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Offseason Primers: Dallas Cowboys

Senior Fantasy Writer
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If the only NFL game you ever watched was the Cowboys at the Giants in Week 1 of the 2012 season you would have thought Kevin Ogletree was the best receiver in league history. He dominated in that game with eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets.

As you can imagine, things kind of went downhill from there -- for Ogletree and the Cowboys. Dallas struggled to an 8-8 finish, and the Cowboys again failed to live up to the usual lofty expectations as being the best team in the NFL.

The good news for Fantasy owners is Dallas is loaded with talent. Tony Romo is a No. 1 quarterback, DeMarco Murray is a No. 1 running back, Dez Bryant is a No. 1 receiver and Jason Witten is a No. 1 tight end. They are some of the best players at their respective positions.

2012 Touches Leaders
789 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
DeMarco Murray 196 (161 car., 35 rec.) 24.8%
Felix Jones 136 (111 car., 25 rec.) 17.2%
Jason Witten 110 rec. 13.9%
Dez Bryant 94 (2 car., 92 rec.) 11.9%
Miles Austin 66 rec. 8.3%
All Others 187 23.7%

Now, the Cowboys have their offensive flaws. Romo needs to be more consistent, Murray needs to stay healthy and Witten needs to score more touchdowns. Bryant also needs to stay healthy, and Miles Austin needs to regain his form from 2009.

The Cowboys also need to replace Ogletree, who signed with Tampa Bay this offseason. Dwayne Harris is the likely choice as the new No. 3 receiver, and we hope he can have a shining moment like Ogletree did in Week 1 last year. We just hope his highlight reel is a little more in depth than just one week.

DeMarco Murray -- Bounce-back candidate

2012 Target Leaders
658 pass attempts
Jason Witten 147 22.3%
Dez Bryant 138 20.9%
Miles Austin 119 18.1%
Kevin Ogletree 55 8.3%
DeMarco Murray 41 6.2%
All Others 158 24.0%

Murray has a lot to prove heading into his third year in the NFL. He's battled injuries and inconsistent play through two seasons, but now is his time to shine. Murray is starting to look more like Darren McFadden than Adrian Peterson, which is not a good thing. He's already missed nine games through two seasons, and Fantasy owners are frustrated. He should be ready to go for the start of this year, and we hope he can put together a full season of quality outings. In 2012, Murray appeared in just 10 games. He had at least seven Fantasy points in every outing with double digits in points in five games, so he's capable of being a big point producer. But he has to stay on the field to live up to the hype. Based on talent, Murray is a first-round pick, but we would let him fall to Round 2 at the earliest. He should be considered at least a Top 15 Fantasy running back, and if he can play 16 games we could be looking at a Top 10 option in all leagues.

Dez Bryant -- Worth the price

Something clicked with Bryant midway through last season, and we hope he doesn't stop heading into this year. Bryant closed 2012 with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in seven of his final eight games, including playing the last four with a broken finger. His final stats were 92 catches, 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, as he definitely had a breakout season in his third year in the NFL. Bryant now has 27 touchdowns to his name, and he's set his sights on 2,000 receiving yards this year. While that's highly unlikely, he should continue to post dominant stats, and we consider him an upper echelon Fantasy receiver. Bryant should be among the Top 5 receivers drafted this season, and he could come off the board as early as Round 2. Most likely you'll draft Bryant in Round 3, but he should be a beast once again. He had just 138 targets last year, and we hope that number will rise. The one concern with Bryant is injuries since he also hurt his back last season, but as long as he's on the field you can expect tremendous production from this dynamic receiver.

Jason Witten -- Still going strong

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Tony Romo 60-67 overall
DeMarco Murray 11-16 overall
Dez Bryant 22-26 overall
Miles Austin 98-106 overall
Jason Witten 57-64 overall

Witten continues to prove he's among the best Fantasy tight ends, and he should post quality stats again this season. Witten had a career-high 110 catches in 2012, and he also added 1,039 yards and three touchdowns. This is the fourth time since 2007 he's had at least 94 catches and 1,000 receiving yards. The problem for Witten is his lack of touchdowns since he's scored more than five times just once since 2008. But that hasn't kept Witten from being an elite Fantasy option since he's been a Top 5 tight end four times since 2007 (he was No. 5 last year with 115 points in a standard league). Witten also has Romo's eye since he led the team and all tight ends with 147 targets, and we expect Romo to continue looking in Witten's direction a lot. He's worth drafting as early as Round 4 in the majority of leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Patriots Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler absent at OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:30 pm ET) Patriots cornerback and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler was noticeably absent from organized team activities on Friday, per nesn.com. It's unclear why Butler was not at practice.

Butler recorded 15 tackles in 11 games last season, but most noticeably came up with a game-clinching interception in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIX.


Cowboys excited and cautious with return of LB Sean Lee
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:22 pm ET) Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL during organized team activities last year. This year, he has been limited to individual drills during non-padded parctices, per The Dallas Morning News.

Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said the team is happy to have Lee back but that they will pace him along slowly.

"He's a ball of energy and excitement and that represents who we are," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He's moving well. We're just being smart as we get him ready to go. But he's got a lot of good quality work in."


Chiefs' Jeremy Maclin getting work in as a punt returner
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:59 pm ET) Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was the Chiefs' prized free-agent pickup this offseason, which makes it that much more intriguing that he lined up to return punts during practice on Thursday, per ESPN.com.

