INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Tight end Jason Witten has registered 940 yards or more receiving in five straight seasons and six of the last eight years. In 2011, he turned out a career-best 11.9 yards per catch and had 15 receptions of 20 or more yards. His numbers last season were diminished by the ailing wide receiving corps, but Witten still managed 79 receptions. It marked the fifth straight season he’s caught at least 75 balls. Touchdowns continue to be his biggest problem though as he’s scored five or less times in five of the past six seasons and has only eclipsed six TD’s once in his career.
They open up against the defending champs, the New York Giants, in the first of five nationally televised games. The bye week comes early (Week 5) so owners of Cowboys’ players will need to plan accordingly. The schedule’s most brutal stretch comes following the break with four of five games on the road at Baltimore, Carolina, Atlanta, and Philadelphia on tap and rematch at home with the Giants sandwiched in between. Tough defenses loom in Weeks 14-15 with games at Cincinnati and at home vs. Pittsburgh followed by a Week 16 showdown with the Saints.
While he’s not a Tier 1 option as a fantasy QB Tony Romo is more than capable of carrying fantasy teams. After missing significant time in 2010 due to a broken collarbone Romo returned to start 16 games for the Cowboys in 2011 and broke the 4000-yard passing mark for the third time in his career and surpassed 30 TD passes for the second time as a pro. He finished particularly strong, throwing 24 touchdowns over the team’s final 11 games and only five interceptions. Romo is a great grab in Round 5 or Round 6 for owners that opt to not take a QB in the first few rounds.
After missing 16 games through his first four seasons, Felix Jones gave way to DeMarco Murray in 2011. Jones managed just one touchdown in 12 games last season and has made just nine trips to the end zone since breaking into the league in 2008. A season removed for having 233 touches for 1,250 total yards, Jones experienced a decline in both areas last year, finishing with 160 touches for 796 total yards. He’s still worth a look in the mid-to-late rounds as bench fodder and a great handcuff option for Murray owners.
DeMarco Murray emerged from third on the depth chart to the starting running back for the Cowboys and was well on pace for 1,000 yards before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. He turned in an eye-popping performance against the lowly Rams’ defense, rushing 25 times for 253 yards and a touchdown and produced double-digit fantasy points in four of five outings during his run as the starter last year. Murray is a capable receiver out of the backfield which makes him even more valuable in PPR formats. Durability concerns keep from being a stellar fantasy RB1 option, but the upside is there for him to be a top producer that could slip into Round 3 or later on draft day.
Jerry Jones had no problems shelling out the cash and taking some chances to improve a weak secondary this offseason. The Cowboys followed up the free agent signing free agent Brandon Carr by moving up in a trade with the Rams to draft Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick in April’s draft. Carr, a fifth round pick by Kansas City in 2008, is a diamond in the rough and a major upgrade. He’s a physical player that has the size to keep up in the NFC East. Claiborne promises to make an immediate impact as a rookie. Both players are viable IDP options and make the Cowboys ST/Defense a better fantasy commodity as well.
Though both Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are capable of putting up big numbers this season, the battle is one to see which players emerges as the Cowboys’ top wide receiver. Austin missed six games last year due to nagging hamstring issues which resulted into him yielding the worst numbers of his career. Bryant also battled the injury bug during his sophomore campaign of 2011, but he did prove to be a bit more consistent throughout the year. Entering his third season, Bryant figures to be on the rise and is poised for his first 1000-yard and double-digit TD season. Neither player is a great WR1 option, but both make great No. 2 fantasy wideout selections.
After scoring 11 touchdowns for Dallas last year Laurent Robinson fled for Jacksonville and a big payday via free agency. That leaves a big hole as the team’s WR3 spot is up for grabs. Entering training camp Andre Holmes is slated in the spot. He will need to hold off Kevin Ogletree, but if Holmes emerges he will see plenty of snaps in Dallas’ high-octane passing attack. He spent his rookie season on 2011 on the practice squad. Holmes will need to prove something during the preseason before he’ll warrant a late-round pick, but he could quickly become a hot commodity on the waiver wire if things continue to develop.
Fantasy Football, NFL