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NFL Fantasy Football: How the Cowboys’ week three performance affects fantasy

The third preseason game is supposed to be the best preview of regular season expectations. So, what did the Cowboys show us?

Dak Prescott proved he was right when he said he was ready for week one last week, putting together another strong showing against Oakland this weekend. Among his 11 completions were six catches on six targets to tight end Jason Witten covering 74 yards and a touchdown. 

That wasn’t the most exciting quarterback development coming out of Dallas. Undrafted free agent Cooper Rush had an even better game. Well, it was a better game if you forget about his early fumble that was returned for an Oakland touchdown. From there on out, Rush went 12/13 for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

With his performance, Rush became not only the fan favorite, but the betting favorite to wrestle the backup quarterback slot from an unimpressive Kellen Moore. His ability to shake off the turnover showed poise beyond a typical rookie. 

Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott made an uninspiring appearance while the two men most likely to carry the load in his absence combined for 77 yards on 11 carries. The Cowboys say they are concerned that they have not yet scored a rushing touchdown, but they are going to be fine with or without Zeke. 

What did we learn?

There is no reason to feel sorry for the Cowboys if Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension is not overturned. Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden are both former 1,000-yard rushers and are backed up by Ronnie Hillman, who caught four passes for 23 yards and a touchdown. All three have plenty left in the tank. Dallas may still be the top rushing team in the league in Elliott’s absence. 

Cooper Rush got the bulk of the backup quarterback work, indicating that the Cowboys may be willing to make him the number two. The question then becomes whether Moore remains on the team or not. 

Other than Witten, it was primarily reserves receiving passes for the night. Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley each had one target, with Beasley catching his for ten yards. Apparently, Dallas feels they are ready for the Giants, too. 

An already suspect defense took a huge hit when middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens went down with a knee injury. Early reports are that it will cost him at least eight weeks. For all the hype around Jaylon Smith, who got through his second appearance in good shape, he can not be expected to take the full load in Hitchens absence. 

With concerns over the pass rush and secondary already filling the Dallas sports pages and talk radio, the Cowboys’ biggest defensive strength could be another weakness. If the Cowboys don’t plug some holes and figure something out, they will have trouble defending their NFC East title. 

Fantasy implications

Dak Prescott is looking just as good as last year, giving the Cowboys hope that there will be no sophomore jinx. With the trio of rushers filling in for Elliott, it is not reasonable to think defenses will go all in on stopping the passing game and challenge Dallas to run. I do not buy the worries of regression. Prescott is currently the QB14 in most drafts, and there are several riskier passers in front of him. 

It looks like McFadden will get the first crack at the premier running spot, although Morris got more snaps this weekend. Six games from now, the Cowboys will have difficult decisions to make when McFadden is a top-three rusher. They would be smarter to split the reps between all three reserves so none is too upset when Elliott takes over in week eight. Not knowing for sure what the plans are, I might risk a mid-to-late round pick on McFadden if I have two viable options for week eight. 

Because of the Cowboys’ early bye week, Elliott will miss seven fantasy games. If you are that sure about making the playoffs, he would be a huge boost late in your season. But you have to get to the playoffs. I can’t see sacrificing seven weeks of production by drafting him earlier than round seven or eight. If you can get both McFadden and Elliot, I guess that would be great, but I would assure my other starters were lined up first.

No one, apparently, agrees with me. Elliot is still coming off the board in round two as the RB8. McFadden is garnering attention in the sixth round as the RB30 and Morris and Hillman are not getting much love at all, down in the 13th and 14th rounds. Elliott’s appeal result should be public before the big draft weekend coming up, so we’ll see if his position holds up. 

Dez Bryant is healthy and that is good enough news for fantasy owners to pick him up in the second round as the WR8. Inexplicably, with a good quarterback in a top-third passing attack, Dallas’ number two wide receiver, Cole Beasley, is falling all the way to the 13th round as the WR61. 

Cole Beasley proved to be a reliable and trusted target for Prescott last season. I think Bryant will do well to end the year as a mid-teens points value while Beasley sits at WR49 on my board. It would not surprise me to see Beasley approach top-30 status even with the news that Prescott has discovered Jason Witten. He is worth a reach. 

Those other fantasy guys

Speaking of Witten, he sits as a late-round TE17 at the moment. It is possible that last night’s performance results in a slight rise. But he finished in the mid-teens last season without Bryant contributing much and does not score many touchdowns. He has some higher value in PPR leagues, but not much. 

Kicker Dan Bailey was a top-ten fantasy kicker last season. His current ADP of PK4 is too high, but he is likely to repeat last year’s finish. 

Avoid Dallas’ defense at all costs. Too many questions, suspensions, injuries, and holes to think they will be a good play any week. 

So… that’s that

Prognosticators have the Cowboys finishing anywhere from first to third in the NFC East this year. As long as they have to keep scoring lots of points to cover up for their defensive woes, everything will be alright with them in my book. 

We’ll be watching the Elliott suspension appeal and other fantasy related issues all season. Check back with RealSport regularly so you don’t miss a thing. 

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Pat Opperman

Pat recently retired from real life to watch sports and write. Look for references to games and events from ancient times as memories of an earlier Age of Sport tend to pop into his head.

NFL Fantasy Football: How the Cowboys’ week three performance affects fantasy

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