Bye Week Scouting Report: St. Louis and Dallas

Dan Meylor

Only two teams are off in week eleven, the second to last bye week in the NFL.

Dallas Cowboys

bryantMost NFL coaching staffs use the bye week as an opportunity to do a “self-scout,” or take an in-depth look at how their team is performing to that point in the season.  On Tuesday, a report surfaced saying Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters the Dallas coaching staff would use the bye week to focus on getting Dez Bryant the ball more.  At least it didn’t take them all week to come to that conclusion.

On the season, Bryant has 52 receptions (10th in the NFL among WRs) for 749 yards (11th) and eight touchdowns (4th) on 89 targets (7th).  While those numbers are impressive, his fantasy owners will tell you they could be much better.  Last week, he was targeted only twice, catching one pass for 44 yards and he’s been held under 50 yards receiving four times this season.  A weapon like Bryant should be used much more.

Over the final six weeks of the season, Bryant and the rest of the Cowboys’ offense will face five teams ranked among the eleven worst in the league in passing defense in the form of the Raiders, Bears, Packers, Redskins and Eagles.  Fantasy owners should expect Bryant’s name to among the leading receivers in each of the categories listed by the end of the year.

The other receivers in Dallas should also benefit from the light schedule the Cowboys have.

Terrance Williams has 29 catches for 498 yards and five touchdowns on 50 targets.  Although his role has increased since the beginning of the season, he’s been held to three or less catches seven times and hauled in only five of 22 targets over the last three weeks.  He’s a WR3 at best and has more value in standard leagues than PPR leagues at this point, but has WR2 upside and is a nice trade target for dynasty owners, considering his recent struggles.

Miles Austin hasn’t played since week three.  He’s expected to return after the bye and could take reps from Williams if he stays healthy.  If that happens, he could prove to be a fantasy asset down the stretch.  While there is short-term upside, dynasty owners should consider Austin a huge injury risk and not expect too much from the aging receiver.

Slot receiver Cole Beasley has caught 26 of 34 targets for 261 yards and a touchdown.  He’s worth a roster spot only in deep PPR leagues.

Tight end Jason Witten has been a bit of a disappointment to fantasy owners this year.  He has 47 receptions for 532 yards and four touchdowns, but most of that production has come in three games this season.  Six times he’s been held short of 50 yards receiving.  The days of him being a top-five tight end are likely over.  Dynasty owners should be looking to move on from the 31-year-old veteran.

Over the first five weeks, quarterback Tony Romo looked poised for a career year.  He completed 135 of 188 passes (71.8%) for 1,523 yards (304.6 YPG) and 13 touchdowns while tossing only two interceptions.  Over the last five weeks, he’s completed 104 of 182 passes (57.1%) for 1,158 yards (231.6 YPG), eight touchdowns and four interceptions.  No injury has been reported, and the Cowboys have played some of the worst passing defenses in the league, so the drop-off in production has been head scratching.  Nonetheless, fantasy owners should expect a recovery from Romo.  He’s locked in as a QB1 for the rest of the year and beyond.

The Cowboys’ running game has been hard to figure out as well.  Coming into the season, many believed the Jason Garrett when he said they would rely more on the ground game, but that hasn’t been the case.  So far, they’ve dropped back to pass on 399 of their 632 offensive plays (63.1%).  Last year, they dropped back on 62.4% of their plays.

DeMarco Murray has rushed 111 times for 548 yards and four touchdowns and also contributed 31 receptions for 189 yards, but he’s missed multiple games due to injury for the third consecutive year since entering the league.  He’s been productive when he’s been on the field and has one of the best schedules for running backs in this year’s fantasy playoffs.  He should be a RB1 through the end of the season, but fantasy owners who are sick of his availability issues should think long and hard about dealing him over the off-season. Joseph Randle looks to be the primary backup in Dallas, but only averaged 2.5 yards per carry while Murray was sidelined.  He’s only worth a roster spot as a handcuff or in deep leagues.

