left by Owens. Williams securely has the #1 WR slot sealed up by every indication. The questions that still need answering in training camp is, “Who will be starting as the second flanker and which receiver will be playing from the slot this season?” Until I see some serious chemistry growing in between Roy Williams and Romo, I’d temper my expectations for the former Texas Longhorn. Personally, I think Patrick Crayton will wind up staying in his normal position in the slot, while Miles Austin will be a wideout giving them a deeper threat to go along with Williams’ big, physical presence. In deeper leagues, Austin and Crayton will have some value but between Witten, Williams, the tosses out of the backfield, and the increase in pounding the rock more, I don’t know if there are going to be enough balls to go around for Austin and Crayton to make too much noise on owners’ rosters this season.

Tight End: This is where the Dallas Cowboys arguably have the most talent and depth in the NFL. While we all know about Jason Witten and his elite fantasy status, stemming from an uncanny chemistry between him and Romo, some may not be aware of Martellus Bennett. The second-round draft pick is slowly turning into an athletic, receiving beast that is a ton to handle. In any other situation, Bennett would be making a more serious run for the top spot, but for now his ability to get open and shed tackles may be the only thing that can bring Witten’s numbers down from their elite highs.

IDP: When it comes to IDPs, Dallas is known for one of the biggest: Demarcus Ware, last year’s sack leader, is still roaming the weakside outside linebacker slot for the ‘Boys and as long as he’s there, watch out. He fills up the stat sheet with tackles, forced and recovered fumbles and, of course, sacks. Expect newcomer Keith Brooking and Bradie James to rack up the tackles from their middle linebacker slots in Dallas’s 3-4 scheme as long as second-year nose tackle Jay Ratliff still is under center wreaking havoc on offensive lines.

TO is gone, so the Cowboys will focus on the running game this season, but don’t forget about Witten, one of the top TEs in the game. The running game will produce at least two and maybe three solid fantasy players, while the jury is still out on whether Tony Romo and Roy Williams can develop chemistry on the field.

Bobby is a college student and a Dallas/Texas fanatic. If it's the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavs, or Longhorns he's there. He's a fantasy football fanatic but his fiance tries to calm him down when he's not on the Cafe... which is rare for this Cafeholic! Catch Bobby around the various fantasy football forums or shoot him a PM at bmor8811.
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