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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Dallas Cowboys

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There's already an ominous feel for the Cowboys this year based on what's happened this offseason. An already bad defense seemingly got worse.

The Cowboys lost top pass rushers in DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher as free agents. And standout middle linebacker Sean Lee suffered a torn ACL in May. Those players cannot be replaced.

One of the byproducts of those injuries is that the bad defense leads to good offense. And there is plenty of firepower for the Cowboys to put up plenty of points, especially with Scott Linehan now calling plays.

Dallas has the No. 8 Fantasy quarterback from 2013 in Tony Romo, the No. 7 running back in DeMarco Murray, the No. 6 receiver in Dez Bryant and the No. 5 tight end in Jason Witten. Add in a potential breakout receiver in Terrance Williams, and the Cowboys can attack opposing defenses in a variety of ways.

That's good news for Fantasy owners, and this is an offense you should gravitate to on Draft Day. The defense might not be good, but there is the potential for a lot of shootouts, which leads to happy owners at the end of the season.

First-round talent ... DeMarco Murray

Even though Murray had a career year in 2013 and finished No. 7 in Fantasy points at his position, owners are skeptical he can do it again. He's considered injury prone, and rightfully so. Murray missed nine games in his first two seasons, and he even was out for two games last year with a knee injury.

But in 14 games, Murray set career highs in carries (217), rushing yards (1,121), rushing touchdowns (nine), receptions (53), receiving yards (350) and receiving touchdowns (one). And he should improve this season with Linehan.

Linehan, who was the offensive coordinator in Detroit, got Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to finish Top 20 in Fantasy points last year, with the duo combining for more than 100 catches. The Cowboys are saying Murray isn't expected to come off the field much, and that should lead to another Top 10 finish in Fantasy points at his position, if not higher.

Murray will probably fall to Round 2 in the majority of leagues, which is great value. But don't hesitate to draft him toward the end of Round 1 if you're not sold on Montee Ball or don't want to draft Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham or Peyton Manning. He proved himself last season and should be great again.

QB worth waiting for ... Tony Romo

No one really wants Romo as their Fantasy quarterback. He's not someone you covet on Draft Day. And that's a mistake. Is he Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers? Not exactly. But his track record speaks for itself.

Romo has been a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback in four of the past five years, including three in a row. He was No. 8 in Fantasy points last year in a standard league with 3,828 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on 64 percent completions. And he should improve this year.

With Linehan calling plays, and a defense that could be record-breaking bad, Romo could be asked to do a lot of heavy lifting. If his back is OK after surgery in December -- all reports are positive -- he should play at a high level.

My draft strategy is to always wait on a quarterback. I'll let someone else reach for a quarterback in the first three rounds, and I'll hold off as long as possible to get a quarterback as late as possible.

Ideally, I'll end up with Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick or Matt Ryan this season. If I miss on that trio, Romo headlines the next tier because Andrew Luck is typically gone. And I'm happy to get Romo if he falls in my lap, likely in Round 7 or later.

Everyone has their different feeling on drafting a quarterback -- I've said for years it's the most personal decision you'll make -- but I prefer to stockpile running backs and receivers early and take a quarterback late. And Romo, more often than not, produces great results.

Poised for a breakout ... Terrance Williams

2013 Touches Leaders
711 total touches
DeMarco Murray 270 (217 car., 53 rec.) 38.0%
Dez Bryant 94 (1 car., 93 rec.) 13.2%
Jason Witten 73 rec. 10.3%
Joseph Randle 62 (54 car., 8 rec.) 8.7%
Terrance Williams 47 (3 car., 44 rec.) 6.6%
All Others 165 23.1%

Williams hits a lot of the checkmarks you look for in a receiver with upside. Talent? Check. Pass-heavy offense? Check. Single coverage all game? Check. Good quarterback? Check.

Williams should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy receiver on Draft Day with the chance to be a weekly starter. With Romo calling plays in Linehan's offense -- and playing opposite Bryant and Witten -- Williams could have plenty of big weeks. And he showed that last season.

With Miles Austin out with hamstring problems, Williams had a four-game scoring streak from Weeks 5-8. For the season, Williams had 44 catches for 736 yards and five touchdowns, but he could be 60 catches, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns.

You'd rather draft Williams as a No. 4 Fantasy receiver, but either way target him with a mid-round pick. He has the chance for a big year, and he's a potential difference maker in your Fantasy league in 2014.

Schedule analysis

We're going to find out early on if the passing game in Dallas is for real with some tough matchups for Romo and Co. The Cowboys play five of their first six games against teams that were Top 8 in Fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks (San Francisco, Tennessee, St. Louis, New Orleans and Seattle). Only Houston in Week 5 was outside of the Top 8 of that group, but the Texans shouldn't be easy with the addition of Jadeveon Clowney. The Seahawks game is also on the road, so this could be a rough start. Still, the Cowboys are a tough test offensively for their opponents as well, so it'll be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Training camp battles

Who's the No. 2 running back? There really aren't any position battles for the Cowboys. Barring Kyle Orton deciding not to retire, Brandon Weeden is the No. 2 quarterback, Cole Beasley is the No. 3 receiver behind Bryant and Williams, and Gavin Escobar is the No. 2 tight end. Lance Dunbar should be the No. 2 running back, but Joseph Randle held the role last season. The Cowboys also took a flier on Ryan Williams, but Dunbar is the one to handcuff to Murray. And in deep leagues, he could be worth a look on his own given Murray's injury history.

