2017 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Updating the Cowboys' Fantasy expectations with Ezekiel Elliott suspended

The Cowboys were supposed to be the easiest team to analyze in the NFL. Ezekiel Elliot was a top three running back, Dak Prescott was a borderline No.1 QB and Dez Bryant was an elite receiver. No one else mattered. Then Ezekiel Elliott got suspended and everything changed. 

Elliott could very well get his suspension reduced on appeal, but for the purpose of this aricle we're assuming he's out for six games. How does that change the Cowboys' Fantasy expectations?

Elliott falls out of the top 12 running backs, but that doesn't mean he should fall that far in your drafts. You're not taking a zero while he's out, you get replacement-level performance. With that in mind, he's a good option in the third round in most standard leagues and an excellent choice at the 3/4 turn in a PPR league.

Darren McFadden is the next man up on the depth chart, and we've seen him have success behind this line. But Alfred Morris looked good in the team's first preseason game, and I would expect he'll get at least a small part of the workload. For now I'm leaning towards McFadden getting the bulk of the third-down work and Morris working mostly in short yardage. Here are my expectations for the entire offense.

*Rankings expressed below are in terms of expected Fantasy points. This is a part of our actual Fantasy Football rankings but not a direct correlation to my rankings. Things like injury risk, upside, etc. factor into rankings but they're not being talked about here. This is simply an expectation as the team is currently constructed.

Dallas Cowboys
PlayerExpected FPPosition RankExpected PPR FPPosition Rank
178.2#8265.2#8
156.8#14176.8#19
319.9#15319.9#15
106.5#36140.5#38
86.7#15152.7#13
104.3#56177.3#47

Breaking down the touches

If you read this article a month ago, you'll notice this news didn't just affect the running backs. I don't expect the combination of McFadden and Morris will be near as effective as Ezekiel Elliott, which should mean more pass attempts for Dak Prescott and more targets to distribute.

Assuming the suspension holds at six games, I'm giving Prescott and extra 20 attempts (approximately three and a half per game). That's a small boost for Dez Bryant as well, who is now a clear top-10 receiver in both formats. 

Cowboys Touches
Player RuSHARE RuATT ReSHARE TGT REC TOTAL TD
Ezekiel Elliott 45% 1956% 31 20 8
Darren McFadden 26% 1408% 45 34 5
Dez Bryant 0% 0 25% 131 87 9
Cole Beasley 0% 0 19% 102 73 4
Terrance Williams 0% 0 12% 62 37 4
Jason Witten 0% 0 18% 95 66 4

Of note:

  • Beasley saw a target explosion without Dez Bryant last year, but he also made a connection with Prescott. He'll keep some of that target increase.
  • Witten's usefulness is limited almost entirely to PPR.

The Leftovers

As I tried to say at the top, we have no guarantee that Darren McFadden gets a full workload. Both Alfred Morris and Rod Smith could be interesting guys to watch for the remainder of the preseason. Either would be an acceptable late-round pick in a deep best ball league.

The less other interesting backup situation is at tight end. Witten plays through everything, but at his age the odds of an injury keep increasing. Rico Gathers is a former basketball player, but there's been plenty of buzz about his athleticism, and the Cowboys are excited about it. If Witten were to suffer a serious injury, Gathers would be a guy to target on the waiver wire. 

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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