Backup tight ends, James Hanna (11 receptions, 67 yards and no touchdowns) and Gavin Escobar (4, 65 and 1) have little value as long as Witten is around and neither looks like a full-time player who could develop into fantasy producer.

Kicker Dan Bailey is scheduled to be a free agent after the season.




Dez Bryant

Terrance Williams

DeMarco Murray

Miles Austin

Jason Witten

Tony Romo

St. Louis Rams

Coming into the season, it was an impossible task to try to figure out who Jeff Fisher would rely on in his backfield.  That question seems to be answered.  Over the last three weeks, rookie Zac Stacy has carried the ball at least 26 times in each game.  Overall, he’s carried 129 times for 537 yards (4.3 YPC) and three touchdowns while catching 15 passes for 97 yards and a score.  After the bye, he has a really nice matchup against the Bears.  He should be considered a safe RB2 as the season goes on and has a very bright future.

The other tailbacks in St. Louis, Daryl Richardson (69 carries, 215 yards and no touchdowns), Benny Cunningham (27, 129, and 0) and Isaiah Pead (7, 21 and 0) have little chance of taking over for Stacy at this point.  Pead is the most talented among them, but clearly has found his way into Fisher’s doghouse.  He may need a change of scenery to uncover his potential.

The Rams passing game is a mess.  Sam Bradford tore his ACL in week seven against the Panthers, but he wasn’t very impressive before the injury.  Although he limited his mistakes, throwing only four interceptions in 262 attempts, and threw 14 touchdowns, he still only averaged 6.4 yards-per-attempt. Kellen Clemens took over for Bradford, and hasn’t played well.  He’s competed only 53.5% of his passes and turned the ball over five times in just over three games.  He’s obviously just a fill-in until the end of the season and has no fantasy value. Bradford has a $14 million salary next season.  Many don’t believe he’ll be back in St. Louis in 2014, at least at that cap number.  Fantasy owners should expect the Rams to bring in competition at the position, at the very least, this off-season.

Rookie Tavon Austin had a coming out party in week ten, catching two touchdowns and returning a punt for a score against the Colts.  Fantasy owners should keep in mind that he was only targeted three times in the game, catching two passes, and was only on the field for 15 of the team’s 56 (26.8%) plays.  On the season, he has 33 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns on 51 targets and has played only 320 of 676 plays (47.3%).  He has a very high upside, but questions about his size (5’ 8”, 174 pounds) will continue until he proves he can play in the NFL.  Fantasy owners should be patient and hope he develops into a player in the mold of Randall Cobb or Percy Harvin.

For Austin to mature into a playmaking slot receiver, the Rams need to find an outside threat.  Chris Givens is the most likely to turn into such.  He has 28 catches for 463 yards on 52 targets this season, but hasn’t found the end zone yet and has been held to two or less catches six times.  He has WR2 upside, but won’t realize that potential until at least 2014.  He’s an excellent buy-low for dynasty owners.

Austin Pettis (47 targets, 28 receptions, 297 yards and four touchdowns) and Brian Quick (24, 11, 226 and 1) look like role players at this point.  Neither is worth a roster spot except in very deep leagues.

Stedman Bailey is an interesting name to keep an eye on and could get more playing time late in the season.  He’s not worth a roster spot, but worth monitoring.

Since catching seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals in week one, tight end Jared Cook has caught 26 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown over the last nine weeks.  He’s been targeted 53 times on the season and been credited with five drops.  He’s nothing more than a TE2 at this point and his upside is limited, at least until he plays with a better quarterback.

Backup tight end Lance Kendrick is an interesting player to monitor going forward.  He’s only caught 23 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns on the season, but will enter the final year of his contract this off-season.  If he finds his way onto a team that would use him as a pass-catching, “move” tight end like the one Aaron Hernandez played for the Patriots, he would have low-end TE1 upside.




Zac Stacy

Sam Bradford

Jared Cook

Isaiah Pead

Tavon Austin

Chris Givens

dan meylor