About the only stable running back scene in the NFC East belongs to the Philadelphia Eagles. LeSean McCoy ran for 1080 yards and seven touchdowns. He added to his totals with a ridiculous 78 catches for 592 yards and two more scores. Sure, he’ll lose some touchdowns to Michael Vick, but he doesn’t have much competition from other running backs. McCoy is a solid RB1. . Felix Jones is the lead back in Dallas, but the Cowboys fully expect to share the workload. Tashard Choice and rookie DeMarco Murray will be in the mix, but they probably won’t do enough for fantasy teams barring injury. Jones is best suited as an RB3 at this point. Marion Barber III is unlikely to return gone. . Ahmad Bradshaw is in limbo until the lockout is settled. If he become a restricted free agent he will likely remain with the Giants. If he is unrestricted he’ll go to the highest bidder. I like his prospects better if he stays with the G-Men, but I wouldn’t shy away from him if he bolts. Bradshaw is a solid RB2 regardless. Brandon Jacobs is also in limbo. The Giants could ask him to take a paycut. Whether or not he’ll be willing to do so will determine his fantasy worth. Like Bradshaw I like Jacobs better if he returns to the Giants. He’s a solid RB3 that would get a boost in value if Bradshaw leaves. .
Then there’s Washington. Ryan Torain had some moments last year, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. He’s a big risk that should probably be no better than a RB4. Torain will have to share the load with rookie Roy Helu, who has a good chance of becoming the most productive of his class this year. Clinton Portis is unlikely to return. . .
The NFC East has three established quarterbacks and one messy situation. . Michael Vick is the number one fantasy quarterback in the division. He’s a bit of a risk in part because of injuries and in part because he’s never had a season like last year. He has the tools to succeed and the weapons around him to flourish, but we won’t know if he still has the drive to be a better quarterback. He’s easily a top tier QB1, but he has more risk than the likes of Rodgers, Brees, Brady, and Manning. Kevin Kolb is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league. He could find himself traded, possibly to Arizona. He makes a decent QB2 if he’s a starter. . Tony Romo put up big numbers when he is healthy. Dez Bryant is immature, but he gives Romo another quality weapon. He’s averaged 2699.5 yards and 1.9 touchdown passes per game over the past four years (51 games). His lack of playoff success keeps him from the Brady, Peyton, and Brees discussions, but he is possibly the best value among fantasy quarterbacks because of it. . Eli Manning reached 4000 yards for the second straight season. Not bad for a team that historically likes to run the football. His career high of 31 touchdowns gives him an average of 29 over the past two years and 25 over the past six. He really formed a nice rapport with Hakeem Nicks and remains a solid QB1 if you want to address other needs or a high-end QB2. .
Then there is Washington. Donovan McNabb is as good as gone, which marks the second straight season he’s been sent packing. I don’t know if he’s a starting caliber quarterback anymore. Even if he finds a new gig, his fantasy days are most likely behind him. Rex Grossman could be brought back, but it appears John Beck could get a chance to show what he can do. This is a situation to avoid. Not only are the QB options mediocre at best, but they are running thin in the playmaker department. . .
By Cy Holt .
Michael Boley’s collarbone-breaking hit on Tony Romo might have been the best thing to happen to his fantasy owners this coming year. .
Why do I say this? Romo was lost for the year in week seven and underwent surgery to repair his shoulder. That could make fantasy owners look past him in their fantasy drafts. I mean why take a risk on a player who wasn’t healthy for more than half the year? Why risk a pick on a quarterback whose shoulder could be damaged and could affect his throwing abilities this year? .
Good. Let them think that… .
Romo is an absolute steal in the fourth or fifth rounds of your draft. In the first five games of 2010, the Cowboys quarterback threw for nearly 1600 yards and ten touchdowns. Romo averaged 18 fantasy points a game (ESPN standard scoring). Only one quarterback averaged more…the electrifying Michael Vick. .
Dallas QB coach Wade Wilson assured that Tony’s throwing motion was “back to normal”. He added that “he’s throwing great”. Wilson also stated that “his accuracy and acceleration are really, really good.” .
Also in Romo’s holster are three very talented wide receivers. Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and sophomore Dez Bryant. Bryant is also coming off surgery, but he is expected to return for OTAs (assuming they have them). And did I mention one of the top tight ends in the game, Jason Witten. Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice form a three-headed monster at RB, which forces defenses to respect the run, opening up the passing game. .
The fact is many people won’t be willing to take a risk on him. But I know I will. And hopefully it will pay off.
Fitz let a lot of owners down. .
Championship Week continued as the Cardinals beat the Cowboys on Christmas in a game that likely didn’t pull too many people away from their Christmas parties. .
