As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a precursor to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys.
Romo is consistently one of the most hated and disrespected quarterbacks in the National Football League. I am sure part of this comes from the hatred by many of the Cowboys themselves. It could also be due to the fact that Romo has failed to lead the team back to the Super Bowl as so many have expected. Whatever the reason, don’t let this negativity effect your view of Romo as a fantasy quarterback, because this is one area where he excels.
Romo is often referred to as injury prone. The fact is that in his five and a half seasons as the Cowboys starter, he has only missed a total of thirteen games – ten of those coming in 2010 when he suffered a season ending shoulder injury. In three of Romo’s five full seasons as the Cowboys quarterback, he has started all sixteen games. Over that period, Romo has also averaged nearly 3,500 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. Those are spectacular numbers, especially considering he missed significant time in 2010 and did not earn the starting job until midway through the 2006 season.
Romo has some great weapons on offense as he has the past few years and has shown the ability to utilize them in many ways. In the three seasons he played all sixteen games, Romo finished as the QB2, QB6 and QB7. He even managed a QB9 finish in 2008, despite missing three games. Romo is severely underrated and disrespected. His current average draft position places him at the QB12, behind fellow quarterbacks he routinely outscores.
Orton’s is an interesting case. As the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears in 2005 and 2008, his statistics were not overly impressive, but he led the team to a winning records each season. He was then dealt to the Denver Broncos where his individual numbers improved, but the team could not win with him at the helm. In each of the past two seasons, Orton was benched for Tim Tebow. Orton has surprisingly now seemed to embrace his role as a reserve quarterback following his offseason signing with the Cowboys.
Orton has started 68 games in his career, averaging just over 200 passing yards per game. In short, he is a game manager that ultimately could not lead his teams to victory. However, the role as backup in a high powered offense should be a great fit for Orton.
In a dynasty league, Orton has almost no value unless you are the Romo owner. As I mentioned, Romo’s injury history is often overstated, but in this league, anything can happen.
McGee was once considered the heir apparent to Romo, but the Cowboys continue to bring in veterans to serve as the QB2. He really has no dynasty value barring multiple injuries in Dallas.
Murray took over as the Cowboys starting running back when Felix Jones went down with a high ankle sprain and immediately displayed some fantastic skills – this ultimately led to his ranking as our RB15 here at DLF.
Although Murray was not officially named the starter at running back once Jones was injured, he certainly took advantage of the increased playing time as he rushed for over 250 yards in a record breaking performance against St Louis in his week six breakout. That was his introduction to the dynasty owners everywhere. He continued to play well as he was named the starter later during the season. The team even felt confident enough to release veteran Tashard Choice, relying on Murray and fellow rookie Phillip Tanner. Murray was the primary ball carrier from weeks 7-13 in 2011 and over that time period, he ranked as RB4, behind only Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy in fantasy points. This flash of talent and ability to produce huge statistical games at any time has dynasty owners still salivating.
In week 14, Murray suffered a broken ankle which caused him to miss the remainder of the season as the team turned back to Jones. Murray earned the label as an injury prone player in college, where he battled hamstring and ankle injuries. Although a broken ankle is somewhat of a freak injury, it is another in the long pattern for Murray. This is the main reason he is not currently being drafted as a RB1 in dynasty leagues. Murray can often be had in the third round of a startup draft and he makes a solid RB2 going into 2012. With his injury history, it is important for his owners to also make room for his backup running back.
Jones entered the 2011 season as the entrenched starter in an established offense. But yet again, he battled injuries, missing four games. During these four games, Murray saw the bulk of the carries and claimed the starting job. Many still place significant value on Jones as a handcuff to Murray or even a flex option in PPR leagues. The fact is though, Jones’ highest finish is only as the RB26, coming back in 2010. If Murray were to suffer another injury, we will see Jones’ value skyrocket as the primary candidate to start in Murray’s absence. Otherwise, his value is going to be limited.
