Contributions from Joshua Hudson, Chris Molina, Chris Tyler, & Joe Zollo
After dealing their first round pick to Oakland for Amari Cooper, the Cowboys had a long wait before making their first pick in the second round. The most notable thing the Cowboys did on draft day, however, was draft two fifths of the Jackson 5. Michael and Joe Jackson (from Miami) add depth to the secondary and defensive line, respectively, but are from the household names of the actual members of the Jackson 5. With only one running back on the roster outside of Ezekiel Elliott with a rushing attempt for the team a year ago, the Cowboys spent two picks on backs — Tony Pollard and Mike Weber. With Zeke reportedly holding out in anticipation of his next contract, the rookies could see snaps sooner rather than later. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Dak Prescott is a mediocre starting quarterback in the NFL. There, I said it. Unfortunately, he’s actually a decent option in fantasy. The moment the Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper, Prescott was QB8 from Weeks 9 through 16. To go even further on the impact of Cooper in the Cowboys offense, Zeke was RB2 and Cooper WR6 over the same period. The Cowboys are now primed to have a full season of Cooper with Prescott and Zeke (pending Zeke’s planned holdout). Also announced this offseason was a return to the fold of Cowboys great Jason Witten. It was clear that Prescott missed his safety valve last season, even with Zeke setting a career high in targets (95). The Cowboys also brought in former Packers slot man Randall Cobb to replace Cole Beasley. If new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore can do what Scott Linehan couldn’t (you know, scheme anything creative), the Cowboys will be a dangerous offense in the league with tons of fantasy potential to boot. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
What life cliché can be used to perfectly describe fantasy football quarterbacks during drafts? The best things in life are free. There are few better feelings in fantasy football than having a top-12 quarterback that you drafted in the 11th round or later on Draft Day. While your league mates are busy looking at QBs in the first seven rounds, which may or may not return on investment, you are busy loading up on all of the talent they neglected, knowing that you have a few aces up your sleeve in late round QBs. One of those aces is Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. He is currently going as the QB17 in Sleeper mock drafts (ADP: 11.10). Let me quickly explain why his upside is a free top 12 QB.
This is Dak Prescott’s 4th year in the league. In his previous three years, he has finished as the QB6, QB11, and QB15 respectively. That means he has been a QB1 (or extremely close) in fantasy every year of his career. This is despite the fact that his average production through the air is only about 3,625 yards passing and 22 touchdowns per season. That’s not great. However, each year that Dak has been in the league he has rushed for about 300 yards and 6 touchdowns a season. That’s fantastic. This kind of consistent production on the ground is why he will have such a high floor at a cheap pricier. That is 66 fantasy points per year on the ground. He would only need 3,000 yards passing and 20 touchdowns for another QB1 year. He should get that and then some with the addition of Amari Cooper.
Dak had Amari Cooper for nine games last year. In those nine games, Dak completed passes at a 71.25% clip (as opposed to his career average of 66%), threw for 2,468 yards, and had 14 passing touchdowns. That’s a 16-game pace of 4,388 yards, and 25 passing touchdowns. Throw in his average rushing output and that would have made him the QB6 last season. Remember his ADP in this year’s draft? Well it’s QB17 in the 11th round. He’s even going behind Tom Brady in mock drafts, and is barely going ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo. Tom Brady is another year over 40, lost Gronk to a retirement, and only finished as the QB13 last season. His best fantasy producing days are behind him. (Patriots fans, I said fantasy days!) Jimmy Garoppolo has only started 10 games in his 5-year career. For the 49ers, he has started eight games, has only thrown for 12 touchdowns in those eight games (24 TD pace), and likely won’t do much on the ground this season after tearing his ACL on a QB scramble last season. That really puts it into perspective on how much value Dak Prescott has where is going.
With Dak’s consistency on the ground, and through the air, you won’t have to worry about him busting if you are the individual who drafts him in the 11th-12th round. His floor will likely be a border line QB-12. However, a full season of Amari Cooper, along with the addition of Randall Cobb and Jason Witten, and the emergence of Michael Gallup, will likely lead to an even better season for Dak through the air. Remember, the best things in life are free. Kind of like taking a likely QB1 with upside at the end of the 11th round. – Chris Molina
There is nobody else that is possibly overrated on this team besides Amari Cooper. Don’t get me wrong, he proved to everybody across the league he could still play when Jerry Jones traded a first-round pick for him but he is being taken as WR12 so far in PPR leagues. To me, that is way too high for a guy who had half a season of good production. Maybe an offseason learning the system further will improve his worth but I don’t see it right now.
He is currently being taken around guys such as T.Y Hilton, Stefon Diggs, and Julian Edelman, not to mention the guys who are much lower than him that shouldn’t be. Let’s put it this way — who would you rather have out of the players listed in a PPR league? Personally, my rankings are as follows: T.Y Hilton, Julian Edelman, Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs. Where he is being drafted just does not match the value he brings to the table.
Cooper did finish as WR17 last season after basically doing nothing during the first half of the season. The thing that buffed his stats were two weeks of over 40 points. He managed 42 points in week 12 then 54 points in the first round of the playoffs. The downside you ask? Well, he managed a total of 14.6 points during the semifinals and championship games for fantasy football. It’s pretty safe to say if Amari Cooper got you to the semis, he definitely stopped you from getting to the championship.
