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June 28, 2010

Fantasy Football Outlook: 2010 DALLAS COWBOYS

QB – Tony Romo
Pros: Experience, accuracy, mobility, durability and an elite arsenal of weapons to work with that include Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Roy Williams, Felix Jones and Marion Barber.
Cons: Tends to hold on to the ball longer than he should which can lead to sacks and fumbles, tough 2010 schedule, already shaky offensive line could be a question mark with the loss of Pro-Bowl offensive tackle Flozell Adams.

2009 stats of significance: Ranked 3rd in the NFL with a career best 4,483 passing yards, Romo’s 26 TD passes ranked in the top 10 in the NFL, career lows in interceptions with 9, and fumbles with 6.

2010 outlook: While Romo has been on the cusp of being one of fantasy football’s elite signal callers in recent years, he always seems to fall just short of the top flight status garnered by the likes of Peyton Manning, Brees and Brady. That said, 2010 could be the year he finally cracks the code. The addition of super stud receiver-in-the-making Dez Bryant to go along with big time playmakers like Miles Austin and Jason Witten could push Romo to the next level and the best season of his career. A brutal schedule and questionable offensive line will surely present some challenges along the road, but that’s nothing new for the crafty veteran. In our humble opinion, Romo could be the steal of fantasy drafts among NFL quarterbacks for 2010. With the aid of a potentially outstanding supporting cast, expectations are high.

Fantasy roster projection for 2010: definite QB1

Pros: TD potential, toughness, power, solid receiving skills.
Cons: Competition for carries, declining role in the passing game, nagging injuries (although he typically plays through them), lacks breakaway speed, tough schedule.

2009 stats of significance: Ranked 17th in the NFL with 932 rushing yards, ranked 16th with 7 rushing TDs, 4.4 yards per carry average, 221 receiving yards on 26 receptions.

2010 outlook: He remains a solid RB in terms of skill set and ability, but he is no longer the super stud fantasy prospect of yesteryear. First and foremost, Barber is sure to see a reduced workload due to the emergence of fellow RBs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. This does not bode well for his rushing and receiving yard potential in 2010 and considering he has never been a 1,000 yard back in his career anyway, expectations in these two categories are not promising. Fortunately, there is a silver lining here as Barber still holds value as Dallas’ goal line back, especially in TD heavy leagues. It is not out of the question for Barber to reach double digit TD totals in 2010 provided he stays healthy.

Fantasy roster projection for 2010: Low end RB2 at best, flex or solid bench RB at worst.

RB – Felix Jones
Pros: Big play ability, versatility, elusiveness, speed, expected to play a bigger role in 2010, good hands and added size and strength in the off-season.
Cons: Injury prone, competition for playing time, lack of goal line touches.

2009 stats of significance: Averaged 5.9 yards per carry and a 6.5 yards per carry average over his 2 year career

2010 outlook: Jones has shown the potential to be one of the better all purpose backs in the NFL and expectations are that he will see an increased role in the Cowboys offense in 2010, likely even surpassing Marion Barber for the starting job. The only problem is that Barber, along with Tashard Choice will continue to be heavily in the mix as well, which means Jones could struggle to hit double digit carries some weeks. On top of that, he is unlikely to see many goal line touches which severely limits his TD potential. Another major knock on Jones is his ability to stay healthy. Something he has struggled with since his days at Arkansas. He certainly has super star potential and return yards are a plus, but a crowded backfield and a Cowboys offense chalked full of playmakers hampers Jones’ fantasy appeal to some degree for 2010.

Fantasy roster projection for 2010: RB2 at best, flex or solid bench RB at worst.

RB - Tashard Choice
Pros: Possesses a good mix of size, speed and strength, impressive in limited action in 2008 and 2009, good hands.
Cons: Playing time will be tough to come by behind Barber and Felix Jones.

2009 stats of significance: Averaged 5.5 yards per carry and scored 3 TDs in limited action.

2010 outlook: Choice has proven that he not only belongs in this league but that he has the potential to be a star. Unfortunately, he is buried deep on the Cowboys depth chart and barring injuries to Barber and/or Jones, touches will be difficult to come by for the 3rd year back. Needless to say, Choice has fairly limited fantasy potential heading into 2010 under the current circumstances.

Fantasy roster projection for 2010: Bench RB at best in deep leagues. However, Choice would be an excellent pick up if Barber and/or Jones go down with injury.

WR – Miles Austin
Pros: Speed, tall receiver with excellent route running skills and big play potential, great hands, plenty of other playmakers around him to draw double teams away, excellent red zone target.
Cons: He’s no longer flying under the radar, tough schedule, consistency.

