Fantasy Football Dallas Cowboys Team Preview: Is Joseph Randle A Top RB?
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While the Cowboys fell short of their Super Bowl dreams, the big names didn't disappoint Fantasy owners one bit. The Cowboys provided a No. 1 option at all four positions in standard scoring systems, with Tony Romo finishing as QB12, DeMarco Murray running away with the top running back spot, Dez Bryant dominating and being the third best receiver, and Jason Witten still providing TE1 value as the TE10. Romo had 15 double-digit Fantasy point performances, Murray topped 20 Fantasy points six times and Bryant reached the end zone in all but five games. In fact, Bryant had multiple-touchdown games four times, including a trifecta of TDs in Philly. Even Dan Bailey got in the mix as the eighth-best kicker. It was a great year for the big names in Big D, even more for some of those names in PPR formats.
Even with the success of Romo, Bryant and Witten, the Cowboys ranked in the middle of the pack in passing with 236.5 yards per game. What makes their performance impressive is that they were fourth in touchdowns (37) while attempting the second fewest passes. Romo had a terrific line of 34 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, including a NFL-best 113.2 QB rating. Team-wise, only the Seahawks made fewer pass attempts with 287 to the Cowboys' 328. That's efficiency, especially when you consider that the Cowboys had 17 more touchdowns than the Seahawks. Bryant led the league with 16 touchdowns and ranked in the Top 10 for yards, yards per game and plays of 20-plus yards. There is no doubt that he's one of the best receivers in the game.
Many expected Terrance Williams to make a big leap last year, and most were disappointed. That's not to say that Williams had a bad year. He actually finished as WR40 with eight touchdowns on just 37 catches and 621 yards. Still, owners wanted more, and they can expect more in 2015. Williams still has plenty of talent to take a step forward and become the team's number two option. Of course, Bryant leads the way, and the team locked him up to a new (huge) contract. Witten is on the other side of his peak seasons, but he's still a threat to opposing defenses and is a TE1. Murray actually had the third most receptions last year, but now he's off in Philadelphia playing for the rivals. Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar will compete for Murray's touches out of the backfield and all have potential in this offense.
Speaking of the replacement trio, all three of these running backs might not equal the amazing performance Murray put together last year. They will have the league's best offensive line as help, though. The Cowboys’ line of maulers will open up holes for whoever is carrying the ball. Randle appears to have the edge for the majority of work, but Darren McFadden was healthy all last year and Dunbar is a good pass catcher.
Each player has questions, though, as Randle has never handled a heavy workload, McFadden is already dealing with injury concerns and Dunbar is better suited to be a change-of-pace pass-catching option. Randle is the favorite int he backfield and an immediate RB2 option in this offense and near-lock to top 1,000 yards. The one word of caution is "hype." Because the Cowboys' offensive line is so dominant, early assumptions could lead to Randle being overdrafted in your league.
Murray is an Eagle, and now the backfield is a big question mark. McFadden is the new face coming in from Oakland, but outside of signing La'el Collins as an undrafted free agent for depth, the biggest move came in signing Greg Hardy for the defense. Cole Beasley was already the third receiver, so the loss of Dwayne Harris doesn't change anything. For the Cowboys, outside of their backfield, everything else is status quo, and that's a good thing. As long as Randle, McFadden and Dunbar do their part to make up for Murray's loss, this team will be right back in the mix.
With little change comes little room for surprise players. At running back, it's possible that Dunbar could make noise in PPR leagues given his talent. Behind him, Lache Seastrunk arrived this offseason, but he has a tough hill to climb behind the trio already listed. However, if injuries befall one or two of the main options, you don't have to be an elite player to have success behind this offensive line. At receiver, Devin Street and A.J. Jenkins are next up, but just like the running backs, they would need injuries in front of them to break through. With Witten turning 33, Gavin Escobar has a chance to see more action at tight end. Escobar has great physical tools, but the Cowboys go with three-receiver sets significantly more often than two-tight end sets, so it may be 2016 before we see a real breakout from Escobar.
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