The 2016 NFL season kicks off on Thursday when the Panthers take on the Broncos in a Super Bowl 50 rematch. At the same time, fantasy football season is officially starting again. In fact, many fantasy football players have already drafted their rosters and set their lineups for week one.
The Dallas Cowboys have two players in particular that are hot commodities in the fantasy football world: running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Dez Bryant. Elliott and Bryant are expected to be cornerstone players for each fantasy footballer’s roster, but there are several other players who could warrant a roster spot this season such as wide receiver Cole Beasley, tight end Jason Witten, wide receiver Terrance Williams, running back Alfred Morris, and quarterback Dak Prescott. Each of these players can play a key role for the Cowboys in 2016. So without further ado, here is how I view each of these players on the the current Cowboys roster in terms of Fantasy Football value.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB)
The most valuable player on the Dallas Cowboys for fantasy football is undoubtedly the rookie running back out of Ohio State, Ezekiel Elliott. Rookies are always a wild card in fantasy football, but this situation is different. Elliott walks in as an immediate three-down back, giving him the volume to become a safe, reliable option on a roster, but he will also be running behind the best offensive line in the league. Combine all of that with his talent and ability to make plays as a receiver, Elliott is a top running back option in PPR and standard scoring leagues. In a dynasty format, there are only a handful of drafts where he does not get selected in the top three or five picks. With Romo out of action, this team will rely heavily on their running game to control the game flow, again giving Elliott every chance he needs to have a spectacular season.
Value: Top 5 pick in any format
Dez Bryant (WR)
Since Tony Romo was diagnosed with a broken bone in his back, the biggest loser to many in terms of fantasy football value was wide receiver Dez Bryant. The chemistry and connection that Bryant has with Romo is unparalleled, but with Romo out of action, a lot of fantasy football players are souring on the All-Pro wide receiver for the upcoming season. His ADP went from being a late first round pick in mostly any format to someone you can safely bet on being there in the middle of the second round. In my opinion, the consensus of drafters are wrong. A rookie quarterback in Dak Prescott will not produce better numbers than Tony Romo, but I believe the target share for Dez Bryant will increase as a result of this change. I believe that a rookie quarterback is more inclined to force throws to the team’s most talented receiver more often than he should, giving Bryant an opportunity to regain fantasy football stardom. In the preseason, it was apparent that Prescott and Bryant have already developed a rapport in the red zone, showing that Prescott is willing to give Bryant every chance to make a play one on one. Most drafters will stay away from Bryant because of the injury to Romo, but I am of the belief that Dak Prescott increases the value of a healthy Dez Bryant in any format.
Value: Late 1st round pick in any format
Jason Witten (TE)
Witten is one of the best tight ends of all time, but his fantasy value has been on a downward slope for the last few years. That seems odd considering he has not lost a step in terms of ability and durability, but the future hall-of-famer no longer garners enough targets in the red zone to be a reliable TE1 in standard scoring leagues. In PPR scoring leagues, I think he is a safe bet as a low-end starter because he is a lock to catch at least 70 passes each season. If you are looking for a high floor, low ceiling option at tight end, Jason Witten is the man for the job.
Value: Safe TE2 for standard scoring leagues, Low-end TE1 for PPR scoring leagues
Cole Beasley (WR)
The player that will suffer the most from Tony Romo’s back injury will be the team’s slot receiver, Cole Beasley. Beasley and Romo have a chemistry that is as good as any quarterback-slot receiver duo in the league, and as a result, he was a solid flex play in PPR scoring leagues. With Prescott now at the helm, I think most of the targets will be forced to Dez Bryant or the safety blanket in Jason Witten. I have said before that Beasley is not the same player without Romo, and only time will tell if he can develop a chemistry with Dak Prescott to stay fantasy relevant.
Value: Late round option in deep PPR scoring leagues
Alfred Morris (RB)
With Dallas taking Ezekiel Elliott in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft, Alfred Morris will play second-fiddle to the rookie, but that does not mean he will be fantasy irrelevant. The Cowboys will want to control the game flow as much as they can with the running game because of their holes on defense, especially with Tony Romo out of action. That means the running backs on this roster each get a boost in terms of volume. Morris is a must-draft for any Ezekiel Elliott owner as a handcuff, but in standard scoring leagues, he could be a stand-alone flex play as a goal line vulture. He has already proved his worth in training camp as well as the preseason, and I believe he could be a steal in the late rounds of the draft considering the sneaky amount of touches he will receive out of this offense.
Value: Mandatory handcuff for Ezekiel Elliott owners, Late round sleeper in standard scoring leagues
Dak Prescott (QB)
The rise of Dak Prescott in the preseason has convinced some fantasy football players to draft him before quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford as a QB2, but I am not sure I can do that just yet. Sure, Prescott will put up numbers in the running game that will boost his value as a fantasy quarterback, but a rookie quarterback is always a risky bet in fantasy football. In my opinion, a QB2 should be someone deemed a safe, reliable option in case the QB1 on that roster goes down with an injury. I am not ready to put Dak Prescott among the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks in redraft leagues, but he should be a lottery ticket in dynasty formats.
Value: Waiver wire option in redraft, but a worthwhile lottery ticket in dynasty formats
Terrance Williams (WR)
Terrance Williams is most known by Cowboys fans for his body-catching tendencies, but he is a legitimate deep threat in a crucial contract year. His performance this year will decide which direction his career will go in terms of his role, and I believe that Williams will need to have the best year of his career to stick with the Cowboys. A healthy Dez Bryant will allow Williams to again play his role as a true complementary wide receiver in this offense. As an improved route runner and established big play receiver, I think Williams should have a roster spot in most standard scoring leagues.
Value: Late round option in standard scoring leagues as a WR5