2020 Dallas Cowboys Fantasy Team Preview: Three 1,000-Yard Receivers?

SI Fantasy's Team Preview series from high-stakes legend Shawn Childs aims to break down the Dallas Cowboys to evaluate the offense, defense, coaches and everyone in between with a fantasy-slanted analysis.
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Coaching Staff

After sitting out in 2019, Mike McCarthy takes over as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He had a successful 11-year run (114-61-1) with the Packers, leading to nine trips to the postseason and a Super Bowl win in 2010. Over his final two seasons with Green Bay, he went 11-16-1.

Dallas made the playoffs three times over the last six years while compiling a 56-40 record. Last year the Cowboys offense led the NFL in yards, which came after a disappointing finish in 2018 (22nd). They also scored 95 points (434 – 6th) more than the previous season (339).

Kellen Moore returns as the offensive coordinator. He went from backup QB with the Lions from 2012 to 2017 to the Cowboys QB coach in 2018. Moore starts the year at age 31, putting him on a path to a head coaching job if Dallas can repeat their success offensively and make a deep run in the playoffs.

Their defense slipped to 11th in points allowed (321) and ninth in yards allowed.

Mike Nolan earns his eighth job as a defensive coordinator over his 33 seasons as an NFL coach. In his last three seasons, he worked as the LB coach for Saints. Nolan struggled over his four seasons as the head coach for the 49ers.

Quarterbacks

Dak Prescott (RANK - ADP)

The Cowboys pushed their way to second in the league in passing yards (4,902) thanks to Prescott figuring out how to make plays in the deep passing game (68 completions over 68 yards – 3rd and 16 over 40 yards – 2nd).

He set career-highs in completions (388), passing attempts (596), passing yards (4,902), yards per pass attempt (8.2), and TDs (33). Prescott passed for over 300 yards in seven games with four of those showings resulting in 397 or more passing yards. He finished as the second-highest scoring quarterback in four-point passing TD leagues (399.80 fantasy points – 24.99 per game). Prescott finished with seven games with three TDs or more.

His next step is improving on the road (11 combined TDs – 22 at home). Dallas has a stud RB and WR1, and WR Michael Gallup (66/1107/6) is gaining momentum.

The Cowboys even added WR Cee Dee Lamb with the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft. At first glance, I thought Lamb might not have enough chances to make an impact in his rookie season, but the loss of WR Randall Cobb and TE Jason Witten opens up 118 catches based on 2019 stats.

After scoring six rushing TDs in each of his first three years, Prescott ended with three TDs on the ground last year.

I dropped his projections back slightly (4,997 combined yards with 33 TDs and 11 Ints. Prescott has an ADP of 52 in early June as the fourth quarterback drafted.

Andy Dalton (RANK - ADP)

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Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliott (RANK - ADP)

Over his 56 games, Elliott gained 7,024 combined yards (125 YPG) with 48 TDs and 189 catches, which works out to about 21.0 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues.

Even with his great success, he’s still looking for a season with impact TDs paired with top tier catches for the RB position. His peak in TDs (16) came in 2016, his high total in combined yards (2,001) occurred in 2018, and he set his career-high in catches (77) in 2018.

Last year Elliott gained over 100 yards rushing in seven contests, but he also finished with fewer than 55 yards on the ground in five games. The Cowboys rarely featured him in the passing game, leading to ten weeks with 30 yards or fewer receiving. Elliott had over three catches in just six games.

Dak Prescott tends to steal some of his upside in rushing TDs (21 over four seasons), and Elliott doesn’t have as high of a floor in catches as the top pass-catching back in the league.

His Cowboys’ offense is trending upward, and he has all the tools to be a beast in all areas. Buy his steadiness while hoping for a career season—possible 2,100-plus combined yards with 20 TDs and 60 catches.

Even so, I set his initial projections at 1,794 combined yards with 16 TDs and 59 catches. Elliott should be a top-five fantasy selection in almost all drafts in 2020.

His higher ceiling comes from more scoring by Dallas and the Cowboys playing from the lead in more games.

Tony Pollard & Rico Dowdle

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Wide Receivers

Amari Cooper (RANK - ADP)

As good as Cooper has been in four of his five years in the NFL, his game continues to fade in December (69/1,090/9 – 54.3 percent catch rate) compared to September (87/1217/7), October (92/1,394/7), and November (103/1337/9).

In 2019, he was better at home (52/869/5) versus the road (27/320/3) since his games with over 100 yards receiving came at Dallas (6/106/1, 11/226/1, 5/106, and 11/147/1). Cooper killed fantasy teams in three other contests (1/3, 0/0, and 1/19).

Last year he didn’t miss a game, but Cooper did play through a foot issue. The addition of WR CeeDee Lamb does help his ability to see single coverage on more plays, but it also restricts his ceiling.

Cooper is a great player who needs to figure out how to perform at his best when the most important games are played in December.

His starting point for me in the projections is 80 catches for 1,177 yards and eight TDs. He projects as a WR2 in fantasy leagues with an ADP of 34.

Michael Gallup & CeeDee Lamb

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Tight Ends

Blake Jarwin (RANK - ADP)

Jarwin showed growth over the last two seasons as the TE2 for the Cowboys after riding the bench in his rookie season. Dallas thought enough of him to sign him to a three-year $24.5 million extension ($9.25 in guarantee money).

His best success in 2019 came in three games (3/39/1, 1/42/1, and 6/50). Jarwin gained 50 yards or fewer in all 16 games last year.

Last year the Cowboys completed 95 passes to the TE position for 900 yards and seven TDs on 126 targets. For him to be in play as a second TE in the fantasy market, Jarwin needs to secure 60 percent of the TE opportunity for Dallas. I set his bar at 51 catches for 561 yards and four TDs after the first run of the projections.

Defense

Dallas slipped to 11th in rushing yards allowed (1,656) with 15 TDs and nine runs over 20 yards. They allowed 4.1 yards per rush.

Their pass defense ranked 10th in yards allowed (3,576) with 21 TDs and seven Ints. Dallas allowed 6.8 yards per pass attempt with 39 sacks.

In the premium outlook, on defense you'll find write-ups for DE DeMarcus Lawrence, DE Tyrone Crawford, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Dontari Poe, LB Sean Lee, LB Jaylon Smith, LB Leighton Vander Esch, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Trevon Diggs, S Xavier Woods & S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

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Team Defense Outlook

Dallas has multiple upside pieces to their defense. They do have questions at cornerback while lacking the talent to create turnovers in the secondary. The Cowboys need to find growth in their pass rush to help close the passing window by quarterbacks. Borderline top-12 fantasy defense.

Free Agency, Draft, Offensive Line, Offensive Schedule & Defensive Schedule

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