The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys had quite the successful 2018 season, winning the NFC East and doing it without previous franchise stalwarts Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Armed with a solid offense and a very strong defense, they’ll be looking to not only make the playoffs again, but to make it farther in 2019.
The Dallas offense received a jolt with the acquisition of Amari Cooper, who took the whole team to another level, and fantasy owners will be banking on him being even better. That said, we all know that Ezekiel Elliott is the engine that makes all things go in Big D, and he’s expected to be either the first pick in fantasy drafts or at least in the top three.
For the first time in his three-year career, Zeke Elliott crossed the 2,000 total yard mark a season ago. YES or NO, does he repeat the feat in 2019?
Brad: SI SENOR! The difference between Saquon Barkley and Zeke atop my .5 PPR ranks is infinitesimal. There’s a razor blade between them. As Behrens meticulously calculates below, the ‘Boys’ brightest star has averaged over 131 total yards per game in 40 career contests. His effectiveness between the tackles (3.0 YAC/att) and pass usage spike last season (77 receptions) suggest reaching the milestone is entirely doable, especially operating behind a plus offensive line. Last fall, Dallas ranked No. 9 in adjusted line yards and churned out the third-highest power run success rate in the league according to Football Outsiders.
In this age of timeshare backfields, 300-touch running backs are increasingly rare. Finding a kale salad at a Dallas tailgate is probably more common. Zeke, one of five RBs to cross the threshold a season ago, is one of the safest and highest floored options in the virtual game.
Andy: I’ve got Zeke’s name at the top of my overall ranks for 2019, so I’ll go ahead and say HELL YES HE REACHES 2,000 YARDS. Let’s recall that he made it to 2K in only 15 games last season, plus he gained 1,994 scrimmage yards as a rookie. If he can simply remain healthy, he gets there. Zeke has averaged 131.2 total yards per game over his three pro seasons, which would get him to 2,100 over 16 weeks. We really can’t overstate the importance of Elliott now functioning as a high-volume receiver for Dallas. He’s every bit as useful in PPR formats as he is in standard.
Bottom line: Zeke is a monster, and he won’t turn 24 until July. You want him. He’s the cornerstone of an excellent offense, as likely as any RB to reach the 2000-yard plateau.
More in store for Amari Cooper?
In fantasy terms, Amari Cooper was the poop emoji during his final days with Oakland. However, as member of the Dallas Cowboys he wound up smelling like a rose. In his first full season in Big D, OVER or UNDER 10.5 final WR rank (.5 PPR)?
Andy: UNDER. I like him as a top-10 WR and, as of this writing, no Yahoo expert ranks him outside the top-12. Cooper averaged 8.4 targets, 5.9 receptions, 0.7 TDs and 80.6 receiving yards per game with Dallas last season, post-trade. If we extend those rates over a full 16-game schedule, we’re looking at a 94-1,289-11 season. And if that’s not enough for a top-10 rank, it’s gonna be a crazy year.
Liz: OVER. What Cooper was able to accomplish over the second half of last season, is nothing short of remarkable. After all, midseason trades don’t usually pan out so immediately. In a new system, however, Cooper was able to flourish and force a rebrand. In addition to all of the stats that Behrens mentioned above, Cooper was also sneaky good out of the slot.
From Weeks 9 through 17, Cooper only drew 13 catchable targets (hauling in 12 of them) in the slot, but managed the third most yards after contact (83) just behind Adam Humphries and Golden Tate. With Cole Beasley now in Buffalo, I’d imagine the Cowboys move Cooper around more, but the additions of Randall Cobb and new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore make things less predictable.
There’s no doubt Cooper’s stock is trending upward. I mean, even his matchups should improve given the division. Yet, with such depth at the position it’s hard for me to move him inside my top-10, ahead of guys like Keenan Allen and A.J. Green. He’s currently my WR12 (we’ll see if I move him up as the season approaches). But we’re splitting hairs here. The point is, Cooper is finally going to ROI for fantasy fanatics and fulfill his destiny as an FF WR1 in 2019.
TRUE or FALSE
When the fantasy season wraps in late December, Dak Prescott will be listed among the top-15 quarterbacks.
Liz: FALSE. To be clear, this is an entirely possible task for Dak. After all in a post-Amari offense, Prescott averaged 6 more passing attempts, 0.7 more YPA, and 2.3 more fantasy points per game than he did at the top of the season.
However, opening up the passing game appears to have depressed Prescott’s rushing attempts and yards, which is where the cheat codes live. With less pressure, Prescott’s scrambled his way to just 7.6 rushing yards per contest from Weeks 9 through 17. Compare that to the 33.7 rushing yards per game he average over the first seven weeks of 2018.
Ultimately, however, Prescott is going to have to push the ball deep more frequently and rack up those air yards (From Weeks 9 - 17 in 2018: 215 per game, QB18 according to SIS) if he’s going to sneak inside the top-fifteen FF QBs.
Brad: FALSE. Admittedly, any number of arguments could be made about the arrangement for passers lumped together from QB12-QB17 (Me: Lamar Jackson to Jameis Winston). The differences are subtle. As usual, QB is Marianas Trench deep, which explains why waiting on the position is recommended.
Prescott, my current QB16, could outperform his projected standing. With Cooper on the field he slotted in at QB9 from Weeks 10-17. However, much of his value was fueled by ground production. The trend says he’ll score six rushing touchdowns for the fourth-straight year, but Ted Ginn might have better odds of defeating Texas sprint sensation Matt Boling in a 100-meter dash. Assuming a slight reduction in the category combined with his ongoing red-zone struggles (QB37 in RZ completion% in ‘18) and Dak falls just outside my top-15.
Best Ball Bargain Bin
Andy: It ain’t gonna be Jason Witten, I can tell you that much. I’ll go MICHAEL GALLUP, a player who was at his best in the postseason, clearly in sync with his quarterback.
Brad: MICHAEL GALLUP. One of my favorite rookie receivers last year, Gallup developed his game as time elapsed. Excellent outside the numbers, he could greatly outperform his WR55 (139.1 overall) ADP by adding route tree branches and seeing more catchable balls. Among receivers with at least 50 targets he ranked No. 107 in on-target catch%. Grab and stash.
Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Dallas 9 wins OVER (+110) or UNDER (-130)
Andy: I’ll take the OVER, by one game. This year, the NFC East schedule is almost a layup line.
Liz: OVER. As I said on the Yahoo Fantasy Football Podcast, I think Dallas has the best squad in the division (yes, even ahead of Philly). They managed 10 wins last season and should keep climbing. Assuming they split the series with the Eagles and win out against the rest of the division they’re already half-way to beating the above line.
More Fantasy Team Previews
Follow Brad: @YahooNoise
Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF
Follow Andy: @AndyBehrens