This year, the Star represents much anticipation. Ezekiel Elliott enters his rookie campaign with extraordinary expectations. Meanwhile, Tony Romo’s return signals a sizable Dez Bryant rebound. Should owners temper their excitement? In this edition of the ‘Stance,’ Brad Evans and Liz Loza strap on spurs and dig in on all things Cowboys.
DRAFT DILEMMA. It’s rare a rookie, regardless of position, comes in with marked fanfare, but that’s certainly the case with Ezekiel Elliott (9.2 ADP, RB4). Primarily selected well inside Round 1 of 12-team drafts, no matter PPR or standard, the Ohio St. product is predicted to bear many fruits. Imagine you’re gifted the seventh overall pick in a .5 PPR, redraft format. Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson and Todd Gurley are off the board. At that pick, should you BUY or FLY on Elliott?
Liz – BUY!!! Buy to infinity! Fantasy championships are rarely won by playing it safe. Elliot is a generational talent with a do-it-all skill set. He has the size, speed, hands, and ability as a pass protector to crush it at the next level. After all, that’s why Dallas drafted him No. 4 overall this past spring. And let’s not forget about the Cowboys’ offensive line. Football Outsiders ranked their run-blocking unit No. 1 in 2014 and No. 6 overall last season.
I suppose some fantasy scaredy cats think he’ll lose touches to Darren “oops I dropped my cell phone and shattered my elbow” McFadden and Alfred “super nice guy with a one dimensional skill set” Morris at the start of the season. And maybe there’s a tiny bit of truth to that. But Todd Gurley didn’t come on until Week 4 and still closed out his rookie campaign as the fifth best player at the position, averaging over 14 fantasy points per game. Heck the aforementioned McFadden averaged over 21 totes per contest after the team’s bye week and was the RB6 overall between Weeks 7 and 17. Why in the world wouldn’t you crop your top and draft the fresh-legged stud in solidarity?!?
Brad – BUY. You’re truly cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs if you believe can’t flirt with top RB honors this season totaling some 1,500-1,700 combined yards and 12-15 TDs. Jerry Jones didn’t spend the No. 4 overall pick on a RB to have him NOT touch the rock some 20 times per game. The owner/GM needed a magic elixir to combat Dallas’ leaky D and Romo’s overall fragility. Elliott, a three-down hoss who likely won’t leave the field even if the ‘Boys are playing from behind, is that guy.
Here are the reasons why his situation is ripe for success: 1) Dallas’ offensive line is widely regarded as the league’s best run-blocking unit, 2) Cell phone protector Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris are clearly riding shotgun, meaning Elliott will amass an enormous workload, 3) Romo and Bryant provide suitable offensive balance, 4) Zeke is the most complete back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. He possesses breakaway speed, soft hands, supreme blitz pick-up skills and toughness between the tackles. 5) Dallas enters 2016 with the fifth-easiest fantasy schedule for RBs.
Still not convinced? Here are several hundred more words why you should pull head from posterior.
Tony Romo was abused for much of last season suffering a pair of broken collarbones. Though he’s healthy, many fantasy owners approach the 36-year-old with much trepidation. At his 144.3 ADP (QB16) is the brittle veteran OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED?
Liz – UNDERVALUED (slightly). I get it. Romo hasn’t been a top-tier fantasy play since 2011. But two seasons ago, in a run heavy scheme, he passed for over 3,700 yards and scored 34 TDs, making him the QB11 overall. Dallas is clearly aiming to make 2016 the new 2014. With a healthy Dez, a rookie standout in the backfield, and a shoddy defense Romo should pass for around 4,000 yards and 30 TDs.
Assuming he can stay upright he’ll be a low-end starter at the position, closing out the year in the QB11 – QB13 range. He’s presenting awesome value, but his upside is undeniably limited.
Brad – PROPERLY VALUED. Excluding his injury-shortened 2010 and 2015 campaigns, Romo has finished inside the QB top-12 every year since 2007. He’s truly been one of the virtual game’s most underrated kings of consistency.
Dallas’ still suspect defense and a motivated and healthy Dez suggest another borderline QB1 effort is likely on the horizon. However, Elliott was brought in to alleviate pressure on the aging passer. Handoffs to the rookie will be plentiful, possibly limiting Romo’s overall attempts. Toss in the injury risk and he, despite being a quality target for the wait-on-a-QB crowd, is priced appropriately.
FANTASY MADLIBS. In his attempt to regain respectability and WR1 status, Dez Bryant (9.6 ADP, WR6) will ______ in 2016. (phrase)
Liz – WILL ‘X’ OUT THE COMPETITION. He probably won’t top (or match) his 16 TDs from 2014, but I still foresee close to 1,300 yards and 12 scores for the top-five wideout.
Brad – DE-PANT THE OPPOSITION. Defenders better tie strings extra tight. Bryant is about to humiliate DBs. Recall from 2012-2014 he churned out a 91-1311-13 average line. Extremely motivated and in his physical prime at 27 years-old only another catastrophic injury to himself or Romo will prevent him from finishing inside the position’s top-five. Jump all over him if he’s sitting there in the late first round, no matter format.