When you talk Dallas Cowboys and fantasy football it starts with Ezekiel Elliott. Yes, the Cowboys have other fantasy-relevant players, Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, Leighton Vander Esch, and Jaylon Smith to name a few but Elliott has been one of the best since he entered the league. 2019 brings first-time offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and the return of two-time all-pro center Travis Frederick which should provide a boost to the 22nd ranked offense in 2018. The sixth-ranked defense led by tackle machines Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith will return under veteran defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Ezekiel Elliott is the crown jewel of the Cowboys’ offense. Going into his fourth year Zeke has averaged over 100 yards per game on the ground and last season stepped up to garner almost 6.5 targets per game in the passing game. Elliott has been my overall RB1 this offseason in all formats and I expect him to have the best year in an already impressive career.
The midseason trade for Amari Cooper was a boost for the Cowboys. Cooper was averaging just 46 yards per game with only one touchdown in Oakland while apparently in new coach Jon Gruden’s dog house. After arriving in Dallas, Cooper went on to put up 80 yards per game and find the end zone 6 times. Going into his fifth season the young wide receiver still has some consistency issues to work on but is the clear WR1 in Dallas.
Heading into his fourth season Dak Prescott has taken the opportunity presented when Tony Romo was injured in the 2016 preseason and ran with it. literally. While showing himself to be a competent quarterback, Prescott has averaged over 300 yards rushing with six touchdowns each season landing as a top ten fantasy quarterback each year. With a full season of Amari Cooper, I would expect a mid QB1 in 2019.
If you play in IDP leagues that reward tackles the Cowboys have a couple of very productive linebackers. Leighton Vander Esch racked up 140 combined tackles and established himself as the successor to the frequently injured Sean Lee. Jaylon Smith suffered a brutal knee injury during the bowl game after the 2015 season. The Cowboys still believed in Smith’s talent and drafted him in the second round of the 2016 draft. After an arduous recovery period, Smith made it back to the field in 2017 playing a part-time role that included starting six games. 2018 showed that athletic linebacker was back, starting all 16 games and making 121 combined tackles. Both Vander Esch and Smith would make a great foundation for an IDP roster.
In IDP leagues where you must start a defensive lineman, Demarcus Lawrence offers a nice floor with more than 50 combined tackles each of the past two seasons while averaging 12 sack per year.
There are some guys I will be avoiding in Dallas. Dak has yet to really support a second-high level wide receiver, partly because he knows he can make plays with his legs so he doesn’t take chances with the ball in the air very often as evidenced by his eight interceptions per year average. Free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb has joined the Cowboys after a disappointing 2017 where he missed seven games with injuries. Wide receivers often struggle when they switch teams as it takes time to develop chemistry with a new quarterback. If Cobb is going to be a consistent fantasy producer, he is going to have to hold off second-year wide receiver Michael Gallup and I’m betting on Gallup to take the job.
Another spot I’m going to avoid when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys for fantasy points is the tight end. Jason Witten returns from a very mediocre stint in the broadcast booth to start/mentor the young tight ends. Witten was not a good broadcaster, and I’m not sold on what he has to offer as a tight-end either. He is old and slow and while he has a knack for getting open five yards from the line of scrimmage that is not going to score a lot of points. Fourth-year journeyman Geoff Swaim and third-year training camp superstar Rico Gathers are not the answer. I’m calling it now; Rico Gathers is not going to be a thing. Not this year, not ever, so let it go.
If Dak Prescott takes a step forward in the passing game in 2019 it could mean a breakout season for Michael Gallup. Gallup struggled as a rookie but caught 58% of his targets over the last five games of the season. The loss of Cole Beasley leaves almost 70 targets up for grabs and I think the lion’s share will be split between Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup with Cobb getting the scraps. That could boost Gallup from 68 targets to 100 which is enough to propel him to break out.
The Dallas Cowboys have built a team with some very good young talent. To keep the momentum going the Cowboys need to draft guys that can fill specific roles and reach their potential. Double-dipping into the running back pool in the 2019 draft the Cowboys grabbed Tony Pollard out of Memphis in the fourth round and Mike Weber from the Ohio State University in the seventh round. Both players are worth stashing on your taxi squad to be activated should an injury happen to Zeke Elliott. Pollard will likely start out on special teams as he averaged 30 yards per return in college; he also caught 104 passes in three years at Memphis as Darrell Henderson’s back up. Mike Weber also split time in college while rushing for over 2600 yards. Weber is a tough inside runner with good burst but not a lot of shiftiness. If Elliott were to go down Weber and Pollard would likely step into an equal timeshare until one of them shows they are worthy of receiving the majority of the running back touches.
You can find me on twitter @culture_coach and on the airwaves as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable on the Full-Time Fantasy Podcast Network.
Come see me in person at the Midwest Fantasy Football Expo August 18th in Canton, Ohio and at the Fantasy Football World Championship at the Palms Resort in Las Vegas September 5 – 9.Follow @culture_coach
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