KEY LOSSES: Miles Austin, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Sean Lee (injury)
KEY ADDITIONS: Henry Melton, Scott Linehan (Pass Game Coordinator/Play Caller)
DRAFTED: Zack Martin, Devin Street
I am not a religious man but I often wonder if God watches football. Does he listen when players thank him in post game interviews for their abilities? Does he watch the games and impact the outcomes? Does God play fantasy football? I wonder about these things from time to time and I think I found my answer in the Dallas Cowboys. God must play fantasy football or at least be a fan because no other being could have created the Cowboy defense which surely will lead to big fantasy numbers from the Cowboys offensive skill positions! Here is all you need to know about the goings on in Jerryville. The Cowboys gave up the MOST total yards last year as a defense. They gave up an average of 27 points per game last year. That was 26th in the league. Their best defensive player, Sean Lee, is out for the season with a torn ACL. Look for big shootouts in Big D this year. The best part? They brought in Scott Linehan, the former OC for the Detroit Lions, to call the plays this year. The offense, which ranked 5th in scoring in 2013 was only 16th in total yards - so they can actually IMPROVE their fantasy numbers!!!
QUARTERBACK: Tony Romo
Tony Romo gets no respect. Tony Romo gets blamed for everything. Tony Romo shows up at a Duke game and they lose. Tony Romo will go down in history as the reason Dallas and every other team "choke" games away. Do you want to know something else about Tony Romo? He's a pretty darn good quarterback. Fantasy GMs should not be blinded by wins and losses. Tony Romo can put up stats. Who cares if he ever wins another game? Last year Tony Romo finished as the 10th highest scoring QB on ESPN. He only played 15 games. If he played the sixteenth game at his per game average of 16.68 he would have finished 7th ahead of Matt Stafford. He threw for 31 TDs against 10 INTs. Since taking over the starting job, every year he has played the full compliment of 16 games he has thrown for over 4,000 yards. Tony Romo can sling it. With the state of the Dallas defense, the arrival of Scott Linehan's passing fancy and the assumption of a 16 game full slate of work I rank Romo QB5 or QB6. That is tied with Luck. The only QBs ahead of him are Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford and I reserve the right to move Stafford lower. I picked up Romo in the SB Nation Analyst Mock Draft last week in the 9th round. I could not be happier with that pick.
RUNNING BACKS: DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar
DeMarco Murray finished as RB9 in ESPN standard scoring last year. He did this with the second least amount of carries within the top 15 RBs. He ran for 1,121 yards and scored 9 TDs. He added a 53/350/1 line receiving the ball as well. New Passing Game Coordinator (Can I call him the OC?) Scott Linehan loved to throw the ball to his backs in Detroit and there is no reason he won't carry that same mentality to Dallas. If Murray stays on the field he has a solid chance of being a top 5 RB in 2014. And there's the rub on DeMarco Murray. He hasn't played a full season in any of his three years in the league. As I said in the Eagles preview on this very site, I am not a fan of handcuffs but in the case of a system where your player is going to be featured I don't mind - and probably should - grab his handcuff in a deep league. Murray owners would be wise to grab Lance Dunbar in the late rounds given his injury history.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten
How do I love thee Dez Bryant? Let me count the ways: Dez is a BEAST, a FREAK. I believe he is the most talented WR in the league as long as he keeps his head together. Last year Dez mouthed off against Calvin Johnson before the Cowboys/Lions head to head matchup and promptly got schooled. The final score? Megatron: 14/329/1 - Dez: 3/72/2. Megatron put up 329 yards against the Cowboys D after Dez said he was a better WR than him! This year I rank Megatron WR1 but Dez a strong WR2 and closing the gap quickly. This year Dez is catching balls in Scott Linehan's offense not Calvin. This year Dez is playing on a team with no defense. This is the year that Dez ascends to the top of the WR ranks. The only reason I rank Calvin ahead of him is safety. Megatron is the safer pick. Terrance Williams will be a nice player to pick up in the late rounds if only that the Cowboys will throw and throw often this year. But let's remember: Linehan didn't have a second receiver in Detroit and if he did it was a RB not a WR2. Williams may get over ranked as a result of the Dallas offense expectations but I expect the next leading receiver to Dez will be DeMarco Murray. Then you have to factor in Jason Witten. Witten is an aging tight end that put some some pretty darn good numbers last year. His line was 73/851/8 which was good for 5th among TEs. Witten and Romo have a nice rapport so I rank him in the tier just below Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas. I just don't think I am spending a high draft pick on a TE other than the top two this year. My prediction for top three in receptions for the Cowboys this year goes Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten then Terrance Williams so don't get caught in the Cowboys #2 WR trap that most of your other GMs will.
So their you have it. The Cowboys may not be America's Team anymore but they are Fantasy's team and that's all that matters. This is a team worth having the NFL Sunday Ticket for. A team only a fantasy GM could love. Yes folks, God loves the Dallas Cowboys but for very different reasons than you might think. The Cowboys are no more than a .500 team this year. My prediction is 7-9 and Jason Garrett finally loses his job.
I hope you enjoyed our NFC East previews this week. Please write a comment or hit me on Twitter @bradcoustan. We will be giving you some great fantasy football coverage on Fake Teams this year. Next week we take on the NFC North.