Cowboys QB Dak Prescott highlighted Tavon Austin when asked which of the team's new WRs have impressed him most this offseason. "I didn’t know he was as good of a receiver as he was and could run routes as well as he does, and catch the ball every single time,” Prescott said of Austin. “For me, from that standpoint, he’s not just a gadget, gadget guy. You don’t have to run him on speed sweeps and all that steps opens up the offense and you can use him there as well. He’s a guy you can put out there, inside, outside and trust he’s going to get open.” Austin has flashed throughout training camp, but it's worth noting that he was on the field for just 3 of 10 snaps with Prescott in the preseason opener -- fewer than Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns and Terrance Williams. We'll continue to monitor this WR corps, but Austin's playing time will need to grow if he has any chance to be a fantasy factor.
Cowboys WR Cole Beasley will miss the 2nd preseason game with his groin injury. He didn't play in the 1st exhibition and has missed a bunch of training camp time. Beasley is fighting for snaps in a wide-open Dallas WR corps, but this injury obviously isn't helping his cause. He's not worth a redraft roster spot right now.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has been splitting out wide in camp, according to insider David Moore. It's all part of Dallas' plan to increase Elliott's role in the passing game. "I mean, yeah, they're asking me to do a little more, a couple of different things," Elliott confirmed. "But it's just kind of developing myself more as a route runner. In the past, I really wasn't asked to run as many complex routes but now I have a couple of more routes to add to my route tree. ... I think it's just an opportunity to elevate my game, an opportunity to show that I can do more." Elliott has averaged a massive 22.6 carries per game through 2 NFL seasons but a relatively modest 2.3 catches. There's room for that number to grow significantly in 2018, especially with the 219 targets left behind by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is off to an uneven start to training camp. “Well, we’re a work in progress,” OC Scott Linehan said. “We’re not where we want to be, but there’s bright spots, things we build on." It's early, and this shouldn't come as a major surprise considering the wholesale changes to Dallas' pass-catching corps. But in a time of the year when everyone is "in the best shape of their lives" and "ready for a breakout season," it's notable to hear a negative report on an offense. We'll be keeping a close eye on the Cowboys this preseason, but this isn't a passing game we're looking to invest in heavily.
According to Calvin Watkins of The Athletic, the Cowboys have been splitting 1st-team TE reps evenly among Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Geoff Swaim. That, of course, makes it difficult for fantasy drafters to decide which -- if any -- to consider in the late rounds of best-ball drafts. Rico Gathers remains in the picture as well but doesn't really seem to be in the starting mix. We'd avoid the whole situation in current redraft formats and wait for a starter to emerge in the preseason.
Cowboys RB coach Gary Brown expects Ezekiel Elliott to play a bigger pass-catching role this season. "Now we don't have [as many proven pass-catching threats], so now obviously we're going to lean a little bit more on him," Brown said. "... We're going to get Zeke in some situations where he can catch the ball out of the backfield and make things happen as well." Elliott has seen a relatively modest 77 targets through 2 NFL seasons, but he's averaged a big 10.9 yards per catch. He's deserving of a bigger role in the passing game, and there are 242 targets up for grabs in Dallas with the departures of Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Brice Butler. Already a threat to lead the league in rushing, Zeke could push to lead all RBs in fantasy points with a boost in receiving production.
Cowboys HC Jason Garrett said Tuesday that WR Cole Beasley will see increased snaps on the outside this season, according to Calvin Watkins of The Athletic. At 5'8, 180 pounds, Beasley carries a classic slot build. Garrett said, however, that Beasley has had "a lot of success at different times as an outside receiver." The key takeaway here is that Dallas coaches are finding snaps for Beasley. He's not going to morph into a killer boundary wideout, but he seems like a solid bet to reach (and exceed) 60% of season offensive snaps played for the 1st time in his career.
Cowboys rookie WR Cedrick Wilson suffered a torn shoulder labrum in Saturday's practice. It's not yet clear whether he'll require surgery or how long he'll be out. But the injury certainly help the chances of the 6th-round pick earning a role in 2018.
Bryan Broaddus of Cowboys.com singled out WR Michael Gallup and TE Blake Jarwin when asked to name which pass-catchers have been in sync with QB Dak Prescott this spring. Dallas' WR and TE corps will look much different this season after the departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, who combined for 44.4% of the team's targets last year. Gallup, a 3rd-round rookie with an impressive combination of athleticism and college production, has a shot to emerge as the Cowboys' #1 WR in 2018. And Jarwin is in the mix for a significant role with Rico Gathers, Geoff Swaim and Dalton Schultz as his only competition. We'll be keeping a close eye on this pass-catching group all summer.
For the 2nd straight year, the NFL has suspended Cowboys DT David Irving for the 1st 4 weeks of the regular season. Per multiple reports, this suspension comes under the league's substance-abuse policy. (Last year's was for PEDs.) Irving spent much of this offseason away from the team or working off to the side, with coaches revealing only that he was working through some "personal" issues. In his absence, former Raiders DT Jihad Ward saw reps with the 1st team. Ward could step in for Irving early this season if his intriguing play carries over into padded practices. Irving, meanwhile, posted big IDP numbers after missing the 1st quarter of last season. So he should remain on IDP radars. Whether he'll make sense in your league will depend on your scoring, lineup settings and roster depth.
