Kyle Orton Projected Starter
Week 16 was very eventful and showed just how strange and wacky the NFL can be. From the Packers losing on a false start, to the Dolphins being shut out in Buffalo, the week was filled with disappointment for some playoff contenders. However, the usual butt of the playoff jokes, Tony Romo, led the Dallas Cowboys to a dramatic win in Washington. Down two scores with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Romo rallied his troops to escape the Capital with a 24-23 win. The victory didn’t came without consequence though, because Romo was diagnosed with a back injury and declared “out for the season” by several media outlets. Despite the diagnosis of a herniated disc, Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett considers the star quarterback “day-to-day.” After working out a number of experienced quarterbacks, Dallas decided to sign former Cowboy and NFL veteran, Jon Kitna. Mr. Kitna is currently a high school math teacher in Tacoma, Washington.
Although the Cowboys signed Kitna and he has been a media darling due to the great story, he was simply signed as an insurance policy for Kyle Orton, their true back-up. Orton, a former starter for Denver and one of the best back-up quarterbacks in the NFL, will get a chance to lead Dallas to the playoffs if Romo is unable to go on Sunday night. With the recent success of back-up quarterbacks like St. Louis’ Kellen Clemens and Chicago’s Josh McCown, what can we expect from Orton if he gets the green light? Can we expect a game manager, leading the Cowboys to a win similar to Clemens? Is Orton going to be an instant fantasy stud like Josh McCown? While it seems as if the end result could fall in between the Clemens and McCown stat lines, Orton has a ton of upside based on surrounding talent and the date with the Philadelphia Eagles. The following is a slate of scenarios that could take place in Orton’s first start as a Cowboy:
DeMarco Murray is a High End RB1
During the Week 17 fantasy championships, DeMarco Murray is a must-start for his owners. Murray has been incredible when healthy and is showing no signs of slowing down. The Eagles aren’t as atrocious against the run as they are against the pass, but you can’t bench Murray in the most important game of your fantasy football season. Regardless of who is under center for the Cowboys, Murray is a strong play and should be in all fantasy lineups.
Dez Bryant will still be a High End WR1 with Kyle Orton
While Kyle Orton is no Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, he does make it very easy for fantasy owners to forecast his targets. Going back to his college days at Purdue, Orton always has a favorite wide receiver and makes it a point to get him the ball. As a Boilermaker in 2004, Orton’s top receiver, Taylor Stubblefield, had nearly double the receptions than the second leading receiver. Stubblefield, who went undrafted, had more touchdown catches than Purdue’s next three wide receivers combined. In his last full season as a starter in Denver, Orton was responsible for the breakout year of consistent underachiever, Brandon Lloyd. Prior to 2010, Lloyd had never topped 750 yards in one season. During his only full season with Kyle Orton, Lloyd caught 77 passes for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns, all career highs. Just as Stubblefield is not Lloyd, Brandon Lloyd is not Dez Bryant. Bryant, a world class athlete and high caliber receiver, is the greatest weapon that Orton has ever had in his arsenal. Additionally, Philadelphia’s 30th ranked pass defense could let slip a few explosive plays from Orton to Bryant. If you have Bryant, start him and enjoy the show.
Jason Witten: Still a TE1, but will miss Tony Romo
The well documented friendship of Romo and Witten is often used during the “blame-game” following Dallas’ losses. However, Witten is a great pass catcher in his own right and is a huge asset to the Cowboys and fantasy owners alike. While the match-up certainly benefits Witten’s role on the team, it wouldn’t be surprising if his targets and receptions take a hit. Historically speaking, Orton doesn’t look to his tight ends often. Then again, he hasn’t had the benefit of playing with Jason Witten. In both standard and PPR leagues, Witten is a lower end TE1 than usual, but will be a threat in the red zone due to the date with Philadelphia.
Kyle Orton is a Viable, High-End QB2
Regardless of how great the home match-up is with Philadelphia and how many weapons he has around him, I’m not completely comfortable starting Orton unless you are in a two quarterback league. If you’re a Romo owner and are playing for it all in week 17 of a one quarterback league, I’d look around the wire before grabbing Orton. If you’re in the same spot in a two QB league, I’d scoop up Orton and hope he is able to catch fire with the abundance of playmakers around him. I was high on Kirk Cousins before his first start and he didn’t disappoint. I’m hoping for similar numbers out of Orton, as a “make or break” two QB league option, but this game will be managed differently. With the season on the line, the Cowboys may not give Orton many opportunities to take risks. However, Orton’s real upside comes into play during a very possible “shootout” where the Cowboys have to keep pace with Nick Foles and the explosive offense of the Eagles. Dallas and Philadelphia are ranked 32nd and 30th in overall defense respectively and there is a great possibility of a college basketball game score in Dallas on Sunday night.