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Team Previews

Cowboys Fantasy Preview

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: July 26, 2020, 5:43 am ET

2019 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 6,904 (1st)
Offensive Touchdowns: 48 (4th)
Offensive Plays: 1,069 (6th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 620 (12th)
Rush Attempts: 449 (8th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 190 (2nd)
Unaccounted for Carries: 9 (27th)


Coaching Staff

After a 13-year run as a coach in Dallas that included the last nine as head coach, Jason Garrett was let go following a disappointing 8-8 season that saw the Cowboys miss the playoffs in a weak NFC East. Garrett went 85-67 and 2-3 in the playoffs with Dallas. “The Clapper” genuinely badly underperformed as the head honcho and was considered by many to be the most risk-averse coach in the league. No. 1 in yards per play and total offense last season, missing the playoffs was literally unforgivable. Replacing Garrett is longtime Packers coach Mike McCarthy. After getting fired in Green Bay following a 13-year run of his own after the 2018 season, McCarthy took the 2019 season off and allegedly looked himself in the mirror and admitted he needed to give his coaching style a makeover. He spent much of his time studying the more modern offenses in today’s NFL and is expected to give his play-calling a needed facelift. McCarthy isn’t a sexy hire, but he’s safe and brings a Super Bowl pedigree to town. McCarthy retained Garrett’s OC, Kellen Moore, and Moore is expected to keep play-calling duties, though McCarthy is obviously going to have a ton of input into the scheme and it will ultimately be his offense at the end of the day. It will be interesting to see how the two coexist. On the defensive side, DC Mike Nolan was hired after coaching the Saints’ LBs since 2017.

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Passing Game

QB: Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton
WR: Amari Cooper, Ventell Bryant
WR: Michael Gallup, Devin Smith
WR: CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson
TE: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell


Fantasy’s overall QB2 last year, Dak Prescott started all 16 games for the fourth straight season to open his career. He set career highs in passing yards (4,902), blowing his previous best of 3,885 out of the water, touchdowns (30), completions and pass attempts, while matching his career best with a 5% touchdown rate. Only five quarterbacks attempted more passes than Prescott, and he was top-five in attempts of 20-plus yards, finishing eighth in passer rating on such throws. Prescott was quickly slapped with the franchise tag ahead of free agency and recently just signed the one-year tender, locking him into a $31.409 million salary if no long-term deal is reached before July 15. There haven’t been any indications that a deal is close. While he isn’t the favorite for the award, Prescott should be in the MVP conversation when all is said and done. This offense is loaded with top-end talent and a top-tier offensive line.

Despite a sleepy finish to the season, Amari Cooper set career bests in yards per catch and yards per target in 2019. And he routinely did it against the opposing defense’s No. 1 corner. Some of those corners got the best of Cooper later in the season, however, as he faced a murderers’ row of Darius Slay, Stephon Gilmore, Tre’Davious White, and Jalen Ramsey. Still, only Kenny Golladay and Chris Godwin averaged more yards per target than Cooper last year. Dallas wasn’t willing to let Cooper walk away as a free agent, keeping him with a five-year, $100 million deal after some competition from the division-rival D.C. franchise. The selection of CeeDee Lamb shouldn’t have a profound effect on Cooper’s role as the No. 1 receiver in this offense considering the Cowboys have the second-most vacated targets from a season ago following the departures of Randall Cobb and Jason Witten. Cooper and Prescott have shown tremendous chemistry in 1.5 years together with some truly astronomical stat lines. One of the league’s best offenses from a talent standpoint, Cooper has all the opportunity in the world to hang top-end WR1 numbers on the board in 2020 with improved week-to-week consistency.

A true year-two breakout star, Gallup essentially doubled his counting stats from the year before, going from 68 targets to 113 in two fewer games. After a 33-507-2 rookie year, Gallup exploded for 66-1,107-6 and only saw six fewer targets than Cooper for the season. Gallup averaged a crisp 9.8 yards per target and 2.16 yards per route, showing high-end efficiency as the overall WR15 in half-PPR points per contest, three spots behind Cooper at WR12. The addition of Lamb probably can’t be spun as a positive for Gallup, but, as noted above, the Cowboys do have plenty of available targets from last season with the subtractions of Randall Cobb and Jason Witten. Drops were a bit of an issue for Gallup in 2019, but he more than made up for them with some ridiculous downfield grabs in contested situations. He and Prescott are on the same wavelength with the quarterback showing big trust in Gallup. He’s a strong WR2.