Maclin, who signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Chiefs, was a premier punt returner in college and played the role sparingly -- with little success -- with the Eagles.

Coach Andy Reid said the team is preparing Maclin just in case he's needed to return punts or kicks because of injuries.

We just want to make sure he is ready,’’ Reid said. “You have limited numbers that you can dress on game day, so you don’t know what rotation you are going to have there with the receivers and returners. So it gives you an opportunity to keep him fresh. We don’t work him every day like the other guys. It’s kind of an every other day deal, so just to make sure that he’s okay and can still do that, but he’s not going to be the primary guy doing it right now.”


Eagles CB Byron Maxwell guarantees trip to Super Bowl 50
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:40 pm ET) Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell knows what it takes to make a Super Bowl run, he's appeared in two straight as a key member of the vaunted Seahawks defense.

Now, Maxwell is confident the Eagles will make a run to the big game and he will make his third consecutive appearance, per NFL.com.

"Because I've been there before," Maxwell said. "Knowing what it's like if we go that far. Because we're gonna go that far this year, meaning the playoffs and the Super Bowl. We're gonna go that far. Hopefully that experience I already had, I can help them."

The Eagles haven't made a Super Bowl since their 24-21 loss to the Patriots in 2004, but Maxwell didn't backtrack with his comments.

"You can take that as a guarantee," he said. "That's just me believing in my team and the product we're going to put out there on the field. I really do believe that. I have no choice but to think that way."

Maxwell, who signed a six-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles this offseason, recorded 39 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games last season.


Report: QB Matt Simms asked for release from Jets
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:35 pm ET) Third-year quarterback Matt Simms asked for his release from the Jets on Thursday, a source close to the situation told The Record.

Simms, who had no comment when reached, apparently saw little future with that team when it selected Bryce Petty in the draft. He wanted to test the free agent market before mandatory minicamps began in June. If he clears waivers, he can sign with any team.

The 26-year-old Simms has played in just four career games with a poor 48.7 completion rate.


Eagles' Sanchez on QB competition: 'Everybody wants to be the starter'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:24 pm ET) The Eagles have a quarterback competition on their hands, and Mark Sanchez is making it clear he wants to be the starter, per NFL.com.

"Everybody wants to be the starter and I'm no different," Sanchez said.

Coach Chip Kelly has said that Sanchez and Sam Bradford will compete for the starting spot and that the best player will be behind center for the start of the season.

“Everybody’s in competition,” Kelly said, per ESPN.com, “and the best players play.”

Sanchez played in nine games for the Eagles last season, passing for 2,418 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Bradford missed all of last season due to an ACL tear.


Former Jet Garrard: Geno Smith too 'worried about outside noise'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:14 pm ET) Jets quarterback Geno Smith has had a tumultous start to his career, to say the least. In his first two years in the league, Smith has underperformed while consistently turning the ball over.

Former Jets quarterback and backup to Smith, David Garrard says he knows why Smith has struggled to live up to the hype he had coming out of West Virginia, per ESPN.com.

"I definitely think Geno has the ability to be a pretty good quarterback. I just think sometimes he’s worried about the outside noise," Garrard said. "He’s worried about what his teammates think, what his coaches think, what the media thinks, what the fans think and he’s not just concentrating on his game and just making the plays that he should be making. You can see a lot of times in practice and in the meeting room, he’s spot on; he knows exactly what to do. But he has moments where he’s not doing that."

Smith threw for 2,525 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 14 games last season.


Titans DT DaQuan Jones 'happy' to be named starter
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:51 am ET) Titans defensive tackle DaQuan Jones just got a promotion, and like anyone would be, he's happy about it, The Tennessean reports.

Jones is eager to showcase why he deserves his starting role, but he's also very aware that the season is a long ways ahead and anything can happen between now and then.

"I'm happy to go into the (OTAs) as a starter, but I know that nothing is set in stone and I know there's plenty of competition for that job," said Jones. "So now I'm just trying to make the most of my opportunity."

Jones, a fourth-round pick last season, played sparingly in the beginning of his rookie year -- appearing in just four of the team's first 13 games. He improved toward the end of the season and got his first start during the last game of the year against the Colts. Jones said he wants to continue to improve and show he can be a force on the defensive line.

"Right now I'm trying to work a lot on my base technique, trying to shed blocks faster and make plays," Jones said. "I'm trying to go into the season and be a playmaker."


Ravens rookie Za'Darius Smith impressive thus far in OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:37 am ET) Ravens rookie linebacker Za'Darius Smith is wasting no time making a splash and impressing his coaches at organized team activities, per The Baltimore Sun.

Smith picked off a Matt Schaub pass and took it back for a touchdown, showcasing his instincts and play-making ability.

"He's a good fit for our defense, so I'm excited about seeing how he does," Coach John Harbaugh said. "This is like all those guys. Once we get the pads on, we'll know a lot more. But so far so good."

Smith recorded 61 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks as a senior at Kentucky.


Eagles coach Chip Kelly: 'Everybody's in competition' for QB spot
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(11:10 am ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez will actively compete for the top quarterback spot this season, per ESPN.com.

“Everybody’s in competition,” Kelly said, “and the best players play.”

Sanchez played in nine games for the Eagles last season, passing for 2,418 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Bradford missed all of last season due to an ACL tear.


 
 
 
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