Fantasy Football 2011: Dallas Cowboys Offensive Players Are Must-Drafts

Patrick Scott PattersonContributor IISeptember 2, 2011

Fantasy Football 2011: Dallas Cowboys Offensive Players Are Must-Drafts

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    It's hard to describe everything that went wrong with the Dallas Cowboys last season. From the horrid 1-7 start, to the injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, to the first-ever midseason firing of a head coach, the 2010 Dallas Cowboys season will forever go down in history as a total disappointment.

    Yes, the Dallas Cowboys' 2010 season went so far south they needed passports. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys' 2010 season had more mistakes than a Michele Bachmann history report. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys' 2010 season had more flags than a veterans parade, more turkeys than a Thanksgiving dinner and more face-palms than a Bruce Lee movie.

    Over it yet? You should be, as there's an upside for fantasy football managers here—one that could help you win your league.

    Even with everything that went wrong for Dallas last season, including playing most of the year with an aging backup quarterback, the team ended with the eighth-ranked offense in the NFL for 2010. They finished sixth overall in passing and seventh overall in scoring. But, based on what I've been seeing in mock drafts, preseason cheat sheets and drafts I've completed so far, very few fantasy football managers seem to realize this.

    Here's a look at several Dallas Cowboys offensive players you should seriously consider picking up as you complete your fantasy drafts for 2011.

Tony Romo: Famous for Stats

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    Tony Romo gets little respect in sports bar and living room football conversations. Anywhere I've ever tried to talk about Dallas Cowboys football, I've always run into anti-Romo rants that make him out to be the NFL equal to Saved By the Bell's Screech Powers.

    Never mind his career 64.1 completion percentage, his 95.5 career passer rating or any of that stuff.   

    Upon his injury last season, Romo was on pace to easily be a top five fantasy quarterback, with a sick 69.5 percent completion average for 1,605 yards and 11 touchdowns in five-and-a-half games.

    While the real-life complaint about Romo often surrounds leadership and lack of Super Bowl rings, none of that matters in fantasy football. Only numbers matter in the fantasy arena and Romo always puts up plenty of them.  

    Going into 2011, he's back. He's healthy, he has a variety of weapons sharing the field with him and he's been going pretty late in fantasy drafts for a quarterback with his career averages, providing fantasy players with a good value at quarterback this season.

    Don't be the guy who lets him slide past you for Joe Flacco or Sam Bradford. You'll regret it.

Witten Gettin' Less Respect Than He Should

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    Someone please explain to me why Jason Witten hasn't been the first tight end off the board in any drafts or mock drafts I've done in 2011?

    Over the last four years, Witten has averaged over 91 catches and over 1,032 yards per season. This includes 91 catches for 1,002 yards and nine touchdowns last year alone, even with Jon Kitna throwing him passes for most of the year.

    Witten is as tough as they come and over the course of his career he's hardly missed any time. He's Tony Romo's safety valve—a guy who manages to get open when defenses are busy trying to cover everyone else. With an improved running game combined with two lethal wideouts to stretch defenses, Witten should see less coverage this year than ever before.

    Jason Witten has fallen to me in every mock draft and real draft this year. I have yet to see him go as the first tight end off the board. Instead, he goes third or fourth on average.

    No way this should happen. Witten should be the first TE off the board in PPR leagues—even non-PPR leagues should jump early. He's more durable than Green Bay's Jermichael Finley, a man who's never completed a full NFL season without injury, and sees far more looks than San Diego's Antonio Gates (50 catches in 2010 to Witten's 91).

    Go get him. I sure did.

Felix Ready To Pounce

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    Felix Jones has been electric this preseason.

    With Marion Barber shipped off to Chicago, Jones is finally the lead dog in the Dallas Cowboys running game and looks poised to have a great year.

    Last season, Jones quietly racked up 800 rushing yards and 450 receiving yards despite only seeing any real action in 10 games.  

    The Cowboys are eager to give Felix the ball more in the 2011 season, be it on the ground or through the air. With an apparently improved offensive line and several other offensive threats on the field, Jones should be able to use his breakaway speed to bust through stretched defensive coverage.

    Most online cheat sheets are ranking Felix Jones outside the top 20 and I've seen exactly that in most drafts myself so far. He has incredible value and upside this year that could see the young speedster become a top-tier fantasy back.

Miles of Smiles

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    Miles Austin has been going within the top 10 wideouts in drafts more often than not this year. He's a great value for those who weren't lucky enough to have a shot at Andre Johnson or Roddy White as their top WR.

    Austin broke 1,000 yards last season in only 69 catches. Perhaps the player who suffered the most from the loss of Tony Romo to injury, Austin should rebound this season. With the return of Romo, the improvement in Felix Jones and the threats of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten in the minds of defensive coordinators, Austin should see a great many more chances to break loose in 2011.

    The only concern at the moment is a sore preseason hamstring that may be an early season issue, but overall, he's a WR you can draft with confidence this year.

Dez Bryant: Game Changer

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    Forget jewelry bills and mall cop moments. Dez Bryant's talent should take center stage in 2011.

    A natural physical beast, Bryant began to make his impact in his 2010 rookie campaign before a major injury put him on the shelf.   

    Now, with Roy "What? You mean I'm supposed to CATCH passes?" Williams gone, Dez is starting opposite the thrilling Miles Austin, with Jason Witten running around in there somewhere and Felix Jones possibly sprinting out of the backfield.  

    While still somewhat green, Bryant's physical skills are not the kind that can be coached. They also cannot be contained by single coverage, which is something he's going to see anyway as defenses try to track him, Austin, Witten and Jones all at once.

    Dez is going high in some drafts, but has been available several rounds down in other drafts, providing an incredible value there for a player with his raw talent.

    Bryant seems to have coffee in his veins. He's had a great camp and could be the guy you brag about drafting by year's end.

Sleepers (and Kickers, I Guess)

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    No, I'm not going to suggest any Dallas Cowboys kickers for your fantasy team. However, there are some true sleepers in the mix.

    Kevin Ogletree appears to be firmly rooted in the No. 3 WR position and will see his chances from time to time. Should Austin or Bryant miss any time this year, he'll become a must-grab waiver-wire addition based on sheer opportunity and underrated potential.

    DeMarco Murray should also be on your fantasy radar. A natural talent, Murray was a dual threat in the final preseason game, with 32 rushing yards and 64 receiving yards. He's a decent handcuff option for Felix Jones owners, who might even see him seeing more time out there later in the season—even if Jones is healthy.

    Don't overlook the defense, either. While there's still a big concern in the secondary, the Cowboys' new-look defense will prove to be more unpredictable under Rob Ryan's leadership and could rack up some extra points for you with quarterback sacks and turnovers caused by high-pressure formations.

    With an early bye (Week 5) to boot, you won't have to worry about covering your defensive unit's off-week in midseason when your offensive superstars are leaving gaping holes in your lineup.