2009 stats of significance: Ranked 3rd in the NFL with 1,320 receiving yards, ranked 3rd with 11 TD receptions, despite starting just 9 games. Austin had 10 receptions for 250 yards and 2 TDs against Kansas City in week 5 and followed that up with a 171 yard 2 TD performance the next week against Atlanta.

2010 outlook: Following a break out 2009 campaign in which this talented wide out ascended to the top of fantasy football leader boards week in and week out, the question on everyone’s mind is can he maintain that status in 2010? In our opinion, the answer is a resounding, yes! Austin should not only match last season’s production if healthy, but we expect him to surpass his lofty 2009 totals. With the addition of Dez Bryant to go along with Roy Williams, Austin will most likely be utilized more often from the slot position this season (as seen in mini camp with great results) which will produce mismatches and deter double teams. We expect him to finish 2010 as one of top 10 fantasy wide outs in the NFL and it would not be a big surprise if he was not the top scoring fantasy WR this season.

Fantasy roster projection for 2010: definite WR1

WR – Dez Bryant
Pros: Great hands, has the size and leaping ability to be an exceptional red zone target, explosive off the line and after the catch, ability to get open and adjust, potential elite talent and ability.
Cons: Does not possess great separation speed, needs improvement reading coverages and character on and off the field issues are of concern.

2010 outlook: Many believe that Bryant is the second coming of Terrell Owens and that is probably a fair assessment on many levels, both on and off the field. Bryant is a big bodied receiver with elite potential. He’s not a burner like a DeSean Jackson or Randy Moss, but his athleticism and leaping ability should allow him to stretch the field, especially against smaller defenders. He is kind of a cross between T.O. and Chad Ocho Cinco in that he’s not going to fly past defenders, but he will find ways to get open and make plays. Bryant has the potential to make an impact on the fantasy scene as early as this season, but considering the fact that he still has plenty to learn at the NFL level as a rookie and the fact that the Cowboys already have a ton of playmakers in their offense, expectations of Bryant are somewhat limited for 2010. In other words, if you can grab him in the later rounds of your fantasy draft, do so, but do not go out of your way to get him with expectations of a monster season. That said, he would be a wise pick up for dynasty leagues.

Fantasy roster projection for 2010: Most likely a bench option at this point, but he has solid WR3 potential or better

WR – Roy Williams
Pros: Size, ability to stretch the field, red zone target.
Cons: Focus, dropped passes were an issue in 2009, in danger of losing his starting job to Dez Bryant.

2009 stats of significance: 7 TD receptions ranked 15th in the NFL amongst WRs, reception and yardage totals left plenty to be desired especially for a number 1 receiver

2010 outlook: For whatever reason, Williams’ career as a Cowboy to this point can best be described as a bust. It truly is a head scratcher considering he was one of the top 15 fantasy WRs in the NFL playing in the league’s worst offense as a Detroit Lion. Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie and Williams’ future in Big D is not looking any brighter for 2010. While the addition of promising rookie Dez Bryant could serve as motivation for Williams to return to top flight form and salvage his plummeting fantasy stock, we don’t see it happening. If posting lackluster numbers and receiving massive criticism from fans, coaches and media alike were not enough to get him back on track, the possibility of losing his starting gig to a rookie probably won’t have much impact either. After all, he faced a similar situation last season when he was upstaged by perennial bench warmer turned superstar Miles Austin. Williams will most likely have a noteworthy game here and there in 2010 (good luck guessing when), but he is no longer the consistent playmaker he was as a Lion and we aren’t seeing any comeback player of the year awards coming his way.

Fantasy roster projection for 2010: WR3 at best, most likely a bench option

Pros: Ability to get open, excellent hands, deceptive speed and outstanding route running skills for his size, ability to break tackles and gain yards after the catch.
Cons: More competition for targets in 2010, only 2 TDs in 2009, brutal schedule.

2009 stats of significance: 94 receptions ranked 2nd amongst NFL TEs, 1,030 receiving yards ranked 3rd in the NFL amongst TEs, only 2 receiving TDs.

2010 outlook: There is no doubt that Jason Witten is one of the best fantasy prospects in the NFL at his position. In terms of receptions and yardage totals, he ranks among the top 3 TEs in the NFL year in and year out. The biggest concern is that he only found pay dirt twice in 2009. The Cowboys coaching staff has stated that getting Witten the ball in the red zone is a priority for 2010, and while we are confident he will visit the end zone more than twice in the upcoming season, skepticism remains with regard to a huge leap in TD production. Reason being, the Cowboys have never had so many playmakers in their offense, especially those with big time red zone potential. We can also see a slight dip in his reception and yardage totals for 2010. For starters, there is a chance that he will be utilized more often in a blocking capacity in 2010 if the Cowboys revamped O-line remains shaky. Also, the emergence of Miles Austin, the addition of Dez Bryant to go along with Roy Williams and a more prominent role in the passing game for Felix Jones could lead to a reduced role for Witten as competition for targets will be at an all time high for the talented TE. While Witten’s overall production could take a slight hit compared to season’s past, we still expect him to remain among the NFL’s top 5 or 6 TEs from a fantasy production standpoint in 2010.

