I live in West Texas, which means everyone and their mother (literally) are Cowboys fans. For that reason, I figured starting my team-by-team analysis with the Cowboys makes sense.
Dallas made the biggest splash early in the draft by selecting Ezekiel Elliott with the 4th overall pick. As a fantasy player, it’s a match made in heaven. They have the best offensive line in football, good passing game (assuming Tony Romo is healthy, which is a bold assumption), and Elliott himself. Expect fantasy players everywhere to reach for Elliott as early as the beginning of the first round of fantasy drafts.
I have tried to show restraint in projecting Elliott, but I can't help but see the path to fantasy stardom.
Tony Romo (QB) – 3800 yards, 30 TDs, 12 Ints.
Tony Romo had a rough 2015. Breaking your collar bone during a season sucks. Breaking it twice, well those words I’m not allowed to say. Romo ended with only 884 yards, 5 touches and 7 picks, not exactly killing it. His projection is based on his track record. The two years before 2015 he threw for 3705 and 3828 yards, respectively. Both of those years he threw over 30 TDs with no more than 10 interceptions. Romo won’t be one of the top-10 to 12 QBs, but I’d happily have him as my starting fantasy QB. He’s a good pick in the late rounds to pair with a Tom Brady type. You do have to be concerned about injury with Romo, which makes him a perfect late-round pick.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) - 1250 yards, 9 TDs, 50 catches, 390 yards, 1 TD.
The best prospect since Adrian Peterson...or Todd Gurley. Elliott went to the one place that instantly makes him a fantasy superstar. Elliott is a very polished all-around back, which is rare straight out of college. Elliott is a good runner, pass catcher, and, more importantly, pass blocker. That means Elliott won’t come off the field in any specific situation. DeMarco Murray had a monster season behind this line a couple of years ago, and McFadden had over 1000 yards last season. Expect Elliott to go very early in your draft. If you want him, you will have to draft him in round 1 if he’s still there.
Dez Bryant (WR) – 85 catches, 1200 yards, 12 TDs.
There are a couple of reasons the Cowboys had the 4th overall pick in the 2016 draft: Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Dez ended the season with 31 catches, 401 yards and only 3 TDs. 2013 and 2014 were completely different stories where he caught 93 for 1233 and 13, and 88 for 1320 and 16, respectively. I completely expect Dez to be back, especially with Romo healthy. Dez is a top-2 round pick; and if you can get him late in the second, you’re on your way to winning the draft.
Jason Witten (TE) – 65 catches, 650 yards, 3 TDs.
Jason Witten got old (34). He plays with reckless abandon, and it shows. There’s not much to say about Witten, but I felt compelled to write something out of respect.
I still see him being a part of the offense, but in a capacity that means nothing for fantasy. He’s not even a late round flyer anymore. If you’re drafting with Cowboys fans, though, talk him up. He did catch 77 balls last season, and that was without Romo. Make sure to sell it hard because his trajectory is going one way - downhill.
Gavin Escobar (TE).
As I pointed out above, Witten is on his last leg. Escobar doesn’t have impressive numbers to this point. He is not a player that you draft, but he is a low-end, watch-list guy. He hasn’t had double digit catches in a season yet, and I expect him to get in the 30s this season with more TDs than Witten. If I had to give a straight projection, it would be something like 30 catches 400 yards and 5 TDs. Again, not impressive, but if Witten gets hurt or falls off to a level that is unstartable for Dallas, Escobar could sneak his way into the streaming TE class.
Cole Beasley (WR).
Maybe the area in which I live is responsible for this pick because I hear about Beasley on a weekly basis during football season. And it has already started again with the season just around the corner. I hear how Beasley will be just as productive as the other small, quick, white receivers. Beasley, from time to time, does look like a threat from the slot. Don’t get fooled, however, he’s not Welker or Edelman or even Amendola. I don’t expect Beasley to duplicate the 50+ catch, 500+ yard, 5 TD season he had last season. I would not draft him even in PPR formats.
The Cowboys have a lot of fantasy goodness on their team. They are also one of the few teams in the NFL that have a defined “big 3” you can count on getting most of the production from week to week. The Cowboys should be back to a plus offense in 2016, so draft accordingly.