We’re previewing every NFL team to get you ready for the 2021 season. Our analysts will tackle pressing fantasy questions and team win totals, in order from the squad with the least amount of fantasy relevancy all the way to the most talented team. Next up, the 2nd-ranked Dallas Cowboys.
1. Dak Prescott is presumably healthy and ready to start Week 1 after a devastating, season-ending injury in 2020. Most of our analysts have him ranked fifth among quarterbacks. What’s a more likely scenario for Prescott in 2021: Finishing as a top-two quarterback, or outside the top five?
Matt: A lock top-two finish is a lot to ask when Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen all exist. However, it’s certainly within his range of outcomes. Prescott was the No. 2 quarterback in 2019 and was pacing for another such season last year before the injury. The play volume, rushing floor, and upside of the offense is the perfect stew to mix an overall QB1 season. The only question we have with Prescott is about his recovery from the injury. Otherwise, it’s full steam ahead.
Andy: Prescott somewhat quietly finished second overall at his position just two years ago, in a season dominated by the Lamar Jackson experience. Dak was well on his way to a top-tier finish last year as well, pre-injury. I'd never put money on a top-two finish at such a loaded position, but I'm also not gonna pick against Prescott. Where's the fun in that?
The setup for Dak is every bit as excellent as it was last season and his receiving corps is absurd. For fantasy purposes, he's the best kind of rushing quarterback: limited carries, but lots of goal-line action. He should be drafted with confidence at or ahead of his current ADP.
Scott: The way probability works, outside the Top 5 is the bet. But I don't want to dissuade anyone from drafting Prescott. This offense has all the toys, and you're welcome to make him a proactive pick.
2. Ezekiel Elliott is our consensus 5th-ranked running back for 2021, even though there’s been silent (or loud, depending on your perspective) clamor for backup Tony Pollard to get more work in this offense. What’s stopping Zeke from finishing as a top-three running back in 2021?
Andy: Off the top of my head, here's a partial list of things that may stop him from finishing top-three: Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Alvin Kamara, Najee Harris, Aaron Jones, Cam Akers, Antonio Gib—
Well, you get the basic idea. Zeke's position is loaded with talent. It's also loaded with injury risk, a fact we re-learn every year. We also can't ignore his multi-year decline in both yards per carry and yards per game. Pollard has carved out a non-trivial role in the Dallas backfield,
Scott: The key here is that Dallas will play to the contract. Even if second-contract Zeke is merely a good player and no longer a god, he's going to get touches on a high-octane offense. I won't draft Zeke as early as third or fourth overall, as some might, but he's still a bonafide first-rounder. And to be clear, I'm a Pollard fan, too. But it's incumbent on us to anticipate what teams will do, and the Pokes are gonna ride Elliott.
Matt: If he’s completely cooked as a player, then that would be a big stopping block. I’m not of the opinion Elliott is that far gone. Even if he’s not the player he was early in his career, the opportunity is just too good here. The Tony Pollard fear is more of a manufactured hysteria on fantasy twitter than a reflection of reality. The Cowboys have never, not once, shown any inclination to cede Elliott’s work to Pollard when the former is healthy. This is the Dallas Cowboys — Zeke is getting that ball. Overthinking a proven workhorse who hasn’t shown a major decline and is the clear-cut bell cow of what should be a top-five NFL offense just doesn’t make sense.
3. Which of the three Cowboys WRs — Amari Cooper (16th-ranked WR), CeeDee Lamb (13th), and Michael Gallup (44th) — would you rather have at ADP, and why?
Scott: The Gallup draft price is a giveaway and it's recommended. If you have to have one of the vanity wideouts, give me Lamb, who's still on the escalator.
Matt: Michael Gallup is a total steal. He was running the most routes on the team during the stretch when Prescott was healthy. He was just seeing the highest-degree-of-difficulty targets among the trio. Dallas gave Gallup more short-area routes as the year went on and there’s already talk of moving these players around more in 2021 after some painfully static usage last year. Loving Gallup where he’s going does not mean you’re fading Cooper and Lamb at ADP. You’re just recognizing the massive gap between the first two and Gallup's doesn’t make any sense.
Andy: Lamb is a filthy steal at his current Yahoo ADP, nearly a full round after Cooper and outside the top-50 overall. He was off to a monstrous start last year while Prescott was healthy (see above), ultimately finishing as a respectable WR2 for the season despite playing only 64 percent of the team's offensive snaps. He's a ridiculous value, an obvious player to target in any format.
Dallas Cowboys projected 2021 fantasy contributors
QB: Dak Prescott
RB: Ezekiel Elliott
WR: Amari Cooper / CeeDee Lamb / Michael Gallup
TE: Blake Jarwin
Dallas Cowboys O/U on 9.5 team win total from BetMGM
Scott: I hate to be a killjoy because this offense could be Disneyland, but I still don't trust the defense, the coaching staff, or the front office. Eat your vegetables, and bet the under.
Follow Scott: @scott_pianowski
Follow Matt: @MattHarmon_BYB
Follow Andy: @andybehrens