Bold prediction

Romo's best season was 2007 when he passed for 4,211 yards, 36 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, and he added two rushing touchdowns. He was No. 2 in Fantasy points that year, but we're expecting another career campaign in 2014.

With Linehan and this defense, Romo is going to be asked to throw so much he should post monster stats. Just look at Matthew Stafford the past three seasons and how much he threw the ball -- with Linehan calling plays and a bad defense.

Stafford was fourth, first and first in pass attempts the past three years. He was No. 7 in Fantasy points last season, No. 11 in 2012 and No. 4 in 2011. Romo is going to challenge for the pass-attempts lead, and that should lead to a career year if Bryant, Witten and Williams stay healthy.

Injury report

Tony Romo (back), probable for start of training camp. ... Sean Lee (ACL), out for season

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Player News
Rams list eight as probable on final injury report
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) The Rams have listed DE William Hayes, OG Rodger Saffold, C Scott Wells, S Cody Davis, CB Trumaine Johnson, C Tim Barnes, CB Marcus Roberson and DB Lamarcus Joyner as probable for Week 9 against the 49ers. 

All eight players were able to get through full practice Friday. Saffold is dealing with a shoulder injury. Wells has an elbow issues. Johnson has been battling a knee injury.


Rams list four as questionable Week 9
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) The Rams have listed CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Aaron Donald, S Rodney McLeod and LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar as questionable for Week 9 against the 49ers. 

Jenkins and McLeod are both dealing with knee issues. Donald has a shoulder issue and Dunbar is dealing with a toe injury. 


Backup quarterback not enough to sink Dez Bryant's value
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) With Tony Romo's status for Week 9 up in the air, Fantasy owners might be a bit concerned about Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant's value for this Sunday's game against the Cardinals. But even with a tough matchup on the way and the possibility of Bryant catching passes from Brandon Weeden, Fantasy owners should keep Bryant in their lineups.

Weeden has become something of a punchline after a two fairly disastrous seasons to open his career, but he was still competent enough not to torpedo Josh Gordon's breakout campaign last season. In three games Weeden started, Gordon had 19 receptions for 408 yards and two touchdowns, including Gordon's massive 10-catch, 261-yard game. Even if Weeden takes the field, Bryant could still be in line to get his. 

There is some risk that Weeden will be a disaster, but Bryant is too good to worry too much about who is throwing him the ball. Although Romo playing would be best for Bryant's Fantasy value, you can't risk benching someone this explosive on the chance his quarterback doesn't play. 


Bobby Rainey could star in Week 9
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) With Doug Martin expected to sit out with an ankle injury and Charles Sims' debut possibly another week away, Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey could be in line for a big workload in Week 9 against the Browns this Sunday.

Rainey has been the team's best back this season, even if he hasn't been able to earn the role that would come with that. He should get the chance Sunday, and has a good matchup to show off against a Browns defense that ranks among the 10-worst in the league against running backs, allowing 20.4 Fantasy points per game.

The Browns held the Raiders' backs in check last week, limiting them to just 10 Fantasy points, but that came a week after they surrendered 28 to what had previously been a hapless Jaguars ground game. Rainey doesn't have much of a track record, but he still makes for a solid starting option this week, though more as a No. 2 back. 


Key questionables highlight 49ers injury report for Sunday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) Standout linebacker Patrick Willis (toe) is a game-time decision for the 49ers against St. Louis on Sunday. He is listed as questionable along with cornerback Tramaine Brock, who is also dealing with a toe issue.

The probables are cornerback Chris Culliver (hamstring) and safety Jimmie Ward (quad).


Ronnie Hillman headlines Broncos probables Week 9
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman should play Week 9 against the Patriots.

Hillman is listed as probable on the injury report due to a shoulder injury. He was a full participant in practice Friday, and is expected to play.

The team also listed Lamin Barrow, Omar Bolden, Chris Harris Jr., Brandon McManus, Juwan Thompson, Louis Vasquez and Webster Kayvon as probable for the contest. 


Broncos rule three as questionable for Week 9
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) The Broncos have ruled Quinton Carter, Virgil Green and Steve Johnson as questionable Week 9 against the Patriots. 

Carter is dealing with a hamstring injury, but was unable to practice Friday. Both Green and Johnson were limited in practice Friday. Green has a calf injury. Johnson is dealing with an ankle issue. 


Broncos rule out Montee Ball again
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) Broncos running back Montee Ball has been ruled out Week 9 against the Patriots.

Ball is still dealing with a groin issue. He's already missed the past three games due to the injury. 


Patriots' Brandon Browner good to go Week 9
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) Patriots corner Brandon Browner is probable Week 9 against the Broncos. 

Browner is listed with an ankle injury. He was able to get through full practice Friday, and should be able to play Sunday.


Patriots list Tom Brady as probable again
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/31/2014) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is probable for Week 9 due to an ankle injury.

Brady will play, as usual. While the ankle injury seemed slightly more serious a few weeks ago, it doesn't seem to be an issue now. He's not missing a game against Peyton Manning. 


 
 
 
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