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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
Report: Cowboys try out RB Daniel Thomas
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Cowboys are in the market for another running back with Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle as their top three guys at the moment. 

Therefore, Dallas could be looking to add another. According to The Baltimore Sun and National Football Post's Aaron Wilson, the Cowboys worked out running back Daniel Thomas on Thursday. 

Thomas was with the Dolphins the previous four years and totaled 1,480 career yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. The Cowboys also worked out Ben Tate and Felix Jones. 


49ers' Carlos Hyde unable to practice, Mike Davis does
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) 49ers second-year running back Carlos Hyde was forced to watch Thursday's OTA practice from the sidelines, according to the San Jose Mercury News

Hyde is dealing with a leg injury that isn't considered serious. 

Rookie running back Mike Davis did practice despite injuring his thumb on Wednesday after catching a pass from Colin Kaepernick. 

“Kap, man, I didn’t know he could throw a ball that fast,” Davis said. “I still caught it.”


Anquan Boldin, five others absent from 49ers OTA practice
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Six players were absent from the 49ers' OTA practice on Thursday, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Those not present were wide receiver Anquan Boldin, fullback Bruce Miller, offensive linemen Alex Boone and Anthony Davis, punter Andy Lee and kicker Phil Dawson.

OTA practices are voluntary and players are not required to attend.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was also not present though he was given the day off by 49ers coach Jim Tomsula. Bowman missed the 2014 season after sustaining an ACL tear during the 2013 playoffs. 


Saints WR Andy Tanner back with club on injured reserve
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Saints receiver Andy Tanner cleared waivers and reverted to injured reserve with the organization, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Tanner has been with the Saints since 2010 but has never appeared in a game. 


Report: Chargers expect to reach long-term deal with Philip Rivers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) A month ago rumors swirled about the Chargers possibly trading Philip Rivers

Now it appears Rivers won't be heading anywhere anytime soon. According to a report from NFL.com, the Chargers are confident in reaching a long-term deal with Rivers. 

Rivers is entering the final year of his contract, in which he is due $15.75 million. 

A year ago, Rivers threw for 4,286 yards, 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. 


Report: Jaguars' Dante Fowler to have ACL surgery next week
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Jaguars rookie defensive lineman Dante Fowler will have surgery next week to repair a torn ACL sustained in rookie minicamp, according to the Florida Times-Union

Fowler was injured during an 11-on-11 drill during his first practice with the Jaguars on May 8. He'll miss the entire 2015 season. Fowler is still with the team participating in strength and conditioning exercises. 

Fowler is expected to remain in Jacksonville to rehab his knee. 


Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin out for next week's OTAs
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) With organized team activities set to begin next week for the Panthers, one notable contributor is likely to be sidelined. 

According to the Charlotte Observer, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin strained his hamstring a week ago and will probably sit during next week's practices as a result. Benjamin, a rookie in 2014, had 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns for the Panthers. 

With Benjamin sidelined, rookie receiver Devin Funchess has a chance to step in and act as Carolina's No. 1 receiver during the upcoming voluntary practices. 


Falcons' Joplo Bartu's suspension rescinded, fined $50,000
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/21/2015) Falcons linebacker Joplo Bartu had a two-game suspension for an alcohol related offense rescinded but was fined $50,000, per NFL.com.

Bartu pleaded no contest to driving under the influence last season and received a two-day suspended sentence and 12 months of probation.

According to an NFL and NFLPA agreement, players had until Nov. 1, 2014 to resolve DUIs for them to be accepted under the previous policy and for a suspension not to be issued. Bartu needed to submit his plea agreement before November but he did not go in front of judge before the deadline and was suspended in March.

Bartu provided the league with additional information, showing that his plea agreement was actually reached on Oct. 30, resulting in the $50,000 fine and his suspension as rescinded.

Bartu was third on the Falcons last season with 83 tackles.

 


Colts cut former basketball player Demarco Cox
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Colts released offensive tackle Demarco Cox on Friday, per radio station 1070 The Fan

Cox completed his college basketball career at Georgia Tech in March and was trying to convert to an NFL football lineman after not playing the sport at the college level.


Texans release veteran OT Tyson Clabo
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Texans announced on Thursday that they have released veteran offensive tackle Tyson Clabo

Clabo appeared in all 16 games for Houston a year ago but did not start any of them. This was a departure from what he was used to as a longtime starter in the NFL. 

Clabo entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest in 2004. After bouncing around with the Broncos, Giants and Chargers, Clabo latched on with the Falcons in 2005. In 2006, Clabo earned a starting role with Atlanta, the team he stayed with through the 2012 season. 

He ended up in Houston a year ago after starting 15 games for the Dolphins in 2013. 

In total, Clabo has started 116 of the 132 games he's appeared in throughout his career. 


 
 
 
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