Dallas Cowboys Season Preview
The Cowboys went 12-5 last season winning the NFC East. However, after yet another first-round playoff exit, the frustration from the fan base continues.
Dak Prescott finished second in Comeback Player of the Year voting after returning from a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle during the 2020 season. He looked better than new in the first six games of 2021, throwing 16 touchdowns with four interceptions and posting a 115.0 passer rating. But he injured his calf on the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime against the Patriots in Week 6. Prescott wasn’t quite the same upon his return.
The Cowboys were second in the pace of play in 2021, averaging 26:30 seconds per play. They were 11th in team passing percentage (59.61%) and fifth in passing attempts per game (38.4). There will be enough to go around. The question is, who gets it?
Per Cowboys Wire, the Cowboys were in 11-personnel 6% higher than the league average. On those plays, the Cowboys passed the ball on 70% of their snaps, 3% higher than the league average of 67%. In 531 passing attempts, the Cowboys threw for 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt, all of which were above league average.
- WR Amari Cooper
- OL La’el Collins
- TE Blake Jarwin
- WR Cedrick Wilson
- DE Randy Gregory
Status for beginning season uncertain: Michael Gallup
- WR James Washington
- WR Jalen Tolbert
Quarterback | Fantasy 2021: QB7
Per Fantasy Pros, Prescott has the 12th ranked Strength of Schedule for a quarterback. He is currently being drafted as consensus QB8. This off-season, the Cowboys’ losses were more substantial than their gains, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Last season Prescott had career lows in rushing attempts (not counting the 2020 injury-shortened season), rushing yards, rushing average, and rushing touchdowns. This can be attributed to one year back from the ankle injury.
It didn’t hamper his passing stats. He tied for the most passing attempts, had his highest completion percentage, and had the most passing touchdowns of his NFL career.
This season he will be without a major weapon in Cooper, and the status of Gallup is in the air (not to mention his productivity when he returns from injury).
Even with his subpar rushing stats, Prescott finished WR7. The negative narrative surrounding his fantasy value last season mostly comes from the unevenness of his performances, especially during fantasy playoff season. If Prescott increases his running stats and maintains his passing efficiency this season, he will be a top ten fantasy performer again.
Wide Reciever | Rookie
Tolbert was the 88th pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. The rookie has a chance to start Week1, no Cooper, Gallup’s return is uncertain, and James Washington’s underwhelming time with Pittsburgh Steelers gives Tolbert a chance.
In his last collegiate season, Tolbert was third in deep targets and tied for fourth with the deepest catches. Out of his 1474 receiving yards, 646 were on deep targets while accumulating 581 yards after the catch.
In Underdog, Tolbert is currently being drafted as WR76. He is going in the middle of round 14. Matt Harmon of Reception Perception says, “He can operate as both a big play specialist and a possession player in the NFL.”
If you can pick up a Week1 starter in the 14th round on an offense that was fifth in passing attempts last year, do it.
Washington was mostly subpar in his time in Pittsburgh. Last season he finished as WR108 in fantasy football. But the Cowboys’ acquired his services for one year, and after the loss of Cooper and Wilson, it could be a resurgence for Washington.
Washington missed OTAs due to a foot injury, so keep an eye out for his status during training camp.
Washington now has less competition for targets (than in Pittsburgh), and he is an offense that was ranked second in passing yards per game. So, there is a chance he excels here.
Per Fantasy Pros, Washington is currently the 118th wide receiver off the board in standard fantasy, 104th in PPR formats, and 94th in half-PPR formats.
Last season Gallup suffered a calf injury that kept him out of seven games. In Week17, he suffered a torn ACL. His return date is uncertain.
He finished last season as WR77 and is currently being drafted as WR47. If you draft Gallup, you are counting on his return and that he can take over for either Washington or Tolbert.
So, if you draft Gallup, you are 1) banking on his return and it being healthy (and it’s not like you are giving him $62.5 million for five years or about $12.5 million a year for that hope) and 2) that the wide receivers who do start the season can be replaced.
Lamb finished last season as WR19. Even with Cooper in the offense commanding an 18.4% target share, Lamb led the team with a 20.4% target share.
Lamb will now be expected to be WR1 in the Cowboys’ offense. There is seriously no wide receiver except for Lamb that will command special defensive attention. So, will he be able?
Last season Lamb averaged 2.12 fantasy points per target against man coverage.
Lamb is currently going in the second round( WR7) on Sleeper and as WR6 (also second round) on Underdog.
The draft status is Lamb’s ceiling (especially if your league subtracts points for drops…Lamb has 16 in his first two seasons) in this high-flying offense. The problem is this will be Lamb’s first season as “the man” in the offense. Defenses no longer must worry about both Lamb and Cooper. Will he excel with all that attention? Enough to warrant a high second-round draft pick, ahead of, say, Mike Evans?
Per Fantasy Pros, the Cowboys have the 22nd-ranked strength of schedule for the tight end position.
The Cowboys have seemingly let Blake Jarwin go. This leaves Schultz as the only tight end game in town. This season he is currently being drafted as TE6 after finishing last season as TE3.
Last season Prescott posted a 122.6 passer rating when targeting Schultz.
Schultz also finished second on the team in red zone targets (14) and led the team with six touchdowns. Now with Cooper and his 17 red zone targets are gone and Gallup’s return time undetermined, Schultz is looking good in a shallow tight-end market.
Tony Pollard & Ezekiel Elliott
There is some understandable confusion among some about who to draft out of Dallas’ backfield. Pollard is nice, but Elliot is still currently the man in Dallas.
Last season Elliott injured his knee in Week4. He finished the season with 284 touches. Pollard had 169. Before the injury, Elliott averaged 17.8 touches per game while Pollard averaged 11.3.
2021 RUNNING BACK COMPARISON
Pollard was more efficient than Elliott. Elliott had 10 more touchdowns. Pollard had more explosive plays, with 12.5% of his rushes going for 10-plus yards.
Elliott averaged 4.1 yards per carry on third downs. Pollard averaged 5.5 yards per carry on first and second downs but only 2.8 yards per carry on third downs. (Running back stats courtesy of Cowboyswire.usatoday.com)
What remains to be seen is if Dallas will utilize Pollard more in the passing game or will they employ a running-back-by-committee to keep Elliott fresh for the playoffs.
What cannot be denied is that in the off-season, the Philadelphia Eagles got better, the New York Giants got better, and if Washington can keep its defense healthy, it is better.
Not sure the Cowboys can claim they kept up with their division rivals and got better.
Gladys is obsessive about fantasy football, Pittsburgh Steelers, dogs/cats, pop culture movies and television shows, and Ben & Jerry’s 7 Layer Vegan Ice Cream (although not necessarily in that order). A writer about NFL, college ball, and fantasy football for more than 10 years, she attempts to combine her degree in statistical variance (BS Policy Analysis) with player knowledge and game script. Though her concentration is on IDP, redraft, and PPR leagues, all fantasy formats are fair game. Reach out whenever you can find me on Twitter @gladysLtyler. And remember, don’t suck and tip your bartenders well.