Cowboys HC Jason Garrett expects WR Terrance Williams to be ready for the start of training camp next month. He underwent surgery earlier this offseason to repair a Jones fracture to his foot. That's an injury that's caused complications and setbacks for plenty of guys, so we'll be keeping a close eye on Williams when he hits the field. There's still a boatload of opportunity for him in a passing game that lost WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten. But it's been a rough offseason for Williams, between the foot injury and a May arrest.
Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is making strides this offseason but still has lots of work to do, HC Jason Garrett said Wednesday. "He's done a really good job improving over the course of his time here, he's a different player now than he was a couple years ago," Garrett said. "He just needs to play more football." Gathers missed the entire 2017 season after sustaining a concussion in August. He wasn't cleared until Week 7 and was too far behind at that point to contribute. Gathers didn't appear in a regular season game as a rookie in 2016, either, after focusing exclusively on basketball in high school and college. So he hasn't played in a meaningful football game since junior high. It's no surprise, then, that he needs work. There's upside in Gathers' 6'6, 285-pound frame and opportunity in Dallas with Jason Witten gone. But Gathers shouldn't be viewed as more than a late-round flier in early best-ball drafts.
Cowboys WR Terrance Williams was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with public intoxication and leaving the scene of an accident. Williams allegedly crashed his Lamborghini into a light pole and was later found riding an electric bike near his home. He was released on $369 bond, but we'll see if this earns him a suspension from the league. It's been a rough offseason for Williams, who also had surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his foot.
The Cowboys nabbed Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough in the 7th round. Scarbrough certainly checks the size and athleticism boxes. He goes 6’1, 228 pounds and earned an 86th percentile SPARQ score in the pre-draft process. He had an uneven career at ‘Bama, though, averaging 5.7 yards per carry but never topping 125 attempts or 812 yards in a season. He also comes with a lengthy injury history, including a broken leg in the 2016 National Championship and a pair of torn ACLs. Scarbrough is obviously stuck behind Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas. He’ll try to push Rod Smith for backup duties.
The Cowboys scooped Western Kentucky QB Mike White in the 5th round. After starting his college career at South Florida, White transferred to Western Kentucky. He started there the past 2 seasons, completing 66.4% of his passes for 8,540 yards, 63 TDs and 15 INTs. White’s 76.3% adjusted completion rate last year ranked 3rd among draft-eligible QBs, according to Pro Football Focus. He also earned PFF’s 6th-highest grade on deep throws. White isn’t very mobile (5th percentile SPARQ) and struggles when pressured, but there’s some developmental upside here. He’ll battle Cooper Rush for backup duties in Dallas.
The Cowboys added Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson in the 6th round. Wilson is 1 of our favorite day-3 sleepers at WR. After spending 2 years at Coffeyville Community College, he transferred to Boise State and became an immediate factor. Wilson led the Broncos with 11 receiving TDs in 2016 and ranked 2nd with 56 catches and 1,129 yards. He set new career highs with 83 grabs and 1,511 yards this past season. Only James Washington tallied more yardage. Wilson is a wiry 6’2, 197 pounds with average athleticism. But he can play outside the numbers or in the slot and is a savvy route runner with plus after-the-catch ability. He joins a Cowboys WR corps that’s in transition after losing Dez Bryant and adding 3rd-round rookie Michael Gallup and vet Allen Hurns. There’s room for Wilson to carve out a role here.
The Rams have traded WR Tavon Austin to the Cowboys in exchange for a 6th-round pick. The 8th overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft has been a colossal bust, never topping 58 catches or 509 yards in a season. He's averaging a RB-like 8.7 yards per catch for his career. A special-teams and gadget player at this point, Austin is unlikely to emerge as a fantasy factor in Dallas.
The Cowboys selected Stanford TE Dalton Schultz with the last pick of the 4th round. Schultz never topped 23 catches, 222 yards on 3 TDs in any of his 3 college seasons. And he tested as a mediocre 42nd percentile athlete. Schultz is at least a willing and able blocker, which can help him get on the field. And there’s opportunity in Dallas with Jason Witten (likely) retiring.
The Cowboys selected Colorado State WR Michael Gallup in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. After spending 2 years at Butler community college, Gallup dominated as Colorado State’s lead receiver the past 2. He tallied 1,272 yards and 14 scores on 76 receptions in 2016. Then he ranked 3rd in the country with 100 catches and 5th with 1,418 yards last season. The 6’1, 205-pounder tested as a 63rd percentile athlete at the Combine. An advanced route runner with strong contested-catch and after-the-catch ability, Gallup looks like 1 of the most NFL-ready WRs in this year’s class. This is an ideal landing spot for Gallup with a talented, young QB in Dak Prescott and tons of targets up for grabs with Dez Bryant gone and Jason Witten (likely?) retired.
The Cowboys grabbed LB Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th pick of the NFL Draft. Vander Esch spent just 1 full season starting at Boise State but could start in the middle right away for Dallas. Jaylon Smith's likely best suited to play on the strong side, where he can move around the way he did in college. Weakside starter Sean Lee is heading into his age-31 season and will carry a huge cap number into 2019 (the final year on his contract).
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