The Cowboys’ offensive roster is stacked for fantasy purposes. However, there is some uncertainty that comes with a new coaching staff and new weapons. We’re going to take a look at each fantasy-relevant skill player on the roster, starting with Dak Prescott‘s fantasy outlook.
Dak Prescott’s contract
There. That’s the only time we will mention the contract situation because frankly, it doesn’t matter for fantasy purposes. Prescott will sign either on or before July 15th: worst case, he will play on the franchise tag. Dak Prescott will be the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys come Week 1.
That fact should excite many fantasy owners. Prescott proved that he could be as valuable as any quarterback in fantasy football last year, finishing with 4,900 yards and 30 touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough to be the QB2 overall. Yet in mock drafts so far, Prescott is often the fifth or sixth QB taken, behind Jackson, Mahomes, Watson, Wilson, and Murray. His ADP is around the fifth round right now in 12-man, 1 QB leagues. In this article we will present five reasons why Dak Prescott’s situation this offseason has improved, making his QB5-6 draft status a good value. This will be followed by some projections for the upcoming season.
1. Supporting Cast
The Cowboys’ offense already featured some heavy-duty firepower in the 2019 season. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup formed a formidable duo on the outside, each breaking the coveted 1,000-yard mark on the season. Ezekiel Elliot had over 1,700 yards from scrimmage along with 14 total touchdowns. As of April 23rd, standout WR CeeDee Lamb will be joining this already talented offensive roster.
Read More about the CeeDee Lamb selection here.
Lamb projects to play most of the 2020 season in the slot, replacing the recently departed Randall Cobb. However, Lamb brings more to the offense than Cobb did. Lamb has the size to play on the outside as well as the slot. He also brings special YAC ability which Cobb simply can’t match. The trio of Cooper, Gallup, and Lamb looks to be one of the best WR corps in the entire league. Add Zeke and Tony Pollard in the backfield along with an improving Blake Jarwin working the middle of the field, and Prescott will have his choice of weapons to throw to all season long. His supporting cast rivals those of the Chiefs, Ravens, and Cardinals for best in the NFL.
2. Continued Improvement
Dak Prescott burst onto the scene in 2016, leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record with 22 TDs to just 4 INTs. He was widely recognized as a great new talent at the position. Popular opinion might say that Prescott has declined in play since his fantastic rookie season, but make no mistake: the 2019 version of Prescott was better than the 2018 version, which was better than the 2017 version (which was his worst year as a QB). This trend can certainly continue into 2020.
One of the main reasons Prescott could take another step forward is because of his work with Jon Kitna. Kitna was a driving force in Prescott’s improvement between the 2018 and 2019 offseason. He focused on implementing clean and efficient mechanics to help Dak Prescott improve his consistency. It is true that Kitna is no longer on the coaching staff. However, that is actually beneficial for Prescott’s development during this offseason. If Kitna had been retained, he would not be allowed to work with Dak until teams started their official offseason programs. Now off the staff, Kitna has the freedom to work with Dak throughout the entire offseason as a private consultant. This will allow the duo to build on their success in 2019, and allow Dak to take yet another leap in 2020.
3. Coaching Staff
Dak Prescott enters 2020 with a new head coach, but the same offensive coordinator from last season. Kellen Moore was kept on as the OC after rejecting an offer to coach at Washington University. McCarthy has said he will call the plays this season, but the offensive design will be heavily influenced by Moore.
McCarthy is notorious for being a pass-heavy coach. From 2014-2018, McCarthy’s offenses passed 66.2% of the time, which was the highest in the league over that span. From 2014-2019, Dallas only passed on 57.3% of plays, an 8.9% difference. Of course, it’s easy to dial up pass plays with Aaron Rodgers under center. Will McCarthy continue this trend with Dak Prescott? As indicated in McCarthy’s introductory press conference, Prescott already has the trust of his new head coach. McCarthy has said that the offense in Dallas will revolve around Prescott. Additionally, McCarthy spent his offseason studying analytics, which generally suggests that passing is more effective than running. All of this suggests a pass-heavy season under McCarthy in 2020.
4. Rushing Ability
Dak Prescott is not Lamar Jackson. He won’t get over 1,000 yards rushing on the season. But he’s also not just a “mobile quarterback” either. Prescott has shown the ability to gain yards and a handful of touchdowns per year on the ground.
In his first three years in the league, Prescott had 18 rushing touchdowns (exactly 6 per year) and about 300 yards per season on the ground. In 2019, his attempts and yards remained relatively consistent, but he saw a decrease in rushing touchdowns with only 3. This decrease comes from a lack of usage of Dak Prescott’s rushing ability in the red zone, especially close to the goal line. In 2018, Prescott had 8 rushing attempts inside the 5-yard line. In 2019, that number dropped to 3. Garret and Co. understandably preferred to use their $15 million running back in goal-line situations. However, one of Dak’s most valuable abilities is his red-zone rushing. If McCarthy truly wants to get the most out of his new young QB, Prescott will see more red-zone rushing attempts in 2020.
5. Field Position
In 2019, the Cowboys had an average starting field position of the 26.19-yard line, which was 30th in the league. This was due to the Cowboys’ abysmal special teams, which was ranked 31st overall, and a defense which ranked near the bottom of the league in turnovers. Luckily, the Cowboys have addressed each of these issues for the 2020 season.
To improve the special teams unit, McCarthy brought in renowned special teams coach John Fassel. Fassel is highly regarded around the league and an immediate upgrade over Keith O’Quinn. The team also brought in players such as Reggie Robinson II and CeeDee Lamb who can contribute on special teams immediately.
Mike McCoy was brought in as defensive coordinator to help bolster turnovers on defense. This philosophy is reflected in their draft selection of Trevon Diggs, who had three interceptions in 2019 and letting Byron Jones leave in free agency (who hadn’t had an interception since moving to cornerback full time). If the Cowboys can manage even average field position in 2020, their scoring efficiency (and therefore Dak Prescott’s scoring efficiency) will improve.
So where do we project Prescott for the upcoming season? It’s tempting to increase all of his offensive stats considering McCarthy’s pass-friendly tendencies. However, it is hard for any QB to get close to 5,000 yards in the air, let alone two seasons in a row. Still, there is room for improvement. The Cowboys don’t expect to see as many long drives in 2020, and shorter fields should lead to more scoring efficiency overall. We can comfortably project similar or increased TD numbers through the air for Prescott as a result. We’ll also give him a slight uptick in rushing TDs as well to closer reflect his average for his career.
Projections: 575 pass attempts, 4,250 yards, 35 TDs passing. 250 yards, 4 TDs rushing. Fantasy points: 359. These numbers would be good for QB2 in 2016, 2018 and 2019, and QB1 in 2017. With Jackson and Mahomes in the league, it will be hard for any quarterback to crack the Top 2 in consecutive years. But unless Dak Prescott sees a significant drop from his 2019 numbers, he should comfortably be a top 5 QB in fantasy football and is worth a late-fifth or sixth-round pick.
Oh, and if you’re in a league that rewards deep TDs? Prescott ranked top five in almost every deep passing stat in the league last year, giving him even more upside.
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