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USATSI

The Cowboys fell short of expectations late in the season, and they're going to look at least a little bit different with Mike McCarthy taking over play-calling duties from the departed Kellen Moore. Steel yourself for a step backwards there, though the loss of Ezekiel Elliott should be much easier to swallow.

2022 review

Record: 12-5 (7)
PPG: 27.5 (4)
YPG: 354.9 (11)
Pass YPG: 219.8 (14)
Rush YPG: 135.2 (9)
PAPG: 32.7 (19)
RAPG: 31.2 (6)

2022 Fantasy finishes

QB: Dak Prescott QB18
RB: Tony Pollard RB9, Ezekiel Elliott* RB22
WR: CeeDee Lamb WR6, Noah Brown WR58, Michael Gallup WR67
TE: Dalton Schultz* TE9
*No longer with team

Number to know: 10

That's how many targets the No. 4 WR, T.Y. Hilton, garnered for the Cowboys last season. This was an incredibly concentrated passing offense, with Lamb the only player with more than 90 targets -- Schultz was the only other player with more than 74 targets. There's no clear replacement for Schultz, with some combination of Jake Ferguson and rookie Luke Schoonmaker likely to step up; neither is worth drafting outside of deeper leagues, though it wouldn't be a surprise if one of them was Fantasy relevant at some point if they become the clear replacement.

The question here is whether Brandin Cooks can emerge as a legitimate No. 2 option in the passing game. Last season, Brown and Gallup both got 74 targets, and Cooks should be able to easily top that. However, Gallup also figures to be in line for a more significant role after he played 14 games and was limited for much of the season coming back from a torn ACL. If he bumps up to, say, 90 targets, Cooks should still be able to push over 100. However, if he's going to be a viable starting Fantasy option, he'll probably need to get closer to 120, which might be tougher than you think, because the Cowboys may go from one of the fastest teams in the league to one of the slowest with the switch from Kellen Moore to Mike McCarthy calling plays. Cooks is a decent bounce-back candidate, but by no means is he a guarantee. 

2023 offseason

Draft picks 

1. (26) Mazi Smith, DL
2. (58) Luke Schoonmaker, TE
3. (90) DeMarvion Overshown, LB
4. (129) Viliami Fehoko, DL
5. (169) Asim Richards, OL
6. (178) Eric Scott, DB
6. (212) Deuce Vaughn, RB
7. (244) Jalen Brooks, WR

Additions

WR Brandin Cooks, DB Stephon Gilmore, RB Ronald Jones

Key departures

RB Ezekiel Elliott, TE Dalton Schultz, CB Anthony Brown, WR T.Y. Hilton, LB Anthony Barr 

Available opportunity 

231 carries, 23 RB targets, 85 WR targets, 89 TE targets 

Rankings and projections

Award
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Jamey Eisenberg
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Dave Richard
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Heath Cummings
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Chris Towers
Dak Prescott12111012
Tony Pollard6667
CeeDee Lamb6667
Brandin Cooks43453937
Luke SchoonmakerNR302627
Jake Ferguson31NRNRNR

Chris Towers' projections

Dak PrescottPA: 533, YD: 3944, TD: 28, INT: 11; RUSH -- ATT: 48, YD: 167, TD: 2
Tony PollardCAR: 239, YD: 1073, TD: 9; TAR: 64, REC: 48, YD: 408, TD: 2
Deuce VaughnCAR: 48, YD: 196, TD: 2; TAR: 21, REC: 15, YD: 119, TD: 1
CeeDee LambTAR: 144, REC: 96, YD: 1253, TD: 8
Brandin CooksTAR: 112, REC: 69, YD: 819, TD: 6
Michael GallupTAR: 75, REC: 41, YD: 455, TD: 2
Jake FergusonTAR: 27, REC: 22, YD: 195, TD: 1

Biggest Question

Do they add another running back to the room? 

As things stand, Pollard looks like one of the best bets at the running back position for an incredibly valuable role. He was a big-play machine last season, scoring his touchdowns from an average of 25 yards out, and now he might get to be the goal-line back, too? Last season, Elliott had 19 carries from 5 yards and in, scoring eight touchdowns on those 19 carries. If even half of those carries go to Pollard, he feels like one of the safest bets for double-digit touchdowns in the game.

But they can't go into the season with Pollard as their only proven back, especially coming off a season-ending leg injury, right? This RB room feels incomplete right now, with Pollard backed up by Ronald Jones, Malik Davis, and Deuce Vaughn, none of whom weighed in over 210 pounds; which is to say, there's no one here who seems like a natural replacement for what Elliott brought to the table. Maybe Pollard will just handle that role, in which case he's a pretty obvious top-six RB. With Elliott off the market, that might be the outcome we see after all. 

One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

Sleeper
DAL Dallas • #34
Age: 25 • Experience: 2 yrs.
2022 Stats
RUYDS
161
REC
6
REYDS
63
TD
1
FPTS/G
2.9

At this point, there's little clarity on the backfield depth chart behind Pollard, so I'll give the edge to the guy who was here last season. Davis didn't do much last season, and there's little in his college profile to suggest he's a star in the making. But this offense has been pretty tremendous for running backs, and if he's getting 10 touches per game, he'll have some value, especially with some upside if something happens to Pollard. Of course, if we get to training camp and it looks like Ronald Jones or Deuce Vaughn are the primary backup, I'll slide them in here instead. 

Breakout
TEN Tennessee • #20
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.
2022 Stats
RUYDS
1007
REC
39
REYDS
371
TD
12
FPTS/G
15.6

The case here is pretty simple: Pollard is an electric playmaker who could be in line for one of the most valuable workloads in the league. We could be talking about 250 carries and 75 targets in a very good offense. What's not to like? 

Bust
TEN Tennessee • #20
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.
2022 Stats
RUYDS
1007
REC
39
REYDS
371
TD
12
FPTS/G
15.6

Well, for one, we don't know if Pollard can handle that kind of workload. I'm not saying he got hurt because he was used the way he was last season, but the fact is, we've never seen him handle 15-plus carries and a significant passing game role over the course of a 17-game season. And there isn't much wiggle room for Pollard if he's going to be drafted in the first round, as he often is. If the Cowboys do add competition for the short-yardage work, it makes his margin for error even slimmer. I feel more comfortable with him in the second round, and even there, it feels like there might be more ways for things to go wrong than for him to greatly over perform his price.