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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' Tom Brady meeting with NFL after Super Bowl 49
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:24 pm ET) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn't expect to meet with the NFL until after Super Bowl 49, according to NFL.com.

The Patriots have been in the headlines all week due to DeflateGate, and it appears the situation won't be resolved until after the season. "I believe they're going to do [a meeting] after the season," Brady said. "So we'll deal with it after this game. I think everybody is locked in, ready to go for the Super Bowl." Both Brady and coach Bill Belichick have held separate press conferences during the week to deny the team's involvement in deflating their footballs. 

The Patriots are subject to punishment from the NFL if the leauge finds any wrongdoing during the investigation. 


Earl Thomas on bad shoulder: 'I'll still play fearless'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:50 pm ET) Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who dislocated his shoulder in the NFC Championship Game, could remain limited in practice this week ahead of the Super Bowl, reports the Seattle Times. But he said he won't be thinking about the injury against the Patriots.

"When I come alive nothing is limited,’’ he said. “I’ll still play fearless, throw my body around, and let whatever happens, happens.’’

Thomas did allow that he might have to rely more on his teammates.

“My mindset is I have an opportunity to really trust my teammates,’’ he said. “This is the first game I’m going to have to trust them because of my injury. So I really, really, really trust my teammates, and that’s what I’m banking on, my teammates doing what they need to do and I need to come through myself.’’

It's unclear if Thomas will need offseason surgery.

The Seahawks are 1-point underdogs after opening as 2.5-point favorites.


Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck pondering retirement
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:17 pm ET) Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck told ESPN.com he's not sure if he'll retire or return for a 17th season. Hasselbeck, 39, appeared in four games this season and played well, posting a 102.6 passer rating.

He's set to hit unrestricted free agency.


Colts expected to part ways with center A.Q. Shipley
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:11 pm ET) Colts center A.Q. Shipley is headed for unrestricted free agency, and the team is expected to let him go, reports ESPN.com. 

"Shipley went from starting in Week 1 to losing his starting job, to being inactive, to being the third-string center," the report said. "All without any explanation from coach Chuck Pagano or anybody in the front office."

Shipley, 28, has played in 45 career games, starting 19.


Report: Dolphins aim to re-sign TE Charles Clay
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) The Dolphins have privately indicated they want to re-sign impending free agent tight end Charles Clay and will make him an offer in coming weeks, reports the Miami Herald. Clay caught 58 passes for 605 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games this season.

Miami also is high on Clay's backup, Dion Sims, who's signed through 2016, the paper said.


Browns extremely thin -- and short -- at wide receiver
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) With wideout Josh Gordon facing a one-year suspension, the Browns are dangerously thin at receiver entering 2015. ESPN.com notes the Browns have two returning slot receivers in Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel and "an undersized situational receiver" in 5-10 Travis Benjamin.

Miles Austin is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after catching 47 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. Tight end Jordan Cameron also is set to be an unrestricted free agent.

Hawkins, a 5-7, 180-pounder, led the team with 63 grabs for 824 yards, with two touchdowns. Cleveland failed to add a wideout in last year's draft but almost certainly must address the position in the 2015 draft.


Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas to practice this week
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:43 pm ET) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told SiriusXM NFL Radio that cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and safety Earl Thomas (shoulder) will practice this week and should be "good to go" for the Super Bowl. Both got hurt in the NFC Championship Game.

Seattle is a 1-point underdog to the Patriots after opening as a 2.5-point favorite.


New optimism regarding Justin Blackmon's potential return
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:48 pm ET) A lot of people inside the NFL are optimistic Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon is "overcoming his issues" and will be back in the league in 2015, reports Fox Sports. Blackmon got suspended in November 2013 following his third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.

He checked into a treatment facility last September. General manager Dave Caldwell said recently he hopes Blackmon wins reinstatement, but is not counting on it.


Reports: Josh Gordon tests positive again, facing 1-year ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:55 pm ET) Browns wideout Josh Gordon tested positive for alcohol and "now will be subject to a one-year banishment," sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games this season for a repeat violation of the league's drug policy.

Pro Football Talk reports that because of Gordon's past DUI, alcohol was one of the substances for which he was being tested. The website said a one-year suspension is likely a "done deal."

The Browns also suspended Gordon for missing a Saturday walkthrough before the regular-season finale, and CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported then the Browns might be ready to part ways with the ultra-talented 23-year-old.

The Browns released the following statement regarding the news: 

"Clearly we are very disappointed to hear the latest report regarding Josh. At this point, due to the confidential nature of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, we have not been made aware by the league of a failed test. We are in the process of gathering more information and will provide further comment at the appropriate time."


Report: Jordan Cameron expected to leave via free agency
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:14 pm ET) Browns tight end Jordan Cameron is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and ESPNCleveland.com does not expect him to re-sign with Cleveland. A concussion and shoulder injury limited Cameron to 10 games this season.

The 26-year-old caught 24 passes for 424 yards and two touchdowns after a breakout 2013 season in which he made 80 grabs for 917 yards and seven scores.


 
 
 
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