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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
Julio Jones looking to make up for lost touchdowns
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:26 pm ET) Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who missed the final 11 weeks last year with a fractured foot, will be taking on the division rival Saints for the first time in nearly a full calendar year when they come to town in Week 1. He scored a touchdown in that last meeting, catching seven passes for 76 yards, and seems eager to do so again.

"That's a big emphasis this year," wide receiver Julio Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We have to score in the red zone. We have too many weapons to get [stopped] in the red zone."

Jones was referring to last year's season opener -- a game the Falcons lost 23-17 after stalling twice inside the 10-yard line. Given the Jones' size and physicality, the Falcons will obviously look to him in those situations, especially with tight Tony Gonzalez now out of the picture.

Jones has expressed concern recently that he's not quite ready for a full workload yet, but even if the Falcons rest him a little more than usual, you can bet they'll take advantage of his time on the field. Even though the Saints technically ranked second against the pass last year, allowing 194.1 yards per game, you shouldn't hesitate to start Jones in Fantasy. Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank him fifth among wide receivers for the week.


Bill Belichick: No decision on Gronk's status yet
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:15 pm ET) While Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) said he'll definitely play Sunday at Miami, coach Bill Belichick said no final decision has been made, reports CSNNE.com.

"I'm glad that Rob's optimistic about this situation," Belichick said. "We'll go through the week of practice and take a look at everything, everybody, and see where everybody's at and try to do what we like is best for the team. With all due respect to Rob -- I'm glad he feels the way he does -- but in the end, we'll have to make the decision we feel like is best for the team and we'll do that as we go through the week."


Antonio Brown to return punts
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:02 pm ET) Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said receiver Antonio Brown will return punts along with rookie Dri Archer. "He's a Pro Bowl-caliber return man, so that's how you play him," Tomlin said of Brown.

Matt Ryan begins with familiar foe
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:58 pm ET) Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan made the most of his opening-week matchup against the Saints last season, completing 25 for 38 passes for 304 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The hope is he can do something similar with the Saints coming to town in Week 1.

While last year's opener was at New Orleans, this one is at home, where Ryan went without a touchdown against the Saints in Week 12 last year. But he was without star wide receiver Julio Jones in that game. The Saints did rank second against the pass last year, allowing 194.1 yards per game, but against the Falcons, coming off a year in which they threw the ball more often than any other team, that probably won't impact a Ryan's numbers too much. It certainly didn't limit his yardage last year. Even in that Week 12 meeting, he threw for 292.

Bottom line: Based on where you drafted Ryan, you'd need an awfully good reason to consider sitting him in Fantasy, and this matchup against the Saints isn't it. Jamey Eisenberg ranks him ninth among quarterbacks for the week, and Dave Richard is even more optimistic, ranking him sixth.


Real test for Reggie Wayne comes Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:56 pm ET) Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, 35, looked sharp in training camp in his return from a torn ACL. The comeback continued in the third preseason game, when Wayne suited up for the first time and caught two passes for 11 yards and was targeted a third time. (Both receptions were negated by penalties).

"It felt good," Wayne told reporters. "Everything felt normal and that's what I expected. Coach tells you you've got about 8-10 plays and you feel like that's the perfect number, but once you go out there and start playing and getting involved, you feel like that's not enough.

"It was good to get a real live game under my belt," Wayne added. "There is no way you can simulate that."

Wayne didn't play much, however, and it will be interesting to see if he plays a full complement of snaps in Sunday night's anticipated shootout in Denver. Wayne caught five of eight targets for 50 yards against the Broncos in Week 7 last year before reaching for an underthrown pass midway through the fourth quarter and ripping up his right knee.

Wayne appears ready to reclaim his spot as Andrew Luck's chain mover, but watch his usage closely. Keep expectations in check and start him as a WR3.

Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount will play Week 1 as expected
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:50 pm ET) Steelers coach Mike Tomlin confirmed running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount will play Sunday against the Browns despite their recent arrests on marijuana possession charges, reports NFL.com.

Saints have tough first test
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:39 pm ET) Coming off a season in which they excelled against the pass, allowing the second-fewest yards per game (194.1) while recording the fourth-most sacks (49), the Saints will have a chance to validate that performance when they travel to Atlanta in Week 1 to take on the most pass-heavy offense in the NFL.

The Falcons threw the ball 68.7 percent of the time last year, according to TeamRankings.com, tops in the league. They ranked seventh in passing offense, averaging 265.2 yards per game. The Saints limited the Falcons to 271 yards through the air in their second meeting with them last year, but of course, star wide receiver Julio Jones was out for that game. The Falcons threw for 341 yards in the teams' first meeting.

With Jones back to full health, both Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard expect the Saints DST to struggle in this one, ranking it 21st at the position. Even if the Saints are able to slow the Falcons' passing attack, they're vulnerable against the run, having allowed the fifth-most yards per carry last season.


Joe Flacco a risk for Week 1 after last season's struggles
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:35 pm ET) Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco struggled through one of the worst seasons of his career a year ago, and that extended to his two games against division foes Cincinnati. He will hope for better results when he takes on the Bengals Sunday in a Week 1 matchup.

Flacco had just 20 combined Fantasy points in two games against the Bengals last season, despite chucking up 86 passes. He accounted for just 332 yards and three touchdowns in the games, while turning the ball over six times in those games.

Flacco got a bit more help in the passing game this offseason, but we haven't quite seen how the offense is going to look with those new faces. Flacco should be better than he was a year ago, but he is still something of a risk, especially against a defense that allowed just 15.1 Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last season. Consider him more of a low-end No. 2 Fantasy option for Week 1. 


Bills make roster moves
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:28 pm ET) The Bills signed tight end D.J. Tialavea to their practice squad and released cornerback Bobby Felder with an injury settlement.

Andy Dalton looking for revenge vs. Ravens
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) Expectations for Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton are high after he signed a massive extension this offseason, and he will get his first chance to try and live up to them in Week 1 against the Ravens.

Dalton is very familiar with the Ravens, having faced them six times in his career, but he doesn't have the best track record. Dalton has just six touchdowns to 11 interceptions through the air against the Ravens, while completing just 53.9 percent of his passes. He especially struggled in two games a year ago, as seven of his 20 interceptions for the season came against the Ravens defense.

If you take out a historic seven-touchdown performance by Peyton Manning in Week 1 a year ago, the Ravens were solid against quarterbacks, allowing 14.9 Fantasy points per game. Dalton will be looking for a measure of payback against the Ravens, given his struggles, but Fantasy owners should be wary as the season begins. Consider him more of a No. 2 Fantasy option for Week 1; neither Jamey Eisenberg nor Dave Richard has Dalton among the top-15 for quarterbacks this week


 
 
 
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