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2024 Player Outlooks: Dallas Cowboys

By Nick Caron | 7/9/24 |

QB Dak Prescott
(2023 QB Rank – No.3, 23.9 FPts/G)

Dak Prescott finished the 2023 season as the QB3 in fantasy football, averaging 23.9 points per game. This impressive finish did, however, happen during a season where overall quarterback performance was down across the league, with only Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts having standout seasons. Despite his high ranking, it was actually Prescott's fourth-highest-scoring season on a per-game basis when including his five-game stint in 2020.

Prescott's success in 2023 was largely due to his efficiency through the air, as he rushed for only 242 yards and two touchdowns. He threw for 36 touchdowns and nine interceptions, a significant improvement over his 2022 performance where he threw 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. However, without a substantial rushing ceiling, Prescott lacks the game-breaking potential of some other fantasy quarterbacks. This has led to him being drafted behind players like Anthony Richardson, C.J. Stroud, and even Kyler Murray in some leagues.

The offseason brought challenges for Prescott, including the loss of left tackle Tyron Smith. Although the Cowboys addressed this by drafting Tyler Guyton in the first round, there are concerns about a potential dip in Prescott’s blind-side protection. Additionally, Prescott is dealing with a foot injury that, while reportedly not serious, has caused him to wear a walking boot.

Overall, Prescott is a safe, albeit not very exciting, low-end QB1 for the 2024 season. He offers mid-QB1 upside if things go his way, but his lack of rushing production and potential issues with pass protection temper his ceiling. Fantasy managers can rely on Prescott for consistent performance, but he may not provide the game-breaking edge needed to dominate at the quarterback position.

RB Ezekiel Elliott
(2023 RB Rank – No.30, 10.4 FPts/G)

Ezekiel Elliott returns to the Dallas Cowboys after a one-season stint with the New England Patriots. Many expect him to immediately reclaim the lead-back role in what continues to be a high-powered Cowboys offense. In 2023, Elliott defied expectations by out-producing teammate Rhamondre Stevenson, who many predicted would have a breakout season due to the lack of depth behind him. Elliott's edge over Stevenson was primarily due to his ability to stay healthy while Stevenson missed several games. Notably, the backfield split between Elliott and Stevenson was much more balanced than anticipated, and Elliott caught 51 passes—a significant improvement from the 17 receptions he managed in Dallas in 2022.

Now back with the Cowboys, Elliott is part of a substantially better offense, which should enhance his fantasy value even though he may no longer be the dynamic player he once was. Elliott's situation in Dallas offers serious touchdown potential. Last season, Tony Pollard was among the league leaders in red zone touches but was surprisingly unproductive with his opportunities. Pollard even had nine carries within close range of the end zone, an area where Elliott has thrived throughout his eight-year NFL career.

The reality of the Cowboys' backfield situation is that it lacks depth and talent. While Elliott is not at his peak, he is primarily competing with the unproven Rico Dowdle. This context makes Elliott an intriguing late-round pick who could serve as a valuable complement for those drafting rookie running backs who may not have high touch shares early in the season. Elliott's touches might reduce as the season progresses, which could be an ideal time to pivot to a young rookie running back on another team, such as Trey Benson or Jonathon Brooks, who might be hitting their stride at that time.

While Ezekiel Elliott may appear to be a shell of his former self, his role in a high-powered Cowboys offense and his proven red zone efficiency make him a viable late-round option in fantasy football drafts. His potential for early-season production and touchdown opportunities could provide a solid return on investment, especially for those looking to complement their roster with a veteran presence while waiting for younger backs to develop.

RB Rico Dowdle
(2023 RB Rank – No.51, 5.7 FPts/G)

Throughout the offseason, it seemed likely that the Cowboys would select a high-round running back in the NFL Draft, but when that didn't happen, Rico Dowdle's fantasy value received a strong boost. Although the Cowboys brought back Ezekiel Elliott, who is expected to start the season as the lead back, Elliott's performance has declined over the past few seasons, leaving the door open for Dowdle to seize opportunities if he can show some spark in his limited chances.

Most analysts anticipate that the Cowboys' backfield will operate as a committee, but unlike many other teams featuring multi-player backfields, the Cowboys' offense has been one of the best in the league for several years. Despite this, neither Elliott nor Dowdle is being selected as even an RB2 in fantasy drafts. Both players often fall outside the RB3 range and into the RB4/RB5 territory in many drafts. This presents a unique situation where fantasy managers can find value without investing heavily.

There is a chance that neither Elliott nor Dowdle will emerge as a weekly starter. However, there is also a reasonable chance that one of them finishes as an RB2 almost exclusively based on opportunity, particularly in the red zone. This potential makes both players intriguing late-round picks.