Let’s take a look at how last night’s game will affect your roster decisions for today’s games. . Quarterbacks: Jon Kitna (115 yards, TD, two INTs, seven rushing yards) had a stinker. Not only did he throw a pair of picks, he got knocked out of the game. If you started him, you’re in trouble. You may have to take some risks with your remaining roster. If you used John Skelton (183 passing yards, TD, 23 rushing yards) had a solid game for those who used him, likely in two-quarterback leagues. . Running Backs: Felix Jones (88 total yards) was good, not great. If you were banking on a big game from Felix, you’ll need to look elsewhere for a breakout game. Tim Hightower (29 total yards) turned in a dud, and will likely yield carries to Beanie Wells (47 yards) in the finale. Neither are good plays next week. Marion Barber III (58 yards, TD) returned, effectively ending Tashard Choice‘s (32 total yards) fantasy run. . Wide Receivers: Miles Austin (115 yards, TD) did his thing. Not quite enough to alter lineup plans, but he’ll make up for ground for those who didn’t meet their projections. Larry Fitzgerald (26 yards) had just one catch. He wasn’t even on Skelton’s radar as he had just three targets. Steve Breaston did not even catch a pass. Andre Roberts (110 yards, TD) stole the show, but was not in many lineups. Roy Williams was a non-factor. . Tight Ends: Jason Witten (45 yards, TD) did not have one of his monster weeks, but he was good enough, especially in PPR leagues.. . Kickers: David Buehler did not take the day off as he kicked two long field goals (42, 53) and twp PATs. Hopefully his missed PAT does not cost you. Jay Feely had three PATs through three quarters before delivering with two long field goals (49, 48) for the Cardinals and fantasy owners alike. . Defenses: Arizona gave up 26 points, but returned both of Dallas’ interceptions to the house. Couple that with their fumble recovery and five sacks and you have a surprising strong performance. Dallas gave up 27 points, did not force a turnover, and had just one sack to disappoint once again. .
Image courtesy of Icon SMI .
That may seem like a silly question for a player that is tied for eight with 524 receiving yards, but after losing his starting QB, it’s something to consider. That, and the fact that he has just 50 yards in the past two games. .
He really has been hit or miss this year+. When he’s good, like in Weeks 1, 2 and 5, he averages 151.3 yards per game. Unfortunately, when he’s bad, like in Weeks 3, 6, and 7, he averages 22.3 ypg. That’s some serious Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde stuff. .
Besides losing Romo, Dez Bryant is coming on. He has three TDs in the past two weeks, which gives him one more TD on the year than Miles (not to mention the two punt returns he took to the house). Plus, Roy Williams didn’t go away quietly. He has five TDs on the year, though he didn’t catch a ball last week. Through in Jason Witten, who is averaging 77 yards per game over his past three with 2 TDs after a slow start. It’s almost like there are too many mouths to feed. .
That’s before you even consider Felix Jones. The Cowboys desperately need to establish their ground game. Jones has been more active the past three weeks, a trend that will likely continue going forward. . Obviously he’s too talented to bench, even with Kitna at QB, but if you are deep at WR, or play in a 2 WR league, it may be worth considering it. At least until he proves he’s more like the boon receiver rather than the bust. .
Also check out:
Miles Austin may have opened the 2009 season third on the Cowboys depth chart, but he finished among the elite receivers in the game. The real question is, can he repeat his success or is he a threat for a major regression?
Before we can talk about the future, let’s look at the past. Austin didn’t start the Cowboys’ first four games, picking up just five catches for 81 yards. In fact, in Week 3, he failed to catch a pass against the Carolina Panthers.
When Roy Williams suffered an injury, Williams slid into the lineup against the Chiefs on October 11 and never really looked back. He exploded for 10 catches, 250 yards and 2 TD. He followed that up two weeks later against the Falcons, catching six passes for 171 yards and 2 TD.
He finished with 81 catches for 1,320 yards and 11 TD. Among the successes:
The yards were third in the NFL (first in the NFC)
He was tied for fourth in TD among receivers, behind the leaders with 13 (Vernon Davis, Larry Fitzgerald & Randy Moss)
He was second in the league in receptions of 20 or more yards with 21 (Andre Johnson had 22)
He was third in the league in receptions of 40 or more yards with 8 (DeSean Jackson led the league with 10)
Few teams are stacked the way the Dallas Cowboys are. Love them or hate them, you have to respect the talent they have on both sides of the ball. Fantasy owners will be clamoring for the ‘Boys. Here’s a look at how they stack up.
Fantasy Playoff Schedule: Slightly Difficult They are very talented and showed they can win down the stretch. The next step is proving they can do it in the playoffs, but that has no bearing on their fantasy rating. Dallas faces Philly and Washington at home and Arizona on the road. While the match-ups are difficult, the fact that they play two of the games at home help. Weather should not play a role in the games.
Five Star Fantasy Options Tony Romo – He dates extremely hot women. When he’s not playing football, he’s an amazing golfer. He should be easy to hate, but his smile makes it hard to…at least until you face him in fantasy. He threw for 4483 yards last year with 26 TDs to 9 INT. He was good for a 63.1 completion percentage and a 97.6 passer rating. Throw in 105 yards and a score on the ground and you’re looking at one of the top fantasy QBs in the league. One that got another weapon via the draft.
Jason Witten – I’d like to see more than two TDs out of Witten, but he’s easily one of the premier TEs in the league. Over the past six seasons he’s averaged 81.3 catches for 936.3 yards and 4.3 TDs. Update: The Cowboys will make it a priority to get the ball to Witten in the red zone this year according to the Dallas Morning News, which further solidifies him as one of the premier fantasy TEs to target this year.
Four Star Fantasy Options Felix Jones – If the Cowboys didn’t have such a crowded backfield I’d put him as a five star option, but he will have to share with Marion Barber III and Tashard Choice. That said, he is an explosive back that, when healthy, will help carry fantasy teams.
Miles Austin – Clearly he had five star production last year wit 81 catches for 1320 yards and 11 TDs, but he’ll have to prove it before he gets a five star rating from me. Especially when you consider the other weapons at the Cowboys’ disposal. He’s a big, physical receiver that can impose his will on his opponents.
Three Star Fantasy Options Marion Barber – Barber, assuming he’s healthy, will get plenty of touches. He’ll likely be the goal line back as well. Barber is leaner this year, which will give him a burst that was lacking last year. He’s a capable receiver and blocker. He would see increased value if Jones got hurt, but it would be a limited increase as Tashard Choice would be in line for increased opportunities as well.
Roy Williams – I know he’s underachieved in Dallas, but I’m banking on Dez Bryant’s arrival to push Roy. He only had 38 catches for 596 yards last year, but did manage 7 TDs.
Cowboys Defense/Special Teams - The Cowboys aren’t just loaded on the offensive side of the ball. They have a very capable defense. Unfortunately they have a tough schedule (Eagles & Giants twice, Texans, Titans, Vikings, Packers, Saints, Colts, and Cardinals).
Two Star Fantasy Options Tashard Choice – No team in the NFL can boast about a trio of RBs like the Cowboys have. The only thing keeping Choice for three or four star rating is opportunity. He can handle the load if called upon. Unfortunately he’s third on the totem pole.
Dez Bryant – He’s full of talent, but has a little baggage. Well, he came to the right place. Dallas can look past it, especially since it’s nothing major, and get production out of him. Unfortunately there will be a learning curve as a rookie. Not to mention a plethora of options he has to compete with for the football.
One Star Fantasy Options Patrick Crayton – Crayton is almost certain to have a new home in 2010. Depending on where he lands, he could easily see his value jump up to the two or three star range. If he isn’t moved, he just won’t get enough opportunities.
Martellus Bennett – Bennett would need a Witten injury to emerge, but he is a big, talented TE. In the least I expect him to be more of a red zone thread in 2010.
Two young running backs that will be moving up the draft boards as we prepare for the 2010 season will be Felix Jones and LeSean McCoy. Jones put on a show at the end of the year for the Cowboys leading to the speculation that he’ll be the primary ball carrier in Big D next year. Meanwhile, the Eagles cut ties with Brian Westbrook, which eliminates any doubt as to who will be toting the rock in Philly next year. The question is, given the choice, which RB would you rather have.
It’s hard to deny that Felix Jones is the more explosive back of the two. He has speed for days and has the ability to break one each and every time he touches the ball. He averaged with 5.9 yard per carry during the regular season and jumped that up to 7.2 ypc during the playoffs. I’d like to see him more involved in the passing game as he had just 19 receptions during the regular season and 4 in the playoff games when he was playing a larger role with the offense.
LeSean McCoy didn’t exactly light things up this year despite Brian Westbrook’s absence for the bulk for the year. He had just four games with 55+ rushing yards. He did supplement his total yardage with 40 receptions for 308 receiving yards. McCoy finished with 945 total yards (637 rushing, 308 receiving), 4 TDs, and a 4.1 ypc.
Both have a ton of potential, but find themselves in situations that are far from ideal. Felix Jones, barring a trade of Tashard Choice or Marion Barber III, finds himself in a three-back rotation. Even if he is the lead back, he’s going to yield carries and red zone touches. LeSean McCoy, at least at the moment, doesn’t have any direct competition. However, he finds himself in an offense that heavily favors the pass. Both situations have become the new model of the NFL. Passing and running back by committee are here to stay.
While I would be happy with either back, I give McCoy a slight edge.
Agree? Disagree? Let your voice be heard.
Click here to see my early 2010 NFL Running Back rankings.
My response: This is a little bit of a trick question. I’m expecting Felix Jones to be drafted higher than Marion Barber III, who will be selected higher than Tashard Choice. Clearly I am expecting Felix Jones to be the most productive of the Cowboys’ RBs. That isn’t the question though.
The question is which one will present the most value. I actually think that honor belongs to Tashard Choice. Marion Barber will likely be the short yardage back. Choice will likely be the one to spell Jones when he needs a breather. I also think if Felix Jones were to get hurt, Choice would be the one to replace him as lead back.
Barber still has some name value, and the potential to score double-digit TDs, so I expect him to be the second Cowboy off the board. Since his role seems to most in question, I think he’s the worst value of the three.
Felix Jones will be the first one off the board, but given the committee he’s in, I don’t see him standing out from the crowd of similar picks.
Choice, however, will be a late flier that could end up producing like an RB2. While I would rather have Felix Jones on my roster, I think Tashard Choice presents the best fantasy value of the three Cowboy RBs.