This week in the Fantasy Spotlight the focus is on the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are coming off an unexpectedly successful 2016 season that ended in a wild Divisional weekend loss to the Green Bay Packers. The spotlight shines on the mix of young stars and aging veterans that can play an important role in your 2017 fantasy football success.
Fantasy Spotlight 2017 Preview: Dallas Cowboys
In 2016 Dak Prescott took full advantage of a familiar story in Dallas, Tony Romo getting injured. The reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year showed the poise of a veteran quarterback right from his first preseason snap. While it was expected that once the regular season started Prescott would struggle, that was far from what happened. Prescott started all 16 games for the Cowboys in 2017. He threw for 3,667 yards with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. He added 282 rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground. Prescott did fumble nine times, losing four of them.
From a fantasy perspective Prescott finished sixth in FPPG (fantasy points per game) if you take away week 17 in which he played only one series. Per fantasypros.com Prescott faces the sixth toughest schedule for quarterbacks in 2017. With road matchups against the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals along with the ultra-tough NFC East, 2017 could be a step back for the talented quarterback. Fantasypros.com gives Prescott an ECR (expert consensus ranking) of 91st overall with an ADP (average draft position) of 57th. The league will adjust to Prescott in year two and his fantasy success is predicated on how well he handles those adjustments
Spotlight Says: LowQB1, potential to take a big step backwards.
Many fans around the league expected Ezekiel Elliott to be named Rookie of the Year after his dominant rookie season. Elliott’s success wasn’t a surprise to fantasy players. He carried an ADP of seventh in most standard and PPR (points per reception) leagues in 2017. Running behind the best offensive line in football and playing alongside fellow rookie Dak Prescott, Elliott took home the NFL rushing title with 1,631 yards. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and ran for 15 touchdowns.
There isn’t too much to debate about Elliott when it comes to the 2017 fantasy season. Some might be concerned about a sophomore slump, like that of Todd Gurley in 2016. However, with the offensive line in front of him (even with a few new faces) the talent at quarterback and the receiver positions, Elliott is primed for a huge second NFL season. He carries and ECR of third and a current ADP of second overall.
Spotlight Says: RB1, top three overall pick with first overall numbers.
Once a promising young running back, Alfred Morris is now regulated to backup duty behind Ezekiel Elliott. In very limited action in 2016, Morris ran for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Barring injury to Elliott, he deserves very little fantasy acknowledgement in 2017.
Spotlight Says: RB4, to be drafted only as a handcuff to Elliott.
Only two seasons removed from producing 1,400+ total yards for the Cowboys, Darren McFadden is now third on the depth chart. The veteran running back entering his tenth season offers little to no fantasy value in 2017.
Spotlight Says: Undrafted, needs injuries to Elliott and Morris to be relevant.
The Cowboys number one wide receiver got off to a very slow start in 2016. Despite battling injuries, it took Dez Bryant some time to build a connection with Prescott. The veteran, now in his eighth year finished 2016 with 50 catches for 796 yards and eight touchdowns. Amazingly 39 of those receptions and seven touchdowns came from week eight on. Bryant hasn’t had a 1,000-receiving yard season since 2014. With the Cowboys leaning so much on the legs of Elliott, it will be tough for Bryant to crack 1,000 yards in 2017.
Bryant struggled against defenders in the NFC East last season. The New York Giants held him to two catches for 18 yards on 14 targets in two games. He will face Josh Norman twice, along with the strong secondaries of the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. His huge frame will constantly make him a red zone threat and for that he should still be able to approach double digit touchdowns. The Fantasy Spotlight projects him to be a second tier fantasy wide receiver in 2017.
Spotlight Says: WR2
The 28-year-old receiver out of Southern Methodist University emerged to lead the Cowboys in receiving in 2016. Cole Beasley showed some nice chemistry with Dak Prescott during the preseason and it carried into the regular season. He caught 75 passes for 833 yards and five touchdowns. Most of that damage was done during the first half of the season. From week 13-17 Beasley failed to crack 50 yards in any game and did not score a touchdown in the final five weeks of the season. Beasley carries an ADP of 200th and will be drafted in most fantasy leagues. However, it would be foolish to think he will replicate his early 2016 success.
Spotlight Says: LowWR3/HighWR4
The Cowboys resigned 27-year-old Terrance Williams in the offseason to a four year-$17 million contract. Williams has played his entire career with the Cowboys and has shown flashes of success. He started 15 of 16 games for the Cowboys last season catching 44 passes for 594 yards and four touchdowns. He has shown the ability to stay healthy his entire career and his value increases significantly if Bryant misses time due to injury.
Spotlight Says: WR4, matchup dependent bye week replacement.
A staple of the Cowboys for 15 years, Jason Witten has been a model of consistency during his career. He provided the ultimate safety net for Tony Romo for years and did the same for Dak Prescott in 2016. While the production has dipped, Witten still caught 69 passes for nearly 700 yards and three touchdowns last season. He is the 16th ranked tight end for 2017 per FantasyPros.com. Both Witten and the Cowboys are very high on the progress of second year tight end Rico Gathers. Gathers could cut into Witten’s production if he continues to impress in the offseason. Witten’s ADP is 148th and he is still worthy of late round draft pick if you missed out on the higher tier tight ends.
Spotlight Says: TE3
Draft: Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Jason Witten
Do Not Draft: Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant
Best Value: Ezekiel Elliott
Worst Value: Dez Bryant
Surprise Potential: Terrance Williams