Instant Analysis: Romo Back to the Bench

Jeff Haverlack

The information is still very fluid so you’ll want to continually monitor the situation, but the breaking news of the moment indicates Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may miss significant time due to a broken bone in his lower back.

Romo finally started a preseason game and lasted only three plays before taking an awkward hit from behind, falling to the ground in obvious pain while grabbing at his lower back.  Despite multiple reports stating the injury wasn’t serious (including from owner Jerry Jones himself), news has just emerged that an MRI has revealed a broken bone in his lower back.  The good news is this injury does not appear to be related to Romo’s previous back injuries. The bad news is it appears he could miss up to a reported ten weeks of the regular season.

No firm conclusion has been offered and all estimates, at this point, can only be guesswork but what you can plan on is that rookie pre-season sensation Dak Prescott will be under center in week one. For more on Prescott, read on here and be sure to check out our “Dak to the Future” article posted moments earlier.

What does this mean for the Cowboys?
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Tony Romo, QB

Obviously, this is a huge blow for Romo as he sought to prove last year was an anomaly given two broken collarbones.  Instead, Romo will start the year on the training table and give way to good looking rookie Dak Prescott. The issue here is Romo, 36, may not be guaranteed of getting his job back should Prescott come out blazing and lead the Cowboys to a significantly strong start.  It would stand to reason that if the Cowboys do string together some wins, the longer Romo remains on the trainer’s table, the more murky his future becomes.

In all likelihood, however, Romo will retain his job as the starting quarterback when healthy.  In dynasty drafts, however, he’ll now fall well into the teen rounds.

Dak Prescott, QB

Prescott has been the star of the preseason and has logged seven total touchdowns and zero interceptions.  He’s shown pocket poise, escapability, arm strength and the ability to scramble when things break down.  All-in-all, Prescott’s play proved to the Cowboys that they did not need to add a veteran signal caller should the injury bug bite Tony Romo again, and bite it certainly did.

Despite Prescott’s success in three pre-season games, he’s still very much a rookie and a work in progress.  He has the size, mobility and presence to develop into a strong starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL, but starting this early into his professional career could hurt his development and confidence if things break down.  It would have been far better for Prescott to hold a clipboard for a year while learning the speed of the NFL game.  All this said, his time starts now and there’s certain to be a lot of eyes on his development over the first six games.

In dynasty drafts, look for Prescott to be an upside selection perhaps by round ten.  In rookie drafts, it’s very possible he’ll now climb the ladder to the middle of the second round.  Plan accordingly.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB

If Elliott was due to get a big load before, his load just grew.  In fact, you can expect all runners in the Dallas backfield to see time, but Elliott’s bell-cow status is likely secure and should be significant regardless of who is under center in 2016.  There will be extra pressure on him to produce from day one and you can expect opposing safeties to cheat a few steps closer to the line of scrimmage until Prescott proves he can move the ball downfield through the air.

Dez Bryant, WR

Bryant owners, including myself, were certainly banking on a healthy Romo to start 2016.  Bryant’s value and production dropped significantly at the hands of his own injury, in addition to Romo having trouble staying healthy in 2015.  If there is a silver lining here, it’s that Prescott has a strong arm and has shown the ability and desire to get the ball to Dez.  You can’t expect the same production that would be produced by a Romo-to-Bryant pairing, but it’s not out of the question.  Prescott’s ability to break from the pocket could lead to big plays downfield but expect Dallas to keep things relatively simply early until Prescott can establish a rhythm and some level of success.

As for Bryant’s status, his value does take a hit but he’s still no worse than a mid-second round selection in all formats.

Other Dallas Receivers

It’s hard to say how Romo’s injury effects other targets such as Terrance Williams, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley and Brice Butler.  Just as Bryant’s value has dropped to some degree, so to does the value of these names. Prescott is clearly in the spotlight here and his first four starts will likely determine what further expectations we should have.


This is is a huge blow for the Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo owners in fantasy, especially with many drafts already in the books.  It’s not often where a premier quarterback loses his starting position due to injury, but should Romo’s injury be lengthy and Prescott’s winning percentage be noteworthy, anything is possible.  At 36 years of age, Tony Romo is in the twilight of his career and constant injury doesn’t bode well for adding too many more years to it.

Before leaping from any tall buildings, let’s allow the news to settle and for Prescott to play out his first games before coming to any conclusion(s).  It’s still very possible Romo is back under center in week eight (or before) and even a longer time frame doesn’t suggest his starting status is in question.  It’s not often where a rookie quarterback unexpectedly starts and sends a premier veteran starter to the bench, but it certainly can’t be dismissed as a possibility.

For Dak Prescott owners, we get an intriguing start to the 2016 season.

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jeff haverlack