Tanner took over the backup running back role for a four game stretch last year in his rookie year out of Middle Tennessee State. Tanner also received praise for his dedication and attention to details. Those are the small things an undrafted free agent must do to make it in the league. An injury to either of the running backs ahead of him instantly gives Tanner value in dynasty leagues.
After three lackluster seasons in Dallas, Austin enjoyed a breakout year in 2009 and has been the team’s top wide receiver since. After two seasons in which he played all sixteen games and led the team in receiving, Austin suffered a hamstring injury, causing him to miss four games. His yardage and reception totals were at a three year low. Surprisingly, he later admitted he was not physically prepared for the 2011 season.
Now, Austin is fully healthy and ready to once again serve as quarterback Tony Romo’s top target in the passing game. Although Austin has been a borderline WR1 in the past, he is being drafted as late as the 20th wide receiver off the boards in startup dynasty leagues.
It is somewhat of a concern that Austin, who just turned 28, may be slowing down. In most cases, top wide receivers will not begin to decline until age 30 or even later. Also of concern is how the targets in Dallas will be distributed. Although Austin scored seven touchdowns in only ten games last season, three of those scores came in one game. The injury from last season combined with Austin’s age and competition for targets may be scaring dynasty owners away.
Bryant’s first two seasons have been very difficult to judge. Some fantasy owners have been disappointed as they see other young wide receivers break out immediately and become starting quality players for their teams. Others see the potential and sheer ability Bryant at times displays and extrapolate that over a full season, or even multiple seasons, placing a very high value on a player who has yet to break the 1,000 yard mark or catch more than 65 balls in a season.
Bryant had been portrayed as having a bad attitude and not always giving a full effort. Many are concerned he cannot learn the playbook or run precise routes as well.
When I watch Bryant, I see a freak of a wide receiver who I would be glad to own on any of my teams. As the number two wideout for the Cowboys, Bryant has caught 61% of his targets in the first two seasons and has totaled fifteen touchdowns, despite missing five games. Still just 23 years old, Bryant makes a great investment in dynasty leagues and does not carry the risk that many assume he does. He already ranks as DLF’s #13 wide receiver and has the chance to improve that ranking, along with his targets, catches and touchdowns as he demands a larger role in the Dallas offense.
Ogletree claimed the third wide receiver’s job at the conclusion of the 2011 preseason, but sub-par play and the signing of Laurent Robinson pushed Ogletree back down the depth chart. Although he finished with career high numbers in both catches and yards, Ogletree was off the radar in fantasy leagues. Now, he again has a chance to win the WR3 job, but has plenty of competition.
Coale was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft and was quickly penciled in as the favorite to claim the vacant third wide receiver job in Dallas. Instead, Coale suffered a broken bone in his left foot that will keep him out until training camp. Although he is now a long shot to claim the job as third wide receiver to begin the season, Coale has the most dynasty value of any of the Cowboys’ reserve wideouts.
We focused on Holmes in our Dallas Cowboys sleeper article.
Harris was a sixth round draft pick in 2010, but was not involved in the Dallas passing game, contributing primarily on special teams. With the team drafting Coale and Holmes looking good, Harris’ role will likely not change this year.
In twelve team leagues, Witten has finished as a TE1 for eight consecutive years. Don’t expect that to change this year. Witten is known for his durability, only missing one game in his nine year career. With Robinson gone, Witten may even see his touchdown total increase. There are other tight ends going higher than Witten in start-up leagues, but don’t be disappointed if Witten ends up being your guy.
Phillips will be asked to replace Martellus Bennett as the backup tight end. Although Bennett was known as an excellent blocker, Phillips will be primarily used in the passing game in two tight end sets. He is likely to see an increase in receptions and yards, but he should remain on the waiver wire in dyntasy leagues for now.
With Bennett leaving town as a free agent, the team added Hanna as a late round draft pick. While Phillips will likely claim Bennett’s offensive targets, Hanna will take over the role as a blocking tight end, a job he should be perfect for at 6’4” and weighing 252 pounds. Unless you’re in a blocking league, that just doesn’t equate to much in terms of scoring.