The Dallas Cowboys looked to be the clear favorites in their division and playoff contenders at the beginning of the 2020 season. Unfortunately, they faced severe defensive struggles and lost their franchise quarterback midway through game 5 against the New York Giants, derailing their season. Following the Dak Prescott injury, the Cowboys consistently were down offensive lineman throughout the season making it increasingly difficult for Andy Dalton and Ezekiel Elliot to shoulder the load on offense.
On offense, it looks like everyone will be back and healthy to start the 2021 season. On defense, the Cowboys saw some key departures in Chidobe Awuzie, Antwuan Woods, Tyron Crawford, and Aldon Smith. But they added Keanu Neal in Free Agency, maybe the best defensive player in the 2020 draft in Micah Parsons, as well as hitting defense hard in the draft with key young additions at all three levels. If the defense can improve and Dak leaves off where he started in 2020, this team could be serious playoff contenders.
2021 Fantasy Preview Dallas Cowboys- Projected Depth Chart
- Dak Prescott: Dak Prescott has been a stud in fantasy since starting in place for Tony Romo in the 2016 season with his worst season being QB14 in 2018. Every other season he has been top 10 (outside of his injured 2020 campaign where he was QB1 through 4 weeks) and was the QB2 in 2019. Dak is a stud and should continue to be so for many years to come as he is still only 27.
- Ezekiel Elliot: Even during a “down” 2020 season, Elliott was able to put together a season where he finished as the RB9. Outside of 2020, he has only been outside the top 5 RBs in 2017 where he finished as the RB13. With the offensive line and the rest of the offense back to full health, Elliott should have plenty of open lanes in the running game and a lot more scoring opportunities. Look for Elliott to be a stud again in 2022, but in dynasty, if fantasy managers aren’t contenders, during the season it might be good to sell high. He is turning 25 and going into his 6th season with a lot of mileage on the tires.
- CeeDee Lamb: If it weren’t for Justin Jefferson’s historic season, there would be a lot more hype going on for Lamb. He was only behind Jefferson in receptions and yards for rookie WRs, posting almost 1000 yards in 2020. He is a massive dynasty buy at the age of 22, but also looks to be redraft relevant as he’s already earned a WR2 finish. With Dak back, it’s wheels up for the Dallas WRs, and Lamb looks to take over the WR1 spot from Amari Cooper sooner than later.
- Amari Cooper: While his replacement is lining up across the formation from him every Sunday, Cooper is still providing low-end WR1/high-end WR2 fantasy numbers. Last season he finished as the WR15, and that only looks to improve with Dak back at the head of the offense. Cooper is still young 27 and should have plenty more years of fantasy production for dynasty managers, whether that is for the Cowboys or for another team following his out in his contract at the end of the 2021 season.
Keep an eye on
- Blake Jarwin: Most believed that Jarwin was primed for a breakout in 2020 due to the flashes he displayed in 2018 and 2019. Unfortunately, he got slowed down by injuries in 2020 and Dalton Schultz came in and did well in Jarwin’s absence. It’ll be interesting to see how this TE room plays out this season as Schultz did look good in 2020, but Jarwin was the future plan since he got the long-term contract through 2023. Although that contract does have a potential out at the end of the 2021 season.
- Tony Pollard: Either in Zeke’s absence or when Pollard spells Zeke during the game, he has been extremely impressive in the running or receiving game. When he has received double-digit touches, he has capitalized more often than not and put his explosiveness on display. He is a top-tier handcuff to Zeke and a player to absolutely keep an eye on.
- Michael Gallup: Gallup looked to be progressing nicely, posting a WR2 finish during his sophomore campaign. It was just unfortunate for him that CeeDee Lamb happened to fall in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Cowboys. Lamb is clearly more natural talent and it looks like the future of the Cowboys is Cooper and Lamb. But Gallup’s contract is up at the end of the season, allowing him to take his talents to a less crowded WR room. He can easily be a great WR2 for an NFL team as well as for fantasy teams.
***Note: All projections and discussions are assuming full PPR formats.***
IDP Analysis With IDPIggy
Keanu Neal, Tarell Basham, Brent Urban, Carlos Watkins, Damonte Kazee
Fantasy Football Starters
Micah Parsons (LB), Jaylon Smith (LB), Damonte Kazee (DB), Keanu Neal (DB)
The Dallas Cowboys put a heavy focus on the defensive side of the ball. Former Atlanta Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn, will lead the charge. He brought both of his 4–3 defense and his former safeties. The 2 safeties should have a huge impact on the success of the Dallas Cowboys. DB Damonte Kazee is poised to take a large role with the Cowboys. He is a 2021 starter with 199 career tackles, and 10 Interceptions including 7 in 2018. LB/DB Keanu Neal has 3 seasons with over 100 tackles. He is listed behind LB Leighton Vander-Esch on the depth chart, but Neal could be lined up all over the field. Not only will Neal be utilized like a queen chess piece, he will be asked to be a leader, a communicator, and a mentor for rookie LB Micah Parsons. Parsons and LB Jaylon Smith and hybird Neal will be backbone of this defense. Dan Quinn’s defense is strength through the middle. DT Carlos Watkins was brought in to plug the interior of the defense along with DT Neville Gallimore. This should allow Smith, Parsons, and Neal to roam sideline to sideline; racking up tackles and making big plays along the way. The Cowboys first 6 draft picks were defensive… let that register. 6 of the top 115 none the less. The offense and head coach are Super Bowl caliber, the defense needed to be addressed and it was. The avenue for the Dallas Cowboys to make it to the big dance is clearly set before them.
2021 Fantasy Preview Dallas Cowboys- Stat Projections
***Note Player Projections are only fantasy relevant players. Team totals may not add up as we left out players that may not have a significant impact on the season. Projections provided by Rich King and are based on 16 games.***
|Rushing Att||Rushing Yards||Rushing TDs||Passing Att||Passing Yards||Passing TDs||Total Yards||Total TDs|
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Image Credit: Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports