First off, I’m not a big Cowboys fan. I think Jerry Jones is a meddlesome owner. Wade
Phillips isn’t a great head coach. And Tony Romo seems to crack under the pressure of big games. But I think Dallas wins the NFC East this season due to one thing: Addition by subtraction – their own and others’ as well. Letting Terrell Owens leave was a huge burden off of this team’s shoulders. You think Jason Witten and Tony Romo weren’t packing Owens’ bags on his way out of town? And think about all the baggage Romo lost when he finally broke up with Jessica Simpson. That’s good for a couple of wins right there. There’s also the subtraction around the NFC East as well, especially the Giants. New York would seem to be the odds-on favorite to run away with this division, but the Giants are not the same team without WR Plaxico Burress and D-Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo left to take over the Rams. I think the Eagles are in for a brutal season and the Redskins just don’t seem good enough to win the division. That leaves the Cowboys and Giants and I’ll take the ’Boys. That’s a pretty weak limb I’m crawling out on, but I feel they’re good enough to win 10 games and take the division.
QB: Romo seemed like the next coming just a few short years ago. Now he’s being mocked and derided as a guy who can’t win the big game. Well how many quarterbacks tried and tried before finally breaking through? Many. Romo threw for nearly 3,500 yards and 26 TDs last season and missed three games. The offense this season is much the same, but people seem to think Romo is in for a down year because Owens is gone. Really? The guy led the league in drops and was a huge suction on the offense because he demanded the ball. Romo will likely feel more free to run the offense the way he wants to and should continue to put up big numbers with the components around him. Look for close to 3,800 yards and 28 TDs.
RB: There’s a lot of options here. Marion Barber is a bull; Felix Jones is the big-play threat out of the backfield; and Tashard Choice can do a little bit of everything and will likely spell Barber for about 7-8 carries a game. Barber is a threat to go for 100 total yards and a TD per game, but his health is the major question mark. He missed one whole game and played sparingly in two others last season, his first season as the No. 1 guy in the backfield. He takes a lot of punishment because of his running style so I’d expect him to miss at least two games this season, downgrading his numbers to 1,400/14. Those are still good numbers and he wouldn’t be a bad pick in the early second round. Jones is quick and elusive and could score 4-5 TDs on plays over 30 yards or more. He’s not going to get any goal-line carries; that’s Barber’s job. Before he was shelved with hamstring and toe injuries, Jones was averaging 8.9 yards per carry last season. He’ll probably touch the ball 10-12 times a game and average 50-60 yards per game and 6-7 TDs this season. He’s got high potential, though, so don’t let him fall too far in your draft. Choice is really only valuable if Barber misses a number of games. In the three games Barber was either out or ineffective, Choice totaled 424 yards and scored twice. So basically Choice makes a good handcuff pick or a guy you want to grab if you have no faith in Barber.
WR: I’m a little surprised at the complete lack of faith in Roy Williams. Sure he was a train wreck in his 10 games with Dallas last season, but he was learning a new offense on the run and was playing second banana to Owens’ craziness. Williams put up decent numbers with a terrible quarterback in Detroit, including 2006 when he had 1310 yards and 7 TDs. So has the guy just lost it? I don’t think so. I think now that he’s the alpha dog again and can build a repoire with Romo throughout training camp I think he can put up some of those big numbers again. Now he’s not going to put astronomical numbers – this offense has too many weapons – but he could post a 1,200/9 season and for where you can grab him that’s not bad. Patrick Crayton, Sam Hurd and Miles Austin are battling it out for the No. 2 spot, with Crayton the leader in experience, Austin the leader in big-play ability and Hurd more of a sure-hands guy. Expect Crayton to win the job, but don’t expect big numbers from any of these guys unless Williams is injured. If I could pick any, though, I’d say Austin has the biggest potential of the group.
TE: Jason Witten is an elite tight end and should post big numbers, especially with Owens gone. No longer will Owens be demanding the ball in the red zone, leaving Witten to gobble up more of those throws. That said don’t put Witten at the top of your TE draft board. He does have a history of injuries and Martellus Bennett will poach some of his scores. This is the rare team that has two good tight ends. Bennett apparently has been strong in camp and will see plenty of playing time in double tight end sets. Mark Witten down for 800/7 and Bennett for 400/4, which means Bennett is probably the pick here. You can likely get him for a song late in the draft and if Witten goes down he could easily be a top-5 tight end.
DEF: The Cowboys seem to have gone to a more blue-collar approach on defense and that could serve them well on the field but not so much in fantasy. The Cowboys led the league in sacks last season (59), but they also gave too many big plays and surrendered a ton of points (22.8 ppg) and didn’t force too many turnovers (22). The only thing that will likely change this season is a drop in sacks and maybe a few more turnovers. But don’t pick this unit as a No. 1 defense.