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Player Outlooks (2022)
QB Dak Prescott: Prescott returned from a gruesome ankle injury to throw for 37 touchdowns in his return last season, and continuity for the coaching staff should again make him a rock-solid QB1 option. In terms of ranking, though, he might fit better in the bottom of the top ten at quarterback for an offense that could get back to more balance—Ezekiel Elliott has said “establishing the run is big for our team and going to be important for us this year” when talking about the selection of first-round Tyler Smith. Maybe increased running for Dak himself (as Mike McCarthy recently mentioned) can get him back into the top five at the position, but it will be interesting to see how he fares without Amari Cooper.
RB Ezekiel Elliott: Elliott played the majority of last season with a partially torn PCL, but that didn’t stop him from going for 1,000+ yards and ten scores behind an offensive line that was less than dominant, so it’s odd to see how many doubters he suddenly has. It should be pointed out that the trend of Elliott’s average rushing yards per game dropping continued in 2021 (with a career-low 58.9 yards per game), but rookie guard Tyler Smith will hopefully bridge things together up front, and Zeke is going to be featured for as long as he has the Star on his helmet.
RB Tony Pollard: Pollard again showed he’s deserving of a significant role last year, and there has even been a discussion about giving him more snaps in the slot—especially notable with Michael Gallup recovering from a torn ACL. That said, a lack of season-long upside as a standalone option hurts the value of Pollard in redraft leagues, as he’s totaled ten touchdowns across three seasons with no path to short-yardage work for as long as Elliott is healthy.
WR CeeDee Lamb: The explanation is probably that he’s only scored 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons, but is Lamb getting slightly overlooked entering his third year in the league? Dallas trading away Amari Cooper will leave no doubt about Lamb being the top target for Dak Prescott, and the hope for increased balance on offense is something that can help the former first-round pick get more downfield, play-action opportunities. In addition to the receiving upside, we’re projecting an increase in rushing production with the Cowboys potentially incorporating some of the Deebo Samuel-type stuff into their offense for Lamb. He’s a strong second-round pick in all formats.
WR Michael Gallup: We’ll get more clarity about injuries as the season nears, but Gallup went down with a torn ACL in Week 17 and will likely be working against the clock to be ready for the opener. Fortunately, the Cowboys committed to the talented wideout with a five-year, $57.5-million extension (which looks like an absolute bargain with how crazy the market ended up being), so he’s locked in as a trusted target for Dak Prescott whenever he’s on the field. If able to get healthy by the opener, we’d expect Gallup to land somewhere between his 2019 numbers (66/1,107/6) and 2020 numbers (59/843/5).
WR James Washington: Suddenly being in a walking boost for an undisclosed injury during OTAs wasn’t a good sign for Washington, but he’s explained that it’s precautionary, and there is no reason to believe he won’t be 100% well before training camp. We always thought Washington could have seen more action with the Steelers, and Dak Prescott’s deep ball—arguably the best in the NFL—could help him emerge with a new squad after he was one of college football’s top deep threats at Oklahoma State a few years ago.
WR Jalen Tolbert: Tolbert’s downfield ability was one of the strengths for him coming out of South Alabama, and he’s a very smooth route runner in general that compares to Gabriel Davis. If the drops are cleaned up and he takes advantage of extended summer run with Michael Gallup recovering, Tolbert has a path to FLEX value as a rookie, and he’ll undoubtedly rise if it looks like the edge is his over Washington for the No. 3 job.
WR Noah Brown: He still doesn’t have a touchdown in his career and the 184 receiving yards last year were his most since entering the league in 2017, but Brown has flashed and is clearly someone Dallas likes having stuck around for five seasons. If Gallup has a slow recovery and Jalen Tolbert struggles, it’s not impossible for Brown to work his way into more early-season action than expected.
WRs Simi Fehoko and T.J. Vasher: Fehoko is a guy that can move above Brown on the depth chart with a strong summer, and he projects best as a bigger slot that can get vertical. For Vasher, he arguably has more upside at six-foot-six with a huge catch radius, but he could have an uphill battle to make the final roster with the way players in his mold have fallen out of favor in today’s NFL.
TE Dalton Schultz: Schultz is a well-built, all-around tight end with high intelligence, and he could benefit from the return to more balance we’re anticipating from the Cowboys this season if it opens up intermediate space on play-action passes. Unless you have a top-flight option, the floor games are difficult to avoid because of the unpredictability, but Schultz had 6.8+ fantasy points in over 75% of his games last year and will be a steady part of the passing attack with Gallup recovering from his torn ACL.
TE Jake Ferguson: It doesn’t feel like the Cowboys are fully committed to giving Schultz big money on a long-term deal, so Ferguson—with similar size and play style compared to the starter—is certainly an intriguing name in dynasty leagues. For this year, the fourth-round rookie would be a low-floor, touchdown-dependent option if Schultz ever misses time, as the Cowboys would likely lean more on the running backs and wideouts.
Best 2022 value: RB Ezekiel Elliott (FantasyPros ECR: RB18)
Elliott has moved up some after being the RB20 in the late spring, and we think his stock will continue to climb over the next several weeks. Still, he’s arguably a few spots too low at the position, and the overall Underdog ADP—finally into the 30s at 39.2—remains about 15 spots too low. Zeke should be a target in the late second round.
Best dynasty investment: WR James Washington
Washington to Dallas was an easy connection to predict in the offseason, and he should get quite a bit of the vertical routes/targets left behind by Amari Cooper. We are now a few years removed from his college days, but Washington had lines of 53/1,087/10, 71/1,380/10, and 74/1,549/13 while averaging 20.3 yards per reception over his final three seasons at Oklahoma State. It’s worth betting on the talent.
Stat to know
Averaging 17.0 carries per game, Ezekiel Elliott rushed 102 times for 521 yards (5.1 YPC) and five touchdowns in the first six weeks of the 2021 season. He averaged 12.3 carries per game and 3.6 yards per carry the rest of the way while dealing with a torn PCL.