Rico Dowdle, in particular, offers a compelling cost-to-opportunity ratio. While he may not be a household name or a player that fantasy managers are eager to draft, his situation in a high-powered offense means he could end up with significant touches by the end of the season. If Dowdle can carve out a role and become a 15-touch-per-game player, he could provide excellent value, especially given his low draft cost.

Dowdle represents a high-upside, low-cost option in fantasy drafts. While he faces competition from Ezekiel Elliott, the potential for Dowdle to ascend in the Cowboys' backfield and benefit from a high-scoring offense makes him a worthwhile investment, particularly for those looking to add depth and potential breakout players in the later rounds.

CeeDee Lamb

WR CeeDee Lamb
(2023 WR Rank – No.1, 23.8 FPts/G)

CeeDee Lamb's performance in the 2023 season was nothing short of spectacular, securing him as a top-tier fantasy wide receiver. Although it is uncertain whether he would have maintained his overall WR1 status had Tyreek Hill not been hindered by a late-season injury, Lamb exceeded all expectations for those who drafted him. He led the NFL in targets with 181 and receptions with 135, finishing second in receiving yards and just one touchdown behind league leaders Mike Evans and Tyreek Hill. This impressive combination of talent and opportunity demonstrated Lamb's undeniable status as a cornerstone fantasy stud.

Now entering his fifth season, Lamb is poised to remain among the league leaders in all of the major receiving statistics. The Cowboys' offense has seen minimal changes from the previous year, and there hasn't been any significant change to his target competition. Despite ongoing contract negotiations with the front office, there is also no indication that this situation will impact Lamb's ability to get on the field and perform in 2024. In fact, he may be motivated to have an even bigger season to strengthen his case for becoming the highest-paid wide receiver ever next offseason.

Lamb's substantial target share in the high-powered Cowboys offense makes him one of the safest and most valuable picks in fantasy drafts. His potential to deliver a league-winning season has solidified his position as a top-three pick in nearly every draft. The combination of consistent performance, opportunity, and the drive to secure a lucrative contract ensures that Lamb will be a focal point of the Cowboys' offense and a key player for fantasy managers in 2024.

WR Brandin Cooks
(2023 WR Rank – No.38, 10.7 FPts/G)

Brandin Cooks joined the Cowboys with the team having hopes that he’d fill the void left by Amari Cooper’s departure a few seasons ago, but his 2023 season was largely disappointing. While Cooks is a recognized name, his performance metrics fell below league averages, and his overall efficiency was lacking. Despite scoring an impressive eight touchdowns on just 54 receptions—the most he’s had since his 2016 season—Cooks’ 657 receiving yards were the lowest he's ever recorded in a full season.

As Cooks enters his 11th season, he remains projected as the Cowboys' WR2. However, this role does not guarantee substantial fantasy production unless he can dramatically improve his ability to create separation and increase his yardage output. Given his current trajectory, Cooks appears to be on the downswing of his career, making him a risky investment in fantasy leagues.

For those in leagues with very deep starting lineups, Cooks might offer some late-round value due to his potential for end-zone targets. However, for most fantasy managers, investing in Cooks doesn’t seem prudent given his diminished role and the limited target share he is likely to receive behind the dominant CeeDee Lamb. His status as a distant second, perhaps even third in targets within the Cowboys' offense further limits his appeal, making him an unattractive option for the 2024 fantasy season.

TE Jake Ferguson
(2023 TE Rank – No.9, 10.4 FPts/G)

Jake Ferguson's 2023 season was notable for his high target volume, with over 100 passes coming his way - a rare feat for tight ends. Despite this, his efficiency was lacking, catching just 71 passes for 761 yards and five touchdowns. Leading all tight ends in red zone targets but only converting five of them into touchdowns highlights his struggles in high-leverage situations. Given that other than Sam LaPorta, no tight end scored more than six touchdowns last season, Ferguson's five touchdowns underscore the broader challenges at the position in 2023.

Ferguson's athleticism and target share limitations hinder his potential to break into the high-end TE1 tier. However, he stands out as the top tight end in the Cowboys' offense, ensuring he receives enough opportunities to provide a stable floor for fantasy managers. This consistency is something many other tight ends being drafted behind him cannot offer, making him a relatively safe option.

The only scenario that one could envision where Ferguson's value could significantly increase is if CeeDee Lamb were to miss time, opening up a substantial number of targets. With Brandin Cooks being the only other proven pass-catcher in the offense, Ferguson could see a significant uptick in targets in a Lamb-less offense. However, Lamb has been durable throughout his career, making this scenario unlikely. Therefore, it's not advisable to draft Ferguson higher based on this hypothetical situation alone.

Ferguson's reliability and volume make him a solid TE option, but his lack of elite athleticism and target share cap his upside, positioning him as a steady but not spectacular mid-to-low-end TE1 for the 2024 season.

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