The biggest thing I look for in a wide receiver that I am drafting that high, or for any player at any position, I want them to be consistent and, for me, Amari Cooper is not that guy. I have said it before that I do not think Julio Jones is a good fantasy football player. I believe he is one of the best, if not the best, receivers in the league but he cannot consistently produce to the level he is drafted in fantasy football. I feel the same way about Cooper; not in the sense he is one of the most talented receivers in the league but the fact he can just disappear some games. Cooper is a good compliment receiver in fantasy but be careful if he is going at WR12 because I don’t see the value at all if he is taken in that area. – Joe Zollo
When it comes to projected fantasy football production, it’s all about volume. Efficiency is great, but isn’t always sustainable from year to year. Over the last three seasons, Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL in touches. What is most impressive about that number is that Zeke was suspended for six games in 2017 and didn’t play in Week 17 during the 2016 and 2018 seasons. Last year, Zeke was my number one running back and ultimately finished as RB5 in Club Fantasy scoring. This year, Zeke is also my number one running back in Fantasy. Bold? Not really. Crazy? Maybe not.
We know what Zeke brings to the table as a runner. In PPR formats, his receiving production has always been in question. During his rookie season, he totaled only 39 targets (32 receptions). In 2017, he had less (38 targets) but in only 10 total games. Over a full season, he likely would’ve approached 61 targets (roughly 42 receptions, based on catch percentage that year). Last season, he blew both those numbers out of the water, finishing 5th in the league in RB targets (91) and receptions (77). For the people that want to assume the bulk of that production came early in the season prior to the Amari Cooper trade, think again. Almost 64% of his season total in receiving targets came after the acquisition of Cooper. With Cooper commanding so much attention from defenses, Prescott had the middle of the field open for dump offs to Zeke. Prescott had 305 rushing yards in 2018. After the acquisition of Cooper, he totaled only 69. Zeke is full entrenched in all facets of the Cowboys offensive game plan.
Twice over his first three seasons in the league, Zeke has led the NFL in rushing yards. In all three of his seasons, Zeke led the league in rushing yards per game. Over his career, Zeke averages 101.2 rushing yards per game. I’ll put this in fantasy terms for you — Every time you start Zeke, he’s giving you at least 10 fantasy points. That doesn’t even factor in touchdowns, receptions, and receiving yards. One of the most compelling cases to draft Antonio Brown over the years (aside from how awesome he is on the field) was his incredible streak of games with at least 5 receptions and 50 yards. Same concept — Brown was getting you no less than 10 fantasy points every time you plugged him into your starting lineup. Another way to look at Zeke from a fantasy perspective — over his career, Zeke averages roughly 0.91 fantasy points per touch. He averages 24.95 touches per game. At that rate, he averages roughly 22.7 fantasy points per game. At that average, he would’ve finished as RB3, RB3, and RB6 from 2016 to 2018. That’s consistency. For reference sake, his actual finishes were RB2, RB13 (9 games through Week 16), and RB5.
When I’m looking at someone as the 1st overall pick in my fantasy drafts, I’m not necessarily trying to identify the individual who will be the highest scoring running back. I’m looking for consistent production. Zeke led the league in rushes of more than 15 yards, and had less than 40% of his total production come from such runs (Pro Football Focus’s Breakaway Percentage metric). According to The Fantasy Footballers Ultimate Draft Kit data (based on .5 PPR settings), Zeke finished with the 3rd highest percentage of games as a top 24 running back, behind Barkley and Gurley. Gurley’s production came largely from his touchdown output and Barkley had the highest Breakaway percentage in the league (54%). Before last year, Zeke’s TD outputs were 16 (in 15 games) and 9 (in 10 games). When he returns to the double digit touchdown production we’re used to, he’s a lock for a top 3 finish in 2019. Maybe you want someone like Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, or Alvin Kamara as your number one back based on their fantasy points per touch averages (1.23, 1.16, and 1.31, respectively), but I’d rather have the week in and week out consistency that Zeke brings and his much higher floor than what the others offer. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
*Note: I’m not concerned about a potential holdout. Yes, Zeke wants to get paid, and Zeke will get paid. This isn’t a Bell situation. Proceed with confidence on Draft Day.
Hailing from the Ohio State University, running back Mike Weber is a little under appreciated in my opinion. Over his three seasons in college, he rushed for 2,676 yards with 24 touchdowns. He’s one of those guys that numbers don’t do him justice, nor tell the whole story. Standing at 5’10’’ 210 pounds, he’s compacted and has a low center of gravity, which makes it hard for tacklers to bring him down. Weber is also very elusive and he explodes in and out of his cuts, making him extremely difficult to contain. As a receiver, he’s quite dangerous, hauling in 54 catches for 297 yards. On swing routes and small check downs, he’s a nightmare in the open field, averaging 5.5 yards a catch. Weber has the ability to extend plays as a running back or a receiver. Those possibilities makes him an excellent pick up coming into this season. – Chris Tyler
Showing his potential worth during a couple of games in the fantasy playoffs, second-year man Michael Gallup should come into the season as the guy playing opposite Amari Cooper. New addition Randall Cobb will make his way into the slot but I don’t see him being the biggest factor in taking away targets from Gallup. Gallup’s current ADP is WR56 and he is being drafted in the 15th or 16th round. To me, that is an incredible value for what he could deliver this season. No, he will not finish as a Top 25 guy but he has the potential to be close to Top 30 and produce numbers that can put him in your FLEX slot. With great value comes great responsibility so beware because Dak Prescott may be the guy to hinder his potential. – Joe Zollo
There are two incredible young talents playing Linebacker for this Cowboys squad: Notre Dame product Jaylon Smith and Boise State product Leighton Vander-Esch. Both finished in the Top 10 for Linebackers in fantasy football last season but I believe Smith is going to prove his ability in full force this season. Smith was injured during his entire rookie season and proved he could play in the league during Year Two in 2017. This past year, he showed why Dallas took him and were willing to wait on his injury to heal. Smith racked up 121 combined tackles and put up 231 fantasy points, good for LB8 on the season. I think Smith will be more prominent on the defense rather than Vander Esch but neither are bad picks for your team. – Joe Zollo