Fantasy Football Focus: Dallas Cowboys

Russell IvanacSenior Analyst IAugust 1, 2008

"America's team" only lost three games in the regular season last year, and they have only gotten better. Their quarterback is continuing to prove that he wasn't just a flash in the pan, their defense got two upgrades with linebacker Zach Thomas and cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, and they keep finding new ways to keep injuries from hurting them.

So how do you improve on a 13-3 season? By going to the Super Bowl.

Dallas has four players that rank amongst the top-five fantasy players at their position, and each one's success will only help the others. With that, let's take a look at them.



Tony Romo

The risk-taking gunslinger is gearing up for another year at the helm of Dallas' high-flying offense. Romo likes to throw the deep ball and the more comfortable he gets behind center, the more he does it. You can expect that in his third year of significant playing time, he will be throwing the deep ball even more than last year. 

What is most surprising about Romo is his ability to avoid the rush. He isn't afraid to scramble to make a play, and he doesn't go down easy. That may mean a few more fumbles, but it also means more passing yards and a few more touchdowns throws.

Even though he really only has two receiving threats outside of the running backs, he will be a top-five fantasy quarterback. Where to take him in the draft will most likely be based on where Peyton Manning gets picked.



Marion Barber/Felix Jones

With the departure of Julius Jones and the arrival of rookie Felix Jones, it appears that the Cowboys finally have that "Thunder and Lightning" combo they have wanted for some time now. Neither will get full-time carries, but both will enjoy staying healthy and fresh.

Barber fills the role of "Thunder", with his hard-hitting style and relentless ability to break tackles and pick up those few extra yards. He hasn't reached 1,000-yards rushing yet, but with him taking the lead role, I would put money on the fact that he will this season. 

He is viscous near the goal line, too, so you can count on plenty of touchdowns as well. He is a solid No.1 fantasy running back, even with Jones taking some of his carries.

Jones fits the "Lightning" role well, as he has good speed and agility, with plenty of big-play potential. He excelled while playing in a similar time-share philosophy with Darren McFadden last year, which should make his transition to the NFL that much easier.

Even though he is rumored to have gained Emmitt Smith as a tutor, he won't get too many touchdowns, and that limits his fantasy potential. He is a good No.4 fantasy back, with plenty of upside, especially in keeper leagues.



Terrell Owens/Patrick Crayton/Jason Witten

Owens can be a drama queen and a distraction. He also can be a very talented receiver. As long as that last one is true, he will have a spot amongst fantasy football's top receivers.

He does lead the league in drops over the past two years, but Romo loves to throw to him and he is killer in the red zone.

He is a No.1 fantasy receiver on any team and probably the second-best fantasy receiver in the league.

Crayton is a No.3 receiver stuck in a No.2 receiver's role. That isn't to say that he won't put up decent numbers. He will most likely fare as well as he did last year, making him a No. 4 receiver at least.

He is a complementary receiver at best and will get the majority of his looks when Owens and Witten are both heavily covered.

Witten could be the best all-around tight end in the league. Unfortunately, that doesn't always translate into being the best fantasy tight end. He is the second option on almost all pass plays in Dallas, which means he will get plenty of looks. He and Romo showed a lot of chemistry last year, and as a result, Witten reeled in 96 receptions.

He is a No.1 fantasy tight end, and should be considered one of the top two or three fantasy tight ends in the league.



Nick Folk

You couldn't ask for better conditions for a kicker. Artificial turf, a dome, and an explosive offense. Toss in the fact that Folk is a young, talented kicker, and you have a deadly combination. Yes, he only made two of his five kicks of 50 or more yards, but that pales in comparison to the amount of field goals and extra points he will kick this year.

He is a No.1 fantasy kicker and is the preseason favorite to lead all kickers in points.



The 'Boys will be putting up plenty of points this year, which will put their opponents in plenty of "must-pass" situations. Luckily, Dallas has one the better defensive backfields in the league. Terrence Newman, new addition Adam Jones, and rookie Mike Jenkins will ensure that each of the top-three receivers on the opposing team will have a long day.

SS Roy Williams seems to be their week spot in the passing game, even though he is a former Pro-Bowler.

Their 3-4 defensive scheme yielded a lot of sacks last year (46) and should do more of the same this year. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware is a great pass rusher and will get his fair share of tackles and sacks. Their lack of a true anchor at nose tackle is their weak point against the run, but Williams' support against the run will help to hide it.

The only chance that their return game has at making a serious impact is if Adam Jones or Felix Jones emerge as a solid option. Both are agile return men, but may not be used for risk of injury.

Felix saw time as a return man in college and did well. If he can translate his college success into NFL success, the unit may rise in value from their current top-10 fantasy defense standing.

You will most likely be able to wait a bit and pick them up later in the draft and get the same, if not similar, production as the top defenses.


Top-Five Dallas Cowboys Fantasy Players

1. Marion Barber

2. Terrell Owens

3. Tony Romo

4. Jason Witten

5. Patrick Crayton

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