Dallas Cowboys 2021 Fantasy Preview

Dallas Cowboys 2021 Fantasy Preview

by July 19, 2021 0 comments

Last season, the Dallas Cowboys had one of the highest-scoring offenses until Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending leg injury. Thanks to their high-scoring offense and horrible defense, the Cowboys scored plenty of fantasy points last year. In the offseason, the Cowboys signed Prescott to a four-year deal worth $160 million. In addition to Prescott returning, the offensive line should be healthy this season. Despite using most of their draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, the defense projects to be one of the worse units in the NFL. As their opponents march up and down the field on the defense, the offense will have to score points at a high rate to keep them in games. Let’s take a look at what fantasy players can expect from the Cowboys this season.

Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 Fantasy Football Previews.

Quarterbacks – Dak Prescott

Before suffering a season-ending leg injury, Prescott was on pace to break passing records. In the four full games he played, Prescott averaged 30.6 fantasy points per game. On a point per game basis, Prescott finished last season as the QB1. Furthermore, he scored three or more total touchdowns in three of those games. Prescott was also throwing the ball more downfield last season, posting a career-high 8.4 yards per attempt. In addition to throwing the ball a career-high 44.4 times a game last season, Dak was on pace for 5.5 fantasy points per game on the ground.

Meanwhile, reports are Prescott will be 100 percent for training camp and the start of the season. With the return of all three of his star receivers, a healthy Blake Jarwin and Ezekiel Elliott, Prescott has plenty of weapons around him. If the defense continues to struggle, Prescott will have to throw often enough to have a real shot at finishing this season as the overall QB1.

Running Backs – Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard

For the first time in his career, Zeke failed to rush for 80 yards per game last season. Furthermore, it was the first time in his career that Zeke averaged less than 19.5 fantasy points per game. Part of Zeke’s down season was his own doing, as he had a career-high five lost fumbles. The other part was the injuries to Prescott and the offensive line. Not only did Prescott miss 11 games, forcing the Cowboys to use four quarterbacks throughout the year, but the two starting offensive tackles combined to play two games. The question on everyone’s mind with Zeke is simple: was last year a bad break, or is he starting to decline? The answer is a little of both.

The injuries to Prescott and the offensive line played a massive role in his struggles. Zeke averaged a career-low four yards per rushing attempt and 4.4 yards per touch last season. With a healthy offensive line and the return of Prescott, defenses can’t sell out to stop Zeke like that did last season. However, Zeke had shown signs of slowing down the year before.

In 2019, Zeke averaged a then career-low 90 rushing yards and 19.5 fantasy points per game. It was the first time in Zeke’s career that he averaged less than 95 rushing yards and 20 fantasy points per game. Zeke also had two lost fumbles in 16 games in 2019, compared to three total in the first 40 games of his career. Furthermore, Zeke averaged 0.9 rushing touchdowns per game over the first two seasons of his career. In the three seasons since, Zeke has averaged only 0.5 per game.

With Zeke slowing down, Pollard’s role should grow this season. In the one game Zeke missed last season, Pollard got the start and had 18 touches for 132 scrimmage yards, two rushing touchdowns, and a career-high 31.2 fantasy points. While that game counted for 26 percent of Pollard’s fantasy points last season, he scored 10 or more fantasy points in three other games. In those three games, Pollard averaged 7.3 touches per game. By comparison, Pollard has averaged 7.4 touches per game for his career. Not only is he one of the most valuable handcuffs to have, but Pollard could also force the Cowboys to split the backfield touches more evenly. If Zeke continues to fumble the ball, Pollard could turn into a low-end RB3 this year.

Wide Receivers – Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup

Before Prescott got hurt, the Cowboys’ trio of wide receivers had played some of the best football of their careers. Cooper averaged 21.3 fantasy points per game over the first four games of the season. By comparison, Lamb averaged 16.3, and Gallup averaged 11.6 per game. However, Gallup was inconsistent game-to-game while Cooper and Lamb struggled at times with all the quarterback changes. Yet, despite catching passes from four different quarterbacks, Cooper finished last season as the WR15, Lamb finished as the WR24, and Gallup as the WR38. Assuming Prescott plays all 17 games and is 100 percent healthy, it is very likely that all three wide receivers finish inside the top 30 this season.

While Gallup is clearly the third receiver on the team and get drafted accordingly, should fantasy players draft Cooper or Lamb first? With Cooper dealing with an ankle injury, he might not be ready for the start of training camp later this month. While the injury shouldn’t be a problem for Week 1, fantasy players need to keep an eye on Cooper. If Cooper isn’t practicing, it opens the door for Lamb to take over as the No. 1 wide receiver. Cooper’s ankle injury is certainly something to watch for during training camp. If you had to draft today, Cooper should be the first Cowboy receiver taken. However, both Cooper and Lamb are late fourth or early fifth-round picks in 12 team leagues.

Tight Ends – Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz

A year ago at this time, Jarwin was a sleeper for many fantasy analysts. He was coming off a career year in 2019 with 31 catches on 41 targets for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Furthermore, with Jason Witten spending the final year of his career in Las Vegas, Jarwin was in line to take over as the featured starter. On top of that, Jarwin had signed a new long-term deal with the team in the offseason. However, Jarwin suffered a torn ACL on his only catch of the year in Week 1, ending his season before it got started. Unfortunately for Jarwin, his starting role this season isn’t as set as it was last season.

With Jarwin out for the season, the former fourth-round pick, Schultz took over as the starting tight end and produced for fantasy players. From Week 2 through Week 4, with Prescott under center, Schultz averaged eight targets and 15.9 fantasy points per game. However, in the last 11 games to wrap up the season, Schultz averaged 5.3 targets and 8.6 fantasy points per game. Between the two, Jarwin is more athletic and offers more vertically in the passing game. Furthermore, before last season, Schultz had 13 catches in 27 career games. Despite his play last season, Schultz isn’t the favorite to earn the starting job this season.

Regardless of whichever tight end earns the starting role, he isn’t likely to get drafted in most fantasy leagues. With the three star receivers and Zeke, the tight end position won’t see consistent targets each week. Between the two, fantasy players should find Jarwin more attractive as a sleeper, given the hype around him a year ago and his athletic ability. If he wins the starting job and shows he is healthy, Jarwin could turn into a waiver wire add early in the year.

Defense/Special Teams

The Cowboys D/ST was one of the worst in fantasy football last season, averaging only 4.9 fantasy points per game. They averaged under two sacks per game and had only 10 interceptions. Furthermore, they gave up an average of over 28 points per game despite playing in a division with three poor offenses last season. DeMarcus Lawrence was the only member of the team to have more than five sacks, while Trevon Diggs was the only member to have more than two interceptions. Despite using their first five draft selections in the 2021 NFL Draft on defense, they still project to be one of the worse defenses in the NFL this season. Unless you play in a 20 team league, there is no reason to consider drafting the Cowboys D/ST.

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Mike Fanelli is the Editor in Chief and fantasy football expert for Prime Time Sports Talk since 2018. He is a featured writer for FantasyPros. Follow him on Twitter @Mike_NFL2 and reach out anytime with any fantasy football questions.

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