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Andy Dalton Fantasy Outlook: How his return impacts the Cowboys offense

Returning from injury this week, Andy Dalton is set to lead the Cowboys offense, how will this impact the surrounding fantasy players?

Andy Dalton Fantasy Outlook: How his return impacts the Cowboys offense
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 19: Andy Dalton #14 of the Dallas Cowboys looks to throw against the Arizona Cardinals during the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 19, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

To say the 2020 season for the Dallas Cowboys has been disappointing when compared to the preseason expectations would be a massive understatement. At least in Week 11, the Cowboys’ offense gets a bit of a boost as QB Andy Dalton is set to resume, something fantasy football managers hope brings a renewed value to the team’s skill players. Having been out since Week 7 for multiple reasons, his return for their game against the Minnesota Vikings is a welcome sight. How does the return of Andy Dalton impact the rest of the Cowboys’ offense, and how does it impact the fantasy players that surround him?

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Andy Dalton makes his return after an injury kept him out since Week 7

It’s been three weeks since the Dallas Cowboys’ QB has seen the field. Initially, a concussion from a questionable at best hit by Washington’s Jon Bostic placed Andy Dalton into the concussion protocol. A play that Dalton has said that he does not remember. While Andy Dalton’s injury is scary enough on its own, the problems were compacted after testing positive, which he is still dealing with to this day.

“It hit me hard the first day I had it, then it gradually started feeling better,” said Dalton, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer. Dalton said he is still waiting to get back his sense of smell and taste. 

“It was a crazy three weeks for me, but I’m glad to be on the other side of it,” Dalton said. “I’m glad to be back with everybody and through those three weeks.”

Getting sick delayed the process for Dalton to be cleared off of the NFL’s concussion protocol as he was unable to report to team facilities.

While Dalton was out, the Cowboys’ offense was run by a combination of Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert but struggled to find any momentum as the team sits at 2-7. 

With Andy Dalton back from injury, can he give a boost to the fantasy players around him who have seen a massive dip in value given where they were selected?

Even with Andy Dalton under center, the Cowboys offense has been a mess for fantasy 

We all know the drop off from Dak Prescott to Andy Dalton has been massive. But when researching this article, I don’t think that I had a full grasp of how poorly things have gone for the Cowboys offense in the fantasy landscape. 

The Cowboys offense was one of the sought after teams when drafting back in late August. RB Ezekiel Elliott had an ADP of RB3, and the pass catchers were also going early. Amari Cooper was the WR12, Michael Gallup was WR31, and CeeDee Lamb was going as the WR39 in PPR drafts. For the first five weeks, they were nearly all returning the fantasy value.

From Week 1 through Week 5, the week Dak Prescott was injured, Elliott was the RB3, averaging 22.3 ppg. Amari Cooper was finally consistent, averaging 17.8 ppg as the WR8, followed by Lamb at WR11 (17.1 ppg), and Gallup as WR33 (11.6 ppg). From this point on, we had no idea how bad things were about to get.

Since Week 6, Elliott is the RB37, averaging 8.8 ppg, a reduction of 13.5 points or roughly 60%. He has failed to score during the time and has gone over 60 yards rushing only once (Week 8). He has also seen his average fall from 4.1 per rush to 3.4 ypc. We have to factor in the poor play of the offensive line and the injuries, but to say that Elliott has been anything short of a disappointment wouldn’t be true.

It’s even worse for the wide receivers.

Cooper is the WR39, averaging 12.6 ppg, a loss of 4.9 ppg or 30% of his fantasy production. Lamb has fallen to the WR59, losing 46%, averaging 9.3 ppg, leaving Gallup to hold up the rear. Gallup has dropped all the way to WR91. He is currently averaging 6.0 ppg, losing 49% of his weekly stats. 

You don’t need me to tell you how bad this is. Cooper is a shaky WR3, Lamb is only valuable in dynasty, and Gallup is a total afterthought that needs to be on every waiver wire right now. 

The lone person that was able to maintain his value when Andy Dalton was on the field was Cooper as, during Week 6 and Week 7, he was the WR14. As for Lamb and Gallup, it was more of the same, going to WR63 and WR106, respectively. 

In those two weeks, Andy Dalton faced the #24 and #11 team in points allowed to the quarterback, completing 43 of his 73 attempts for 341 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. 

Amazingly, even with their record, their season is still alive as no one wants to win the NFC East. A division currently being lead by the Philadelphia Eagles, who sit at 3-5-1. 

Heading into their Week 11 matchup against the Vikings, who can give up points in a hurry, how should we view the Cowboys’ offense for fantasy now that Andy Dalton is back from his injury?

The return of Andy Dalton creates a risk vs. reward fantasy scenario for the Cowboys offense

When looking at PFN’s Defensive Points Allowed Consistency Score (DPACS), the Minnesota Vikings are 25th against the QB with a score of 6.29, 21st against the running back at 9.33, 8th against opposing wide receivers with an 18.79 score, and 18th when going against tight ends with a 12.27 score. What does this tell us?

It says that if you want to find fantasy success when going against the Vikings, targeting the wide receivers is the best place to find success. They are league-average against the tight end but are difficult matchups for both quarterbacks and running backs thanks to their stout front seven and opportunistic safeties led by Harrison Smith.

The downside of all of this is that it requires us to trust Andy Dalton to use this matchup to our advantage as the Cowboys, regardless of fantasy standings, are arguably the most talented WR corps in the NFL. 

There is hope, though.

There have already been five quarterbacks who’ve posted 20-plus fantasy points against the Vikings through nine games. They’ve allowed a 66.5 percent completion-rate (15th), 7.64 yards per attempt (eighth-most), and a 5.79 percent touchdown-rate (seventh-highest). The key is going to be volume if Dalton is going to find success this week. He is a low-end QB2 in my rankings. 

As for the rest of the Cowboys’ offense, Elliott should be considered a middling RB2, who, until he finds the end zone, has lost nearly all of his upside even though the talent remains. Cooper is a mid-WR2 as he was the only one to see success in the post-Dak offense and was Dalton’s primary target. Lamb has a stable floor as a WR3, and Gallup is at best a WR4, but if he has a good game, it will happen either on your bench or on the waivers. 

As I said, this is a risk vs. reward scenario. All the talent in the word is there on the Cowboys’ offense. But with Andy Dalton under center, the floor is just as low.

Want more fantasy football analysis and news? 

Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @PFN365 to stay up to date with all things around the NFL and the 2020 fantasy football season. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also seeing our fantasy football section for more coverage and up-to-date rankings.

Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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