The Cowboys won the NFC East for the second time in three seasons in 2018 and went on to beat the Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the NFC Champion Rams in the divisional round. Dallas’ offense struggled badly in the first half of the season, averaging just 19 points and 317 yards per game, but a mid-season trade for WR Amari Cooper helped gain momentum in the second half.
The trade improved the Cowboys’ ability to move the ball. Dallas averaged 371 total yards per game over their final eight games, better than the 2018 league average of 352 total yards per team game and a boost from a poor 317 total yards per game over their first eight games. Dallas also scored 23 points per game over the final eight regular-season games, an improvement from 19 points per game over the first eight and about in line with the league average points scored per game. As a result of the Cooper trade, the Cowboys did not have a first-round pick in the 2019 draft.
Key Departures:Cole Beasley, WR; Geoff Swaim, TE
Key Acquisitions:Jason Witten, TE; Randall Cobb, WR; Robert Quinn, DE
Dallas’ most notable offseason acquisition is the return of Witten, who came out of retirement after just one season. Witten’s return will help boost the offense, as Dallas did not have a solid two-way tight end last season who could both block and threaten in the passing game. Witten made the Pro Bowl in 2017, his most recent season. His 87 targets ranked eighth at TE that year, catching 63 passes, seventh most at TE, for 560 yards and five TDs.
Cobb, who will replace the departed Beasley in the slot, is also a notable signing for the Cowboys’ passing game. Cobb was injured for large parts of 2018 and played in just nine games with the Packers, but is a candidate to be a significant part of the offense provided he can stay healthy.
C Travis Frederick’s return is also notable. Frederick missed the entire 2018 season dealing with an autoimmune nerve illness, but if he is healthy for 2019, he is one of the best centers in the league and will help anchor the Cowboys’ offensive line. Frederick made the Pro Bowl in four straight seasons prior to his illness and was named First-Team All Pro in 2016.
2019 Fantasy MVP
Ezekiel Elliott, RBElliott is one of the best backs in the league and is the focal point of the Dallas offense. Elliot led the league in touches in 2018 with 381 and ranked second in yards from scrimmage with 2,001. He was first in rushing attempts with 301, carrying for a league-best 1,434 yards and scoring six rushing TDs.
Elliott also was significantly more involved in the Cowboys’ passing game than previous seasons. After combining for a total of 77 targets and 58 receptions over his first two seasons, Elliott got 95 targets and caught 77 passes in 2018, nearly triple his receiving output from 2017. Elliott’s 95 targets and 77 receptions both ranked fifth most at RB, and his 567 receiving yards ranked eighth at RB.
If Frederick is healthy and able to return to form, the offensive line blocking for Elliott is a candidate to perform better than they did last season. With Elliott’s huge volume in the offense, he carries one of the safest floors and highest ceilings among all fantasy options.
2019 Fantasy LVP
Randall Cobb, WRCobb is an injury risk, having played just one full season over his last three seasons, and has been hampered with nagging lower-body injuries even when taking the field. With second-year WR Michael Gallup a candidate to take a step forward, Cooper and Witten soaking up significant targets, and Elliott taking on more of a role as a pass catcher out of the backfield, Cobb could end up sliding down as an option in the passing game even when healthy.
2019 Breakout Player
Michael Gallup, WRGallup, a 2018 third-round pick, is entering his second year in the league, a time when players can take a significant leap forward. Gallup’s production and target volume ticked up towards the end of the 2018 season, and he peaked in Dallas’ final playoff game, catching 6-of-9 targets for 119 yards in Dallas’ divisional round loss to the Rams. Gallup was also targeted down the field by air yards at a higher than average clip, registering about 14 air yards per target in 2018, per the league’s player tracking system. Gallup could emerge as a deep-threat for QB Dak Prescott.
Final ThoughtsThe Cowboys’ offense looks like it will be dramatically improved from this time last season. Frederick is expected to be back anchoring the offensive line, which may create more time to let plays develop for Prescott and more running room for Elliott. Cooper will have a full offseason to further gel in the Cowboys’ offense, and Witten is returning to boost a TE unit that was unproductive last season. Dallas will be a strong candidate to have multiple fruitful fantasy options, led by Elliott and Cooper.
Prescott is also a candidate to take a step forward as a fantasy QB with more weapons. Prescott played better once Cooper was traded for, posting a 103.4 QB rating while passing for 278 yards per game over his final eight games with Cooper in the lineup, improvements from an 88.9 QB rating and 208 yards per game over his first eight games.
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