Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation: Dallas Cowboys

Hey Dallas, America called.  They want to know how you came across this whole "We're your team!" thing.  Frankly, it's getting stalkerish and creepy and they want you to stop.

The Jason Garrett era goes into full swing this season and now he'll be the one on the chopping block should the Cowboys not win a Super Bowl in the next three years.  It's funny how much the NFL has changed... Tom Landry coached the Cowboys for their first 29 seasons.  Since then, Jimmy Johnson is their longest tenured coach and he was their for 5 years.  Did you know that in his first 6 seasons, Landry never had a winning record?

For Garrett to remain the head coach for longer than 5 seasons, Dallas is going to have to return to being a dynasty and multiple Super Bowls will have to be reached.  Garrett goes from Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach, but offense wasn't the problem last season.  Even with Jon Kitna taking the majority of the snaps, the Cowboys finished 7th in the NFL in yards and scoring. 

I think they should improve on those numbers on 2011 and they will have several fantasy studs.  Not only do the Cowboys get a healthy Tony Romo back, but they used their first round pick on a name you won't hear in fantasy football but who should have a major impact: offensive tackle Tyron Smith.  He was drafted 9th overall out of USC and is drawing a lot of praise on the right side of that line so far. 

Here are some of the other names in Dallas that should have a major impact this season:

Quarterback

Tony Romo

A couple of years ago I wrote an article that I so cleverly titled "Romo Aragato, Mr Choke-Arto."  Oh, to be young again.  It's true that Tony Romo didn't perform as well in December and January as he did in the other football months.  It's also true that it's just a lot of fun to hate on the Cowboys.  Nobody likes entitlement when it's not you or your team being entitled.  Hate the Lakers, hate the Yankees, and definitely hate the Cowboys.  It's just natural to expect the majority of fans to feel like their team is the "little guy" and we need to all combine our hatred of the big, mean bad guys while ESPN continually feeds the machine with incessent coverage of these teams.  So thats why its fun to hate on Romo and see the Cowboys lose.  Now, for the truth...

The truth is that Romo is a really good quarterback.  He's got a strong and accurate arm and a career 95.5 QB rating.  The only thing holding him back right now from joining that next level of quarterbacks is that the Cowboys haven't won a big game since they won the Super Bowl in 1995 and no Dallas quarterback is going to get real love from the fans until he wins the big game.  At least reach the Super Bowl.  As far as fantasy, Romo is being drafted around the 4th or 5th round, 1 round ahead of Matt Ryan and 2 rounds ahead of Matt Schaub.  I wouldn't pass on a good running back or wide receiver in the 4th if I could grab Schaub in the 6th, but Romo should have a very good season and it won't hurt you to have him as your starting QB.

Jon Kitna

How can you not be impressed with Jon Kitna?  He played at Central Washington.  Let me give you my inside info on Central Washington, seeing as I'm from the state.  Back in Kitna's day, if you were good at football you'd probably go to the University of Washington first, then Washington State, then Eastern Washington, then Western Washington.  If you were still looking for a place to play football you probably had to decide between Central or just calling it a career, tossing a ball around with buddies and working at Arby's.  Kitna went to Central and led them to the NAIA Championship.  Then he went to NFL Europe.  Then he caught on with the Seahawks as a free agent and this guy who nobody could have guessed would ever be in the NFL led them to an AFC West title.  That was 12 years ago.  And he's still in the NFL.  Pretty amazing stuff. 

Oh, fantasy?  No, stay away from him in fantasy.

Running Back

Felix Jones

Now in his 4th season after being a 1st round pick out of Arkansas, it's finally Jones chance to be the top running back in Dallas.  With Marion Barber gone, and no other solid competition left in the fold right now, Jones should see the most action, snaps, and carries of his NFL career.  He had 185 carries for 800 yards and 48 catches for 450 yards in 2010, but only 2 TDs.  I expect him to rush for over 1,100 yards and gain at least another 500 yards in the air in 2011, and I believe he'll be able to get in the 10 TD range at least, with Barber gone.  He's currently going 22nd among running backs, which I think makes him a steal.  He's an above average RB2, but he'd make one hell of a flex position play. 

