Fantasy Value of Dallas' RBs, WRs, Witten
Mike Clay has taken to the airwaves to host a Pro Football Focus fantasy football show on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio (10 a.m. ET weekdays – Sirius 210 & XM 87). In addition to his strategy and insight, Clay has had the opportunity to bring in beat writers around the nation to provide an insider fantasy spin on the teams they cover.
On Friday, Mike spoke with Cowboys beat reporter Nick Eatman of DallasCowboys.com. He gave us his take on the running back situation, talked about the wide receivers after Dez Bryant, and more. You can find him on Twitter @nickeatman.
Still Going Run-First
DeMarco Murray handled 450 total touches during the 2014 regular season. With Murray gone, will there by any philosophy changes we need to know about for 2015?
“I think Jason Garrett will tell you he never had any change in philosophy, but when you’ve got a guy like DeMarco Murray, you’re going to keep doing that,” Eatman said. “This year, they’re going to try to establish the run in any game that they play. Going into last year, those guys were set to be a trio of backs. This year that’s what they want to happen. But if a guy is going to break out, they will give him the ball.”
The interesting nugget here is that the coaching staff expected to use a three-man committee in 2014 before Murray took over. Unless one of the backs can prove dominant, a committee approach seems likely.
Not So Fast On Randle
Let’s just cut to the chase here: Is Joseph Randle that guy who can prove to be the real deal?
“I don’t know if I can sit here and say that,” Eatman said. “I’ve seen running backs that come in after the starter and boost their average, but when it’s time for them to be the starter, they don’t succeed as much. He started two games two seasons ago when Murray was out, and he wasn’t a factor at all. He looks sharp in practice. He’s got quick cuts and an explosive burst that’s probably more explosive than Murray. But the jury is still out if he can pick up tough yardage.”
Randle started two games for Murray in 2013 in Weeks 4 and 5, but he also played meaningful snaps in Week 3. Over these three games, Randle ran for just 108 yards and 34 carries.
Wait, So It Won’t Be Lance Dunbar?
In a committee approach, there is usually a third-down back, sometimes known as a passing-down back. Early signs pointed to Lance Dunbar taking over that role, but Eatman doesn’t see things playing out that way.
“I think [Darren] McFadden might be more of your third-down back,” Eatman said. “Tony Romo’s pass protection is very important. We’ve seen Romo out for the entire season because a fullback missed a block. That’s something that Randle has struggled with a bit. McFadden will be better there. I think you might see McFadden on third down. Dunbar is going to get moved in on different packages this year, but he’s got to stay healthy. All of those guys have something to prove.”
Despite the fact that they were operating a high-volume rushing attack, the Cowboys targeted their running backs on 88 pass plays. Cowboys play-caller Scott Linehan has a history of getting his running backs involved in the passing game. McFadden has sat out the majority of spring practices and all of training camp practices, and his ADP has tumbled. If he does earn this role, he will provide value at his current ADP in the Cowboys’ offense.
“He’s Going To Be Tough For Fantasy Owners”
Earlier this offseason, Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley said that Terrance Williams has made a big jump this offseason. Will Williams emerge as the clear-cut No. 2 option in the passing game?
“I’m not sure Terrance is ready to be that guy,” Eatman said. “He’s looked good in practice. He seems like a guy who can take his game to the next level, but he’s got to be a lot more consistent. He’s going to be tough for fantasy owners because he might get one catch for 19 yards in a game. He’s going to be a head-scratcher all year.”
Over the Cowboys’ final eight games in 2014, including the postseason, Williams saw just 25 targets compared to 79 combined targets for Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley. And it’s not like they were all going to Bryant – Beasley saw more targets than Bryant over the final five games.
None Of The Cowboys’ Safeties Can Cover Witten
Another year, another fantasy season where owners are letting Jason Witten slide way too far down draft boards. You might change your stance immediately after reading what Eatman had to say about him. I know I did.
“[Witten] looks stronger than ever,” Eatman said. “If he’s slowing down, then the safeties for the Cowboys are slowing down even more. None of them can cover him vertically or over the middle. When he gets on the field, he competes as hard as anybody. He looks hungrier than ever, and he’s quicker than he’s shown before.”
Deep Dynasty Sleeper
“Dez Bryant is way out ahead of anyone else,” Eatman said. “I would say Beasley and Williams are right there next to each other. [Second-year WR Devin] Street in the next group by himself. I think its drops off considerably after Beasley to Street, and then even more after that.”
Street stood out during the Cowboys’ spring practices when he had the opportunity to work with Tony Romo in Bryant’s absence.
Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he covers the NFC East beat for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL.