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Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is a must-start in PPR leagues. He has two more receptions than Wes Welker and Reggie Wayne will have to catch seven passes this week to tie him for the league-lead with 82 catches.
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With 7.5 catches per game Witten has been a PPR stud. If you’re in a standard league, his value isn’t nearly the same. Should you look for a replacement in your lineup?
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The problem with Witten is his lack of touchdowns. With just one score in 11 games he isn’t getting showing elite tight end numbers. He’s averaging seven fantasy points per game.
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That is a steady number, but a tight end that scores a touchdown in a given week would only need ten yards to keep pace.
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The past four weeks have been particularly mediocre with Witten averaging 55.6 yards per game. Clearly that is not a dynamic performance.
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Still, with as many looks as Witten gets it would be hard to no use him. He’s averaging over 10 targets per game.
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Witten has become the safe play. He had a couple of weak performances early in the year as he recovered from his spleen injury. You pretty much know you’re going to get anywhere from five to seven points from Witten with the occasional double-digit output.
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The big-time production has not been there. He has just three games with more than eight fantasy points. In just two of 11 games did he have elite numbers. In Week 4 he had 112 yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. In Week 8 he had 167  yards against the New York Giants.
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There are plenty of tight ends with more upside in a given week. If you  like steady play, Witten is your guy. If you like to swing for the fences, you will probably want another option.
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In a game that featured Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and a rugged Jason Witten playing through a spleen injury, the biggest standout in the passing game was Kevin Ogletree. He came out of nowhere to catch eight passes for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns. I know it’s not wise to make rash judgements based on one game, but it’s hard to ignore a game like that. Should you add him?
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In a word…yes. Forget about the fact that he had just 25 receptions entering last night’s season opener. Or the fact that he had managed just 294 yards in three seasons and had never crossed the goal line. He had his coming out party and you have to get on that train.
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Even if he never has another big game again this season, it’s too risky not to add him. Odds are your fifth wide receiver that you drafted doesn’t have his upside. If you have to cut him in a few weeks, so be it, but you don’t want to miss out on this year’s Victor Cruz or Laurent Robinson.
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Speaking of Laurent Robinson, it was his departure that led to the big game. Even though Romo has a ton of weapons at his disposal, he’s not afraid to throw to less heralded guys. Ogletree was targeted eleven times, which is just one less than Miles, Dez, and Witten combined, including the key third and long that helped seal the victory.
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The Cowboys have the kind of offense that can support three fantasy wide receivers, as well as tight end Jason Witten. They are a high-powered offense and when the big three command as much attention as they do, it’s not unusual for Ogletree to get overlooked.
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Plus, with Miles Austin’s hamstring and Dez Bryant’s knee there is a chance that there will be games with less mouths for Romo to feed. I’m not saying that Ogletree will be your lottery ticket to a fantasy championship, but he’s worth at least paying the dollar to play.
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Jason Witten’s lacerated spleen definitely has cause waves in the NFL community, particularly in Dallas and the fantasy football world. Thankfully the injury doesn’t appear to be too serious, but it could cost him some regular season game action. Should  you be concerned about drafting him?
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Obviously if you already drafted Witten you should be nervous. His draft stock should slip because of this injury so future owners will get him at a bit of a discount.  Players that took him pre-injury weren’t afforded that luxury. When your fifth round pick goes down it’s a little more nerve-wracking that your seventh or eighth round pick.
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In both cases you should relax. Witten is about as tough of a football player as they come. He is also one of the most consistent. He has only missed one game in his NFL career, and that came back in 2003. That streak could come to an end, but he shouldn’t miss much action.
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I’ve said this many times before, but I’m more concerned with what goes on at the end of the season when fantasy football trophies are being won than the beginning of the year. Yeah, you want to get off on a good foot, but the money and glory comes in the fantasy playoffs.
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Witten has averaged 88.8 catches and 1014.2 yards over the past five seasons. He is not a huge touchdown threat, but he does enough to satisfy fantasy owners, particularly in PPR leagues.
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Obviously drafting an injured player should come with some hesitation, but I would not be afraid to make him my TE1.
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Boser’s Tweetbeat –
Sifting through the hashtags to bring you the hottest trending Twitter topics in the Fantasy Football industry.
By Ryan Boser
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Clearing the Cobwebs
Austin Collie’s sagging ADP has sparked an impassioned debate throughout the fantasy community. Collie’s currently being drafted as the 20th wide receiver in early mocks, despite being one of the most productive per-game receivers in the league last season. Through six games, he was on pace for a tremendous 144 targets, and a 118CA/1,343YD/16TD bottom line. Obviously, such calculations must be taken with a grain of salt. But 20th? We’re clearly witnessing the power of the concussion risk factor. After those first six games, Collie only set foot on the field three more times in 2010. He was forced from each of those contests prematurely with concussions. Brain injuries. Three times in a seven-week span, Collie lay prone on the field as we held our breaths in horror. And so goes the dispute: Technically, one receiver is just as likely to take a big hit as the next. Conversely, the effects of said hit on a player with past concussions, as opposed to a player with a clean slate, may be very different. What complicates matters even further is that no two concussions are the same, and that we have no clue how many concussions have gone unreported over the last handful of years. Hence, formulating an accurate study for concussion recurrence rates is impossible. Ultimately, what we’re left with is a guy being drafted as a low-end WR2 who produced high-end WR1 numbers when healthy in 2010. Come draft day, how much weight should we be putting on past concussions? Is Austin Collie really more likely to suffer a concussion next season than someone like, say, Reggie Wayne? Right or wrong, our current ADP information suggests severe apprehension in drafting Collie. Personally, I haven’t had the cojones to pull the trigger on Collie in any of the five mocks (@TheDraftmaster) I’ve participated in.
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Smitten with Witten
Last season, Jason Witten had his most productive fantasy campaign since 2007. This offseason his bandwagon is brimming, as the common opinion seems to be that he can only get better when Tony Romo returns. Pump the breaks, folks. Somewhere near the end of Romo’s 2007 breakout season, the quarterback inexplicably began to ignore Witten near the endzone. Dating back to Week 15 of 2007, the road roommates have played 37.25 games together (Romo lasted one quarter of Week 6 last season before breaking his clavicle). In those 37.25 games, Witten’s scored just seven times, resulting in a disgusting touchdown rate (touchdowns/reception) of 3.5%. Enter Jon Kitna. The steam we’re experiencing with Witten was not generated until the 38-year old backup took over. In those next 10.75 games, Witten’s seven touchdowns equaled his total form the previous 37.25 with Romo. As a result, Witten’s touchdown rate spiked from 3.5% under Romo to 10% under Kitna. And while Witten’s looks (targets/game) and YPC didn’t experience much change, his catch rate (catches/target) shot up from 69% to 78%. Witten clearly flourished with Kitna under center, but Dez Bryant’s season-ending injury may have played an even bigger role. Witten scored five times in the Cowboys’ final four games without Bryant. Perhaps you’re beginning to see why I’m leery of Witten’s 2011 prospects. Bryant will be back, pass-catching back Felix Jones’ role is set to increase, and recent history suggests Witten is the latest in a long line of blondish southerners that Tony Romo has lost interest in.
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Future Phenoms
With the fantasy baseball hot stove heating up, and the NFL labor negotiations extending extended extensions, fantasy football speculation has been a bit thin in recent weeks. Amidst the seamheads and suits, however, the NFL Combine and individual pro days have provided dynasty league enthusiasts with plenty of conjecture. Dynasty guru Bryan Fontaine (@Bryan_Fontaine) of Pro Football Focus recently pegged his top five dynasty rookies for 2011. Of course, a lot will depend on where these kids land. With that said, here are Fontaine’s five favorite dynasty draft prospects to keep a close eye on come April 28th (in no particular order): Georgia WR A.J. Green, Alabama WR Julio Jones, Alabama RB Mark Ingram, Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure, and Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams.
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Ryan Boser has contributed writing and analysis for FantasyVictory.com, KFAN AM 1130′s Fantasy Football Weekly program, and numerous other fantasy football outlets. Ryan’s own website, Out of My League, covers both fantasy football and the Minnesota sports landscape.


Fitz let a lot of owners down.
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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.
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Let’s take a look at how last night’s game will affect your roster decisions for today’s games.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Tight EndsJason Witten (45 yards, TD) did not have one of his monster weeks, but he was good enough, especially in PPR leagues..
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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.
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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.
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Image courtesy of Icon SMI
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Also check out:

  • Week 8 Get ‘em or Don’t Sweat ‘em Waiver Wire Advice
  • Week 8 Fantasy QB Rankings
  • Week 8 Fantasy RB Rankings
  • Week 8 Fantasy WR Rankings
  • Week 8 Fantasy TE Rankings
  • Week 8 Fantasy K Rankings
  • Week 8 Fantasy DEF Rankings
  • Week 8 Fantasy IDP Rankings
  • Week 8 Start/Sit Advice
  • Week 8 Sleepers
  • 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.


    Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews
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