Lamb posted a bonkers 62-1,327-14 receiving line during his final season at Oklahoma while also continuing to provide value as a punt returner. The Consensus All-American wideout saved his best for the biggest games, showing out in high-profile matchups against Texas (10-171-3), Baylor (8-173-0), and LSU (4-119-0). Lamb’s playmaking ability and ability to impact games from all over the field made him everyone’s top-tier receiver prospect, so it was a surprise to see him slide all the way to No. 17 overall in April’s draft. The rich get richer with Dallas taking Lamb and adding him to Cooper and Gallup in three-wide sets, which should obviously be the base look for the Cowboys. Lamb doesn’t have a clear path to high-end volume, but the talent and overall wealth of the offense puts him on the WR2/3 map, even if he’s playing third fiddle to Cooper and Gallup. If one of those two were to ever get hurt and miss time, then watch out. Something in the range of 80-90 targets should be a safe floor for Lamb as a rookie.

The overall WR38 in half-PPR points per game last season as the Cowboys’ No. 2 tight end, Jarwin is in line for a major leap forward now that Jason Witten has left town. His departure vacates 83 targets. While Lamb could be funneled a chunk of those, there’s more than enough here for Jarwin to produce top-15 fantasy numbers at the tight end spot. He’s a better-than-average athlete playing in one of the elite offenses with a solid set of hands. Even at his old age with the movement skills of a refrigerator, Witten was able to post the TE16 finish last year. Younger and better, Jarwin can do much more and is fresh off signing a four-year extension with the team. Dalton Schultz and Blake Bell will handle depth blocking roles.


Running Game

RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
OL (L-R): Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Joe Looney, Zack Martin, La’El Collins


Ezekiel Elliott cleared 300 rushing attempts and 1,357 yards on the ground for the third time in as many full seasons, though his receptions slumped from 77 to 54. He made up for the dip in catches by doubling his rushing touchdowns total from six to 12 en route to the overall RB5 finish in half-PPR formats. Only Derrick Henry carried the ball more times than Elliott last year. McCarthy wasn’t always an RB1-friendly coach in Green Bay, but the Cowboys have retained Kellen Moore as play-caller. Even if Elliott’s ever-so-slightly scaled back 2019 importance is his new normal, he will easily maintain a top-five profile at running back. Elliott has one of the safest floors in fantasy football while offering no shortage of ceiling. He may no longer be the most exciting pick, but he remains an elite one headed into his age-25 campaign.

Tony Pollard handled the rock 101 times as a rookie and remains one of the elite handcuffs in all of fantasy. He functioned as a big-play spark plug on limited snaps (18%) in year one, averaging a robust 5.3 yards per carry. Pollard is unchallenged as the clear-cut No. 2 in Dallas. He would be an elite RB1 instantly in the event Elliott misses any sort of time.

Dallas’ offensive line finished a close No. 2 in adjusted line yards created in the running game just behind the Saints. And the pass-blocking grades were similarly elite, trailing only the Rams in adjusted sack rate. While the loss of All-Pro C Travis Frederick hurts, this line is flush with high-end talent, even if stud LT Tyron Smith has taken some steps back due to injuries. Zack Martin is the premier right guard in football, and both Williams and Collins are young developing talents, though Williams should face competition from 2019 third-rounder Connor McGovern. Looney is the big question mark at the pivot, but fourth-round rookie Tyler Biadasz is waiting.


Win Total

Dallas’ win total sits at 9.5 over at BetOnline, and the “over” is the heavy favorite at -140 odds. This division is a two-horse race on paper between the Eagles and Cowboys, and both teams get a total of four easy home-away dates with both the Giants and Washington. Outside of the division, Dallas has multiple tough road spots at the Rams (Week 1), Seahawks (Week 3), Vikings (Week 11), and Ravens (Week 13) with home tilts against the Falcons and Steelers sprinkled in there. Still, Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis has the Cowboys’ schedule rated as the ninth-easiest. This team has the talent to win 12-13 games.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for NBC Sports Edge since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.