Tashard Choice

Choice is a name you know, but don't be fooled.  There's question right now if he'll even make the roster, and that the Cowboys would trade him in a heartbeat if a decent deal came along. 

DeMarco Murray

Potentially taking over the Barber role will be 3rd round pick DeMarco Murray out of Oklahoma.  He holds the schools all-time record for TDs, points scored, all purpose yards, and receiving yards for a running back.  In the right offense, he could be one heck of a player, and Dallas is the right offense.  But he's just returning from a hamstring injury which already puts him a step behind for 2011.  That's why the Cowboys have hardly ran the ball in the preseason, because both Murray and Choice have been sidelined.  The last 2 preseason games will tell us a lot. 

Lonyae Miller

You might as well hear the name now.  Miller was undrafted out of Fresno State, he was on the Cowboys practice squad last year, many people expect him to be the player that gets Choice out of Dallas.  He rushed 6 times for 9 yards in the last preseason game.  These are all just more reasons to believe Felix Jones could have a big year.

Wide Receiver

Dez Bryant

Bryant is the fast, explosive, big-play wide receiver that Cowboys fans can hope is their version of DeSean Jackson.  He seemed to be hitting his stride in week 6 and over the next 4 games he had 23 catches for 328 yards.  He had 7 TDs (including a 93 yard punt return) over a 6 game stretch.  Then he got hurt and we'll never know how that could have turned out.  But fans have seen enough of Bryant to know they fell in love with the potential.  Bryant is going 14th amongst WRs in fantasy drafts, which means teams are making him a WR2, and in some cases a WR1.  That's just a little too rich for my blood, but I can see why people love him.  I have 2 hesitations: First, that he's only a 2nd year player and second there's that whole injury thing.  Hey, he's probably perfectly fine now, but I'm allowed to have hesitations when you're making him one of your top receivers. 

I'll write an article later about getting proper value in fantasy drafts, but basically I'm not getting great value on Dez Bryant if I draft him in the 3rd or 4th round.  He's not being seen as a sleeper because the secret is out.  Whereas, Austin Collie is going in the 6th round and I think he could have 3rd round value, that's a much better pick.  

Miles Austin

It's almost as fun to hate on Austin as it is to hate on Romo.  Almost.  However, I can't keep going around calling him overrated.  He's been pretty good for 2 years now, making some solid catches and doing some big things after the catch.  Through the first 4 games last season he had 31 catches for 474 yards and 2 TDs and that includes a week 3 performance that was 2 for 20.  However, when Jon Kitna was the QB, he didn't do so good.  Romo is the QB again, so feel safe with Austin.  He's currently going in the 3rd round, I'd much prefer him in the late 4th, early 5th. 

Dwayne Harris

In the first preseason game Harris had 5 catches for 127 yards and 2 TDs.  In the 2nd preseason game, he didn't make any catches, and I can't find anything that indicates he was sidelined.  If a Cowboys fan wants to clarify that, please do.  He's fighting for the 3rd WR job in Dallas after being a 6th round pick out of East Carolina.  He'll become noteworthy really only if Bryant or Austin get hurt.

Kevin Ogletree

Pretty much everything said about Harris goes for Ogletree.  Not the part about the first preseason game or being drafted last year in the 6th round out of East Carolina.  That would be weird, wouldn't it?  No, he's just fighting for the 3rd WR position.

Tight End

Jason Witten

He certainly makes my job easy.  I can finish this article very soon because Witten has been basically a certified guarantee in the NFL.  While Austin struggled with Kitna, Witten just do what Witten do.  He's missed 2 games in the last 7 seasons.  He's averaged 91 catches, 1,032 yards, and 6 TDs over the last 4 seasons and that's almost certainly the kind of numbers he'll put up in 2011.  He's going 3rd in drafts amongst tight ends.  In a PPR league, it's a no-brainer.  In a non-PPR league, it's kind of a brainer, and I might prefer Vernon Davis.  I have a non-PPR draft on Sunday, and that's the kind of thing I'll have to consider.  Always take Points Per Reception into consideration.

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