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Offseason Primers: Dallas Cowboys

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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If the only NFL game you ever watched was the Cowboys at the Giants in Week 1 of the 2012 season you would have thought Kevin Ogletree was the best receiver in league history. He dominated in that game with eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets.

As you can imagine, things kind of went downhill from there -- for Ogletree and the Cowboys. Dallas struggled to an 8-8 finish, and the Cowboys again failed to live up to the usual lofty expectations as being the best team in the NFL.

The good news for Fantasy owners is Dallas is loaded with talent. Tony Romo is a No. 1 quarterback, DeMarco Murray is a No. 1 running back, Dez Bryant is a No. 1 receiver and Jason Witten is a No. 1 tight end. They are some of the best players at their respective positions.

2012 Touches Leaders
789 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
DeMarco Murray 196 (161 car., 35 rec.) 24.8%
Felix Jones 136 (111 car., 25 rec.) 17.2%
Jason Witten 110 rec. 13.9%
Dez Bryant 94 (2 car., 92 rec.) 11.9%
Miles Austin 66 rec. 8.3%
All Others 187 23.7%

Now, the Cowboys have their offensive flaws. Romo needs to be more consistent, Murray needs to stay healthy and Witten needs to score more touchdowns. Bryant also needs to stay healthy, and Miles Austin needs to regain his form from 2009.

The Cowboys also need to replace Ogletree, who signed with Tampa Bay this offseason. Dwayne Harris is the likely choice as the new No. 3 receiver, and we hope he can have a shining moment like Ogletree did in Week 1 last year. We just hope his highlight reel is a little more in depth than just one week.

DeMarco Murray -- Bounce-back candidate

2012 Target Leaders
658 pass attempts
Jason Witten 147 22.3%
Dez Bryant 138 20.9%
Miles Austin 119 18.1%
Kevin Ogletree 55 8.3%
DeMarco Murray 41 6.2%
All Others 158 24.0%

Murray has a lot to prove heading into his third year in the NFL. He's battled injuries and inconsistent play through two seasons, but now is his time to shine. Murray is starting to look more like Darren McFadden than Adrian Peterson, which is not a good thing. He's already missed nine games through two seasons, and Fantasy owners are frustrated. He should be ready to go for the start of this year, and we hope he can put together a full season of quality outings. In 2012, Murray appeared in just 10 games. He had at least seven Fantasy points in every outing with double digits in points in five games, so he's capable of being a big point producer. But he has to stay on the field to live up to the hype. Based on talent, Murray is a first-round pick, but we would let him fall to Round 2 at the earliest. He should be considered at least a Top 15 Fantasy running back, and if he can play 16 games we could be looking at a Top 10 option in all leagues.

Dez Bryant -- Worth the price

Something clicked with Bryant midway through last season, and we hope he doesn't stop heading into this year. Bryant closed 2012 with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in seven of his final eight games, including playing the last four with a broken finger. His final stats were 92 catches, 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, as he definitely had a breakout season in his third year in the NFL. Bryant now has 27 touchdowns to his name, and he's set his sights on 2,000 receiving yards this year. While that's highly unlikely, he should continue to post dominant stats, and we consider him an upper echelon Fantasy receiver. Bryant should be among the Top 5 receivers drafted this season, and he could come off the board as early as Round 2. Most likely you'll draft Bryant in Round 3, but he should be a beast once again. He had just 138 targets last year, and we hope that number will rise. The one concern with Bryant is injuries since he also hurt his back last season, but as long as he's on the field you can expect tremendous production from this dynamic receiver.

Jason Witten -- Still going strong

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Tony Romo 60-67 overall
DeMarco Murray 11-16 overall
Dez Bryant 22-26 overall
Miles Austin 98-106 overall
Jason Witten 57-64 overall

Witten continues to prove he's among the best Fantasy tight ends, and he should post quality stats again this season. Witten had a career-high 110 catches in 2012, and he also added 1,039 yards and three touchdowns. This is the fourth time since 2007 he's had at least 94 catches and 1,000 receiving yards. The problem for Witten is his lack of touchdowns since he's scored more than five times just once since 2008. But that hasn't kept Witten from being an elite Fantasy option since he's been a Top 5 tight end four times since 2007 (he was No. 5 last year with 115 points in a standard league). Witten also has Romo's eye since he led the team and all tight ends with 147 targets, and we expect Romo to continue looking in Witten's direction a lot. He's worth drafting as early as Round 4 in the majority of leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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