Fantasy roster projection for 2010: Starting TE

K – David Buehler
Pros: Powerful leg, should get plenty of opportunities for FGs and extra points.
Cons: Never attempted a FG in the NFL.

2009 stats of significance: 0 FG or XP attempts, handled kick off duties for Dallas.

2010 outlook: After handling kickoff duties for the Cowboys in 2009, it appears the second year kicker will finally get his shot to knock a few through the goal posts in 2010. Considering he has never actually kicked so much as an extra point in the NFL, it is difficult to gauge his fantasy value. Statistically, all we have to go on are his collegiate numbers which were solid, but not exceptional. While at USC, Buehler connected on 26 of his 33 FG attempts and 117 of 120 extra point attempts in 3 seasons for the Trojans. The good news is that the Cowboys have apparently been extremely impressed with Buehler in mini camp. So much so, that he seems to have a stronghold on the starting job heading into preseason. If he is able to maintain that role, Buehler has definite sleeper fantasy potential in 2010. Few teams create more scoring opportunities for kickers in the NFL than the Cowboys and extra point attempts should be plentiful as well. Following a disastrous 2009 for Dallas kickers, the pressure will be on Buehler to perform. The question is, will he be up to the task? If so, he could be a diamond in the rough and a steal in fantasy drafts. Preseason should tell the tale.

Fantasy roster projection for 2010: Potential starting Kicker (take a wait and see approach)

Dallas Cowboys Defense/Special Teams
Pros: Excellent run defense, outstanding scoring defense (although that will be a tall order in 2010), great pass rush lends potential for sacks and forcing fumbles, big time potential in the return game with Felix Jones.
Cons: Brutal schedule, shaky pass defense, lack of interceptions.

2009 stats of significance: Allowed just 15.6 points per game ranking them 2nd in the NFL, 42 sacks ranked 7th in the NFL, forced 17 fumbles recovering 10 of the fumbles, only 11 interceptions ranked 26th in the NFL, just 1 defensive TD, 2 punts returned for TDs.

2010 outlook: The good: For the most part, the Cowboys feature the same defense that ranked 2nd in scoring defense in the NFL in 2009 allowing just over 15 points per game. An outstanding front seven led by the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Bradie James and Marcus Spears, to name a few, will be back and ready to inflict some serious hurt on opposing offenses. Dallas should feature one of the best run defenses and pass rushes the NFL has to offer in 2010. As far as special teams are concerned, a healthy Felix Jones should go a long way with regard to drastically improving the return game. If Jones should remain in that capacity, he is a threat to take one to the house every time.
      The bad: The biggest knock on the Cowboys D in ’09 was a poor pass defense that ranked just 20th in the NFL and produced a meager 11 interceptions. As the only glaring weakness on defense, Dallas did little to nothing to address the sub-par play of their secondary and it remains an issue of concern for 2010, especially considering they will face some of the NFL’s best passing attacks in the upcoming season.
     The ugly: America’s Team will surely have their hands full in 2010 as their schedule is considered by many to be the most difficult in the NFL. Already having to face a challenging division schedule that includes both home and away games against the Giants, Eagles and Redskins; Dallas will also go up against offensive heavy weights New Orleans (home), Indianapolis (away), Green Bay (away), Minnesota (away) and Houston (away). Home games against Chicago, Tennessee and Jacksonville may not be a cakewalk either. The Bears offense should be much improved under new Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz and stopping the likes of the Titans’ Chris Johnson and the Jag’s Maurice Jones Drew will prove difficult. With the exception of maybe Detroit, there are no cupcakes on this brutal schedule.

Conclusion: There is plenty to like about the Cowboys defense and special teams, but quite frankly, their schedule scares the hell out of us. Even if everyone stays healthy and the secondary shows vast improvement, there is no way the Cowboys (or any other defense in the NFL for that matter) will be able to hold the collective offensive juggernauts on this schedule to under 16 points per game as they did in 2009. The 2010 edition of the Dallas Cowboys D/ST is no doubt one of the better groups in the NFL talent wise, but from a fantasy perspective, you will probably be best served avoiding them on draft day. One glance at the schedule and we think you will agree.

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