Fantasy football draft season is fast approaching. Prep to win your league with SI.com's ongoing preview, including team-by-team breakdowns that examine each club's key fantasy storyline and much more.
Key fantasy storyline
People love to hate Tony Romo. Part of that stems from the fact that people love to hate the Cowboys in general. Part of it is the still-lingering Schadenfreude from Romo's botched hold on a chip-shot field goal way back in the 2007 playoffs against the Seahawks. Part of it is the somewhat-inflated notion that he has failed in big moments. And while I agree that he has left something to be desired when the Cowboys have needed him most, I also know this about Tony Romo: Thanks to everything listed above, he's one of the most underrated fantasy quarterbacks this year.
Since winning the NFC East in 2009, the Cowboys have been one of the most disappointing franchises in the league. With Romo at the helm, the Cowboys have gone 17-21 the past three seasons (he missed the last 10 games of the 2010 season with a broken clavicle). But how much of that has been his fault? And, more importantly for our purposes here, hasn't he still been a pretty darn good fantasy quarterback anyway?
The answers to those two questions are: "Not too much," and "Yes, yes indeed he has." In those 38 games, Romo has thrown for 10,692 yards, 70 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. He has completed 66.4 percent of his passes and gotten 7.7 yards per attempt. For comparison, Drew Brees also has picked up 7.7 YPA over the last three years. Tom Brady is at 8.0 YPA, and, swapping 2009 for 2011, Petyon Manning has gotten 7.6 YPA in his last three seasons. Those three passers are pretty good, right? Sure, in real life, all three have Super Bowl rings, but that doesn't matter in our fantasy world. Numbers are what matter, and Romo puts up numbers that are disproportionately high compared to his average draft position.
Dez Bryant emerged as a stud wide receiver last year. Miles Austin is inconsistent, but he's also about as good of a No. 2 as a quarterback could have. Jason Witten remains one of the league's best tight ends. DeMarco Murray has the ability to be a dynamic weapon in the backfield if he can just stay healthy. The Cowboys had one of the league's worst offensive lines last year, and they did what they could to address that, adding Wisconsin product Travis Frederick in the first round of April's draft.
People love to hate Tony Romo. Let your leaguemates do just that. Then exploit their misguided hatred and grab fantasy football's most underrated quarterback.
|Dallas Cowboys' 2013 schedule|
|Including a look at how the Cowboys' upcoming foes fared defensively in fantasy last season|
Stats via FFToday.com
The NFC East is always a battle, and this year won't be any different. The main difference last year was that the defenses weren't anywhere near as good as they usually are, and that might be the case again this year. The Cowboys also draw the Rams, Saints, AFC West and good-but-not-great defenses of the NFC North (other than the Bears, who were very good on defense last year but lose Brian Urlacher this year). Based on last season's results, the Cowboys have a very favorable fantasy schedule in 2013.
QB: Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Nick Stephens
RB: DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar
WR: Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Dwayne Harris, Terrance Williams, Anthony Armstrong
TE: Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, James Hanna
K: Dan Bailey
|Dallas Cowboys' 2012 defensive rankings|
Dallas ushered in a new regime on defense, getting rid of Rob Ryan and hiring the venerable Monte Kiffin. Gone is Ryan's 3-4, in is Kiffin's base 4-3. The Cowboys also hired former Kiffin disciple Rod Marinelli to coach the linemen, and that's really the fulcrum of this defense. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are two of the best players on this side of the ball for Dallas, and if the Cowboys are going to be better than the unit that ranked 19th in total defense last season, those two players will have to get after the passer the same way they were able to when lining up as outside linebackers in the 3-4.
Under Tony Dungy in Tampa, Kiffin brought the Cover 2 into vogue in the NFL. While the Cowboys might show that look more than they did last year, it doesn't mean they'll rely on it totally. It does mean that they'll likely force teams to drive the ball, just like the Buccaneers did when Kiffin was there, and like the Bears did under another Dungy/Kiffin protégé, Lovie Smith. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr can be a strong corner duo, and a healthy Jay Ratliff could make a big difference.