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Fantasy Football Today

Cowboys passing game could thrive this year

By Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer

The addition of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan could enhance Tony Romo's value in 2014. (USATSI)
The addition of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan could enhance Tony Romo's value in 2014. (USATSI)

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo continues to be one of the most polarizing Fantasy quarterbacks. There are those who recognize he's been a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback in six of the past seven years. There are others who feel he constantly lets you down compared to his peers.

It really comes down to value.

I'll take Romo's 4,305 passing yards, 31 total touchdowns and 13 interceptions, which is his average over the past three seasons, in Round 8, especially with his potential upside this season. The addition of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan could turn Romo into a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback, which he's only done once in his career in 2007.

Linehan was the offensive coordinator for the Lions the past five seasons, and prior to that he was the head coach for the Rams from 2006-08. During those eight seasons his teams have finished Top 5 in passing offense four times, including the past three years in a row.

While Linehan obviously helped develop Matthew Stafford (he was a rookie in 2009) and Calvin Johnson (his third season was 2009), he's getting more established players in Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. His only young receiver is Terrance Williams, who is entering his second year.

We're not expecting dramatic changes for Romo, who is also coming off back surgery in December. But if we're working off three consecutive Top 8 finishes as a Fantasy quarterback, with a coordinator who has a terrific track record of throwing the ball, we should see Romo's value rise.

Linehan could also enhance Bryant's game as well. He's been a Top 6 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues the past two seasons, and he compares himself to Johnson, who is the best receiver in the NFL. Johnson has been a Top 5 Fantasy receiver each of the past four years, including twice finishing No. 1.

It's easy to take Bryant at the end of Round 2 or the beginning of Round 3 in the majority of leagues, and he should thrive under Linehan. We'll also find out if Williams can be a breakout performer.

He'll replace Miles Austin as the full-time starter, and Williams flashed his potential last season as a rookie with a four-game scoring streak from Week 5-8. For the season, Williams had 44 catches for 736 yards and five touchdowns, but he could be 60 catches, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. We like Williams as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with upside. He's worth drafting with a mid-round pick.

While Romo is polarizing, his tight end is considered boring. Witten doesn't have the upside of Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, but he's as safe as they come.

This is Witten's 12th year in the NFL, and he's been a Top 12 Fantasy tight end for the past 10 seasons, including a Top 6 option each of the past four years. The stats don't blow you away – he had 73 catches, 851 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013 – but his consistency is hard to overlook.

The top of the tight end group is pretty solidified with Graham, Gronkowski, Julius Thomas and Vernon Davis. After that, Witten is right there and worth drafting in Round 6 or 7 in most formats.

Now, while Linehan didn't have the best track record running the ball -- the best the Lions finished was No. 17 in rushing last season -- he didn't have the best running backs until last year when he got Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. The good news is Bush (No. 11) and Bell (No. 17) finished as Top 20 Fantasy running backs in standard leagues.

That bodes well for DeMarco Murray, who is coming off a breakout season in 2013. Murray played in a career-high 14 games (he missed two with a knee injury) and set career highs in carries (217), rushing yards (1,121), rushing touchdowns (nine), receptions (53), receiving yards (350) and receiving touchdowns (one) to finish as the No. 7 Fantasy running back in standard leagues.

Linehan is going to help Murray as a receiver -- Bush and Bell combined for 107 catches -- and he should rush for 1,100-plus yards again. There's 1,500 total yard, 10 touchdown potential here for Murray again, and he's worth drafting in Round 2.

 
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