Dallas Cowboys Fantasy Football Preview: 2023 Outlooks for Dak Prescott, Tony Pollard, and Others

The Dallas Cowboys have a pair of fantasy football stars that are being drafted early, but are they worth it, and how many of their teammates are worth a look?

The Dallas Cowboys play in the uber-competitive NFC East, a division loaded with fantasy football playmakers, and they are no exception. How high should you be ranking their top threats?

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Fantasy Football Preview: Dallas Cowboys

For the first time since the mid-90s, the Cowboys are coming off of consecutive 12-win seasons, and expectations are understandably high. Dak Prescott is in his eighth season with America’s Team and has seen his fantasy value as a passer spike in the past two seasons as CeeDee Lamb has emerged as a true alpha receiver.

Gone is offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and a pair of valuable pieces in Ezekiel Elliott and Dalton Schultz, with veteran receiver Brandin Cooks added to the mix.

QB Dak Prescott

Prescott has been able to win football games of late, but his fantasy value is in serious danger. He was QB14 on a per-game basis last season, a season in which he set career-highs in red-zone completion percentage and red-zone touchdown rate. It’s not only tough to bank on that sustaining, but the sheer volume of opportunities in close is also a concern.

During the Kellen Moore era in Dallas, the Cowboys operated at the fastest pace in the league in addition to ranking second in points, fourth in yards per play, and fourth in offensive EPA. Assuming Dallas struggles to reach those lofty expectations, Prescott’s floor is concerning … and the more you look at it, the worse it gets.

During his first three seasons in the NFL, Prescott’s fantasy value was boosted by his legs. In those seasons, he averaged 66.8 fantasy points with his legs, allowing him to rocket up the scoring leaderboard. Over the past three seasons? He has a total of 64.1 fantasy points with his legs.

Last but not least, this is the first season Prescott will not have Ezekiel Elliott as his lead back. Zeke’s pass protection prowess is no secret, and without it, Prescott’s passing efficiency could dip in a major way. Here are his yards per pressured pass attempt over the past four seasons.

  • 2019: 7.4 ypa
  • 2020: 6.6
  • 2021: 6.4
  • 2022: 6.0

Prescott is by no means a safe fantasy quarterback for 2023, and if you do decide to wait on the position, you’re signing up for drafting a second quarterback alongside Dallas’ signal-caller.

RB Tony Pollard

It’s time. We did it. We, the fantasy community, screamed loud enough for the Cowboys to bend the knee and finally commit to Pollard as their lead back. OK, so maybe that has less to do with our collective voice and more to do with Elliott’s contract, but let’s not details get in the way of a good story. We did it … and now we get to reap the rewards!

Barry Sanders through two seasons (535 carries):

  • 5.2 yards per carry
  • 5.9 yards per touch

Pollard thus far in his career (535 caries):

  • 5.1 yards per carry
  • 5.7 yards per touch

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. No, I’m not ready to label Pollard as Sanders 2.0, and no, I’m not penciling in Pollard for every one of the 2,346 yards and 17 touchdowns that he and Zeke combined for last season. But the unleashing of Pollard offers enough upside for him to rise to sixth in my preseason half-PPR rankings.

Nearly 40% of Pollard’s career carries have gained at least five yards, so if I need to sell you on Pollard as a runner, you might be a lost cause. That rate could decline now that he is in the featured role, but the spike in work should at least cancel out any regression on that front. Where Pollard could shift from good to great in fantasy circles is the passing game.

Last season, Pollard recorded 75 of his 51 career air yards.

You read that right: 147% of his career air yards came last season. That, to me, is a sign that the Cowboys were exploring Pollard’s versatility instead of simply dumping the ball off to him behind the line of scrimmage. Elite pass-catching is something that the top tier of fantasy RBs requires, and stats like that hint that Dallas is aware of what their explosive 26-year-old is capable of.

RB Malik Davis

If you are at all concerned about Pollard’s durability as “the guy” for an entire season, Davis is a reasonable insurance policy to invest in at the very end of your draft. He’s no Pollard and wouldn’t assume his exact role, but he did average over 6.2 yards per touch during his collegiate career at Florida, and Mike McCarthy will never abandon the run game.

WR CeeDee Lamb

If you’re picking at the turn of a 12-team league, Lamb deserves consideration. Yes, he’s that good. And only getting better.

Catches per route:

  • 2020: 14.5%
  • 2021: 14.9%
  • 2022: 18.8%

Drop Percentage:

  • 2020: 9.0%
  • 2021: 6.7%
  • 2022: 3.2%

CeeDee Lamb (88) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium.

Lamb’s development is nothing short of special and was evident last season when he caught at least five balls in a league-high 15 games. Consistency like that elevates his fantasy floor above players like Davante Adams, and his voluminous role ranks his upside up there with almost anyone at the position (remember his three straight 100-yard games last December?).

From a target competition standpoint, the departure of Dalton Schultz and the addition of Brandin Cooks figures to be a near wash, so there is no reason to think that Lamb isn’t in the 9-11 target range week in and week out.

WR Brandin Cooks

Cooks will turn 30 in September and will be suiting up for his fifth franchise. He showed some signs of decline last season, registering a career-high drop count, and two of the three lowest aDOT seasons of his career have come in the past two years. But how much of that was a helpless Texans offense, and how much was Cooks?

Answering that question before we see him on the field this season is impossible, but from a narrative standpoint, it’s worth noting that Cooks has thrived when motivated. In fact, he has cleared 1,000 yards in his first season with a new team in each of the three offseasons in which he has changed addresses. This is a strong offense without a clear complement to Lamb, so Cooks is a reasonable roll of the dice, understanding that you aren’t counting on him as a weekly starter out of the gate.

WR Michael Gallup

Would this team have invested in Cooks if they were confident in Gallup? He was a third-round pick five years ago, and we have one — count them: one — encouraging season on tape.

It was never expected that Gallup would develop into a volume receiver, so the fact that he recorded the lowest aDOT of his career in 2022, combined with the addition of Cooks, is a major red flag. The team doesn’t appear sold that he is the field stretcher they identified him as out of college, so what is his role here?

Gallup was not one of the 168 players with a 65-yard receiving game last season, and while he will compete with Cooks for a regular role in this offense, he is on the outside looking in at draftable assets in anything but the deepest of leagues.

TEs Jake Ferguson and Luke Schoonmaker

Dallas spent a fourth-round pick on Ferguson last season and a second-rounder on Schoonmaker in April, doubling down at the position after losing Schultz to the Texans. Schultz was a viable fantasy option, but that was because he had earned the ability to earn targets in a creative Kellen Moore system. Neither of these young tight ends is going to see nearly enough volume on a consistent basis to matter in redraft formats.

TL;DR

The Cowboys are a better real-life team than a fantasy one. Once Lamb and Pollard are off the board in the first two rounds, I have no interest in investing in this team. That said, I don’t mind Lamb at his current cost and will jump the line in an effort to have Pollard as my lead back.

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