Fantasy Football 2012: Why You Must Reach for Cowboys QB Tony Romo

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJuly 5, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: Why You Must Reach for Cowboys QB Tony Romo

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    Tony Romo" href="">Tony Romo is a criminally underrated quarterback who deserves consideration among fantasy football’s elite.

    Despite throwing for 4,184 passing yards and 31 touchdowns last season, Romo falls near the bottom of the top ten signal-callers in most rankings. He is the 10th highest quarterback taken on Mock Draft Central with an average draft position of 83.25.

    In Yahoo! rankings, Romo barely cracks the top ten in the ninth slot, and ESPN places him in the eighth position. While there are several premier quarterbacks, Romo deserves to battle Eli Manning for the sixth spot and provides more value than selecting Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton in the second round.

    Owners who would rather grab a running back or wide receiver in the first couple rounds should target Romo as their starting quarterback. You can jump the gun by drafting Romo in the third or fourth round and still obtain him at a fair price.

    Here is why the least respected elite quarterback in the NFL can lead your team to a championship this season. 

Numbers Don't Lie

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    Seriously, Romo is a really good quarterback.

    Every statistic indicates that Romo belongs in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. His 102.5 quarterback rating trails only Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, who each will require a first-round pick to draft. His 66.3 completion percentage ranked third behind Brees and Rodgers.

    Romo has eclipsed 4,000 passing yards in each of his last two full seasons, and he was on pace to pass that barrier in 2010 before fracturing his left clavicle.

    A misconception exists that Romo is careless with the football. Actually, Romo surrenders fewer turnovers than most elite quarterbacks. He threw 10 interceptions last season; Rodgers and Alex Smith were the only other quarterbacks who played the full season and allowed single-digit picks. In 2009, Romo showed similar accuracy by only yielding nine interceptions.

    Romo also quietly finished the season strong, tossing 20 touchdown passes with only three interceptions during his final nine games.

    While he is a step down from the top three signal-callers (Rodgers, Brady and Brees), Romo posts great numbers comparable to any other quarterback in the league.

Proven Track Record

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    After the three stud quarterbacks, Romo is one of the league's most reliable passers.

    While even some of the top players are prone to an off year (see Philip Rivers last season), Romo posted a 91.4 quarterback rating and a 61.3 completion percentage during his worst statistical season. Even at his lowest, Romo is a top-notch quarterback.

    Following his six successful seasons in the NFL, drafters should feel comfortable selecting Romo as their starting quarterback. Barring injury, which any football player is susceptible to suffering, Romo will tally quality numbers. 

    Can the same thing be said with confidence for the rest of the top quarterbacks?

    Stafford piled up phenomenal stats last year, but he still does not have any previous achievements to label him a safe bet. Newton repeating his 14 rushing touchdowns from his rookie season seems like a risky proposition.

    Many drafters would rather take a chance on Michael Vick due to his high ceiling as a dual-threat with the football. For all his rushing prowess, he has not shown much poise as an elite passer. He has also only completed a full 16-game season once during his nine-year career.

    Peyton Manning used to reign supreme as a king of consistency, but the 36-year-old's performance remains uncertain following neck surgery that cost him a year.

    Aside from maybe the younger Manning, Romo is the most reliable quarterback left after Round 1.

Good Value

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    Last season, I selected Romo with the last pick of the third round in a 10-team league. Considering that the league awards six points for a passing touchdown, I considered myself lucky to get him at a bargain price that likely resulted from owners fearing his return from the clavicle injury.

    Romo proved himself with a healthy and efficient season, and now he's going in the sixth round of drafts. Okay...

    Granted, Yahoo! and ESPN's standard scoring allocates four points for a passing touchdown. Still, seeing Romo ranked slightly above an unreliable Jay Cutler is a bit unfair to the Pro Bowl quarterback.

    Anyone uninterested in spending a first-round pick on Rodgers, Brady or Brees should wait a little bit and snag Romo around Round 4.

    Selecting Stafford or Newton with your second pick is a risky endeavor that could come back to haunt your chances of winning. Wait a couple rounds more before stealing Romo.

    There is always the chance that someone who missed out on the stud quarterbacks will reach too high to take the next available option. Based on most expert rankings, they are more likely to reach for Eli Manning after his inspiring postseason run. Or maybe they will gamble on Vick, which is a big risk that likely will not net much of a reward. 

    If you can pair Romo with a couple top running backs and an elite wide receiver, you're in good shape.

Great Supporting Cast

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    The Dallas Cowboys are loaded with receiving options for Romo to utilize.

    Dallas possesses enough threats at the skill positions to emerge as a premier offense this season.

    Miles Austin missed six games during a disappointing 2011 campaign, but he scored three touchdowns in the final four contests to build some momentum for this season. Austin previously earned more than 1,000 yards in two straight seasons before last year's hiccup and should return as one of Romo's prime targets.

    Even if Austin regains his form, he might take a back seat to Dez Bryant as the Cowboys' star receiver. During his second year in the NFL, Bryant caught 63 passes for 928 yards and nine touchdowns.

    The 23-year-old showed much more consistently in his sophomore season and displays all the physical assets necessary to transform into an elite playmaker.

    And don't forget about Romo's old reliable—Jason Witten. The dependable tight end, who has not missed a game in eight years, reeled in 79 catches for 942 yards and five scores last year. Witten should continue to serve Romo well as a steady security blanket.

    Felix Jones is also a skilled pass-catching back who shined in limited playing time last year. Despite Laurent Robinson's departure, the Cowboys display an impressive group of offensive weapons.

Clutch Factor Does Not Matter

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    Let’s just pretend that every complaint regarding Romo’s lack of clutch ability is true. Even though he is one of the better quarterbacks in the fourth quarter, let’s just imagine that his detractors are right, and Romo is a choker who will never lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl.

    That should mean nothing to fantasy football players.

    The stats are all worth the same regardless of when they are compiled. Unless you play in a really weird league, Eli Manning did not own bonus points for his six game-winning drives during the fourth quarter. Even if Romo played like Dan Marino in the first half and Ryan Leaf in the second half, the final product is still perfectly fine for his fantasy owners.

    This all seems obvious, but my friends laughed at me for drafting Romo last year because of his perceived ineffectiveness in crunch time. Who cares? Fantasy football is all about collecting stats, and Romo provides gaudy numbers.

    If you want a “winner,” go ahead and take Tim Tebow as your starting quarterback. Just don’t be surprised when your league fails to dish out any points for toughness, fortitude and other intangibles.

    Also, Romo can actually throw a football with accuracy. Yeah, I went there.