Fantasy 5: How does Dak Prescott impact the Cowboys?

Jeff Ratcliffe hits Prescott, Thomas Rawls, Josh Gordon and more in today's look at the top fantasy headlines.

| 10 months ago
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Fantasy 5: How does Dak Prescott impact the Cowboys?

Week 3 of the preseason is in the books and we’re almost at the starting line. There was some very big news to come out of this weekend’s action with Tony Romo going down. In today’s Fantasy 5, we’re going to break down that news and discuss some of the biggest debates heading into the final weekend of fantasy drafts:

  1. How does Dak impact the Cowboys?

Dallas was dealt a blow this weekend, as Tony Romo was diagnosed with a compression fracture in his vertebrae in Thursday’s preseason game. The injury doesn’t require surgery, but he will be out 6-10 weeks. That timetable puts him back on the field in Week 8 in a best case scenario.

The injury thrusts preseason all-star Dak Prescott into the starting lineup for Week 1. A fourth-rounder, Prescott has been one of the biggest surprises of the preseason, posting 454 yards and five scores through the air to go along with 53 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

While it isn’t ideal to enter the season with a rookie signal caller under center, this isn’t nearly as bad as the situation Dallas found themselves in when Romo went down last season. Prescott’s performance has been fantastic so far. Of course, it is the preseason, but things could be a lot worse for the Cowboys.

In fantasy drafts, Prescott’s presence doesn’t significantly impact Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, or Jason Witten. All three should continue to be taken at, or around, their current ADPs. As for Prescott, he has now crept up into the late rounds and is currently going 23rd among quarterbacks. Given his dual-threat ability, that’s a good spot to take a stab on him. Prescott will be an upside QB2 for at least the first six games, and perhaps longer. On the other hand, Romo is no longer worth even a flier pick.

  1. Who is the No. 1 fantasy running back?

This is one of the biggest debates following the news of Le’Veon Bell’s suspension. For a lot of folks, it really comes down to two players: Todd Gurley or David Johnson. Both showed flashes of brilliance during their rookie seasons. Gurley went over 1,000 yards despite only playing essentially 12 games, and Johnson was the top scoring fantasy running back over the last month of the season. But which player should be the top fantasy back taken this year?

Scoring format will certainly come into play, but ultimately the answer is going to be the same regardless of which format you play in: Johnson. Keep in mind that better fantasy option doesn’t mean better player. Gurley is a fantastic player, but he has a few things working against him. For starters, he’s really the only show in town in the Rams’ lackluster offense. Opposing defenses know this, and he may have so rough sledding at times this season. That’s not to say the big games won’t be there, because they certainly will. But Gurley could struggle with week-to-week consistency in terms of fantasy production.

The other knock on Gurley is that he isn’t as heavily used in the receiving game as Johnson. Benny Cunningham will still get plenty of work in third-down situations. Without those targets, Gurley has a lower weekly floor than Johnson, who is a true three-down back in a potent offense. While we could certainly argue that Gurley is the better football player, Johnson is the better fantasy option this year.

  1. Who is this year’s breakout wide receiver?

Last year it was Allen Robinson, but who is poised to breakout in 2016? Two players in particular really standout as breakout candidates at the wide receiver position: Donte Moncrief and Marvin Jones. Moncrief is an ascending player who is in a potentially high-powered offense, and Jones is poised to emerge as the No. 1 guy in Detroit.

We saw flashes out of Moncrief last season, but Andrew Luck’s struggles and eventual injury somewhat stifled his progress. However, with Luck back Moncrief has a very real chance of leading the Colts in receiving this season. TY Hilton is certainly the favorite to do so, but Moncrief has better size at 6-2, 221, and is blazing fast with 4.4 wheels. Moncrief was heavily targeted in this weekend’s preseason game, catching 6-of-8 targets for 58 yards. He’s currently going as the 22nd receiver with an ADP in the end of the fourth round.

Drafters can get Jones nearly two round later as the 30th receiver off the board. He signed with the Lions this offseason, and has turned in a strong performance in the preseason. Through this weekend’s games, Jones has 106 yards on five catches. He was also targeted twice in the red zone in the Lions’ third preseason game. While he’s in a 1 and 1A situation with Golden Tate, Jones has flashed upside in the past – he had 10 touchdowns in 2013 – and has serious breakout potential as one of Matthew Stafford’s top targets.

  1. Is Thomas Rawls an RB1?

There was a lot of excitement surrounding the former UDFA following his breakout performance last season. However, Rawls has several things going against him entering the season. For starters, we don’t really know if he is actually good. Sure, he was excellent for four games last year, but that’s an extremely small sample size. We’ve seen players flash for short stretches only to wind up floundering in the league (see: Brown, Bryce).

Beyond the small sample size, Rawls is still coming back from the ankle injury that ended his 2015 season. He’s expected to be on the field in Week 1, but he missed the entire offseason and got no in-game action in the preseason. Seattle may have shown their concerns in the draft when they selected three running backs, including spending a second-day pick on C.J. Prosise.

Then there’s Christine Michael, who has completely revived his career this offseason. He currently leads all running backs in rushing yards in the preseason with 157. His strong play has earned him at least a complementary role to Rawls and perhaps more. With so much working against Rawls, it’s tough to consider him an RB1. He’s better viewed as a mid-range RB2.

  1. When should Josh Gordon be drafted?

In the #AskPFF Twitter takeover event this weekend, Gordon was by far the most asked about player by far. The former top fantasy receiver finally got back on the field this weekend, and didn’t disappoint, catching two balls for 87 yards and a score. The touchdown came on a 43-yard strike from Robert Griffin III where Gordon made a nice adjustment to snag the ball at the goal line.

However, Gordon opens the season on a four-game suspension, which certainly complicates things for fantasy purposes. There are a few factors to keep in mind here. You lose the four games, so replacement level production should be added into Gordon’s value. We also have to acknowledge that there’s the very real chance that he’s a bit rusty when he comes back. Gordon is certainly capable of putting up WR1 numbers, but he’s best viewed as a WR3.

Right now the back-end WR3s are going in the seventh and eighth rounds. That’s a good spot to value Gordon. That being said, he’s likely to go earlier in any remaining drafts you have. His current ADP has him coming off the board in the middle of the fifth round. It may be tough to return value at that level of investment.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

  • Tosan Eyetsemitan

    I personally think Jason Witten is going to have a much better year than what he is currently being valued at. As most people know, rookie quarterbacks tend to rely heavily on safety blankets in intermediate routes that I believe will bode very well for Witten. Having shown his ability to still make strong plays in the midst of coverage as recent as the Seahawks game, Witten is someone that Dak from Day 1 will realize he has to depend on to convert on critical downs.

    More over the team is going to run the ball a lot and give Dak the ability to run pass option football which bodes well for Witten who will be a prime dump off target when Dak pulls the ball. While I do believe Dez will also have a great year and help Dak a lot, his needed development in going through progressions will create much more of a dependency on Witten as defenses will already be game planning for the resurgent talent in Dez who will undoubtedly draw double coverage. Witten was a top 10 fantasy TE last year and with Eifert and Ben Watson already hurt, I’m looking for Witten with added play at the QB position to come close to top 5 production