Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the first of a series, we will go around the league to evaluate each team's fantasy-worthy players. We start in the NFC East with the division winning Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys return all of their offensive stars from last season's 11-5 team which averaged 22.6 ppg while yielding just 15.6 ppg.
Most of the interest in preseason will involve how the running back rotation works out and the addition of a wide receiver with "star" talent. Whether rookie Dez Bryant lives up to his potential will be one of the biggest stories on this team from a fantasy prospective.
Tony Romo - Romo finished sixth among quarterbacks in fantasy points. He threw for 4,483 yards and 26 touchdowns versus just nine interceptions and ran for one score. Romo threw 550 times, the most of his career, accumulated the most yards and had his highest quarterback rating. Romo's fantasy value should continue to rise with the addition of more talent at wide receiver. The only warning sign is the 34 sacks he suffered. The team's only draft choice on the offensive line is a project (Sam Young - Notre Dame). Romo's backup, Jon Kitna, didn't throw a single pass in 2009 and that's good news for Romo's fantasy owners.
Felix Jones - When the owner/general manager says he likes you better than the current starting running back, you should expect to get a lot of the workload. Jerry Jones has stated that he wants Jones to get the ball more and that makes the starting job his to lose. Be careful what you wish for. Jones has never carried the ball more than 116 times in his NFL career and wasn't a full-time starter in college at Arkansas (he shared the position with Darren McFadden). His top effort as a Razorback was 154 carries in 2006. Injuries are a concern, so if you pick him late in the fourth round or early fifth (current ADP is 51), you'll need to protect yourself with either Marion Barber or another option.
Marion Barber - As a backup to Julius Jones in 2006 and 2007, Barber was a great fantasy value. When he became a starter in 2008, he was selected in the second round or higher and didn't live up to expectations. It was the same problem last year, he was just not productive enough for where he was selected. Expectations are much lower this year as Barber (ADP 70) will be a backup again. With Romo continuing to improve as a quarterback, there are less carries to go around in the Cowboys crowded backfield. His only chance of being a fantasy star again is through injury to Jones.
Tashard Choice - Choice has produced when called upon (5.3 ypc career rushing average), it's just that with two good running backs in front of him, he doesn't get many opportunities. That will continue in 2010 and unless there is an injury to one of the guys in front of him, he'll not see the field enough to be fantasy worthy, even as a 13th-round pick (ADP 153).
Miles Austin - Barely on the radar screen in August 2009 (ADP 152), Austin assumed the role the Cowboys originally had intended for Roy Williams when they traded a 2009 first, third and sixth-round draft choice for his services. While Williams' name can be found in the "bust" category, Austin won the 2009 TSN Best Bargain Award for receivers after posting 81 receptions for 1,320 yards and 11 scores. Even in the second half of the season when defenses finally began to focus on him, he still produced. Given that he's being selected in the second round (2010 ADP 17), he won't be a bargain this year, but he should give you "fair market value."
Roy Williams - In 2008, his first season in Dallas, Williams was a complete bust. He wasn't nearly as bad in 2009 as he scored seven times to help make up for his low reception total (38 for 596 yards). Still, the team selected talented rookie Dez Bryant and the handwriting is on the wall - he's not going to be of much value this season. Barring a meltdown from Bryant, I'm not sure Williams can even live up to his current low ADP of 137.
Dez Bryant - Bryant is currently being selected in the seventh round (ADP 75), which might be a little too high only because the Cowboys have so many good weapons to choose from. He's got plenty of talent and as long as he's not a disruptive force should eventually be a star. A great keeper league selection who will take over the No.1 role a couple of years down the road.
Patrick Crayton - Crayton's value as a fantasy player was always borderline at best and now barring injury or a trade of Williams is non-existent.
Jason Witten - The six-time Pro-Bowl tight end had another solid season yardage-wise (third among TE with 1,030 yards), but only got into the endzone twice which ended up dropping him to eighth in tight end fantasy scoring. He's still a top tight end, but the improvement at the position means you don't have to draft him early as in the past. With at least eight solid tight ends and a dozen viable options at the position, I wouldn't pick him as early this year. He's currently being selected at the end of the fifth round (ADP 59) which might be a round too soon. Jermichael Finley, Brent Celek, Owen Daniels and Tony Gonzalez can all be had for a lower round selection and will yield as many fantasy points.
David Buehler - Nick Folk and Shaun Suisham are gone this year and the job is currently being held by Buehler. He was accurate at USC, but has never made a kick in the NFL and currently isn't being selected in mock drafts.
The Cowboys defense is being selected in the middle of the pack - ninth overall. They were second in the NFL in points allowed, seventh in sacks with 41, but forced just 21 turnovers. The combination left them 19th in defensive fantasy scoring. They'll need to force at least 15 more turnovers this year if they want to be a top fantasy defense.