QB Tony Romo (QB - #11) - Solid/Safe Pick
Another strong fantasy season for the Cowboys passer and yet the gap between Romo and the elite passers widened. Posted 4,184 passing yards (seventh in NFL), but had only one 300-yard game over the final 11 weeks. Did throw for over 30 touchdown passes for the second time as a pro, a number he could match in 2012. Outside of injury fear, safe and strong as top-8 option.
QB Kyle Orton (QB - #41) - Fantasy Handcuff
The best part about the Cowboys signing Orton is that now whenever the inevitable Tony Romo injury pops up, the backup will produce at least 75-80 percent of the starter's production. That is a major step up from the depths of Jon Kitna. Quirky Romo owners could even stick with Orton as a handcuff rather than . Top 12-15 QB potential in this offense if he plays.
RB DeMarco Murray (RB - #5) - Solid/Safe Pick
In a single week 7 performance, Murray went from a backup to the Cowboys' single-game record holder with 253 rushing yards. The shifty back also effectively supplanted Felix Jones as the starter. That dynamic remains entering 2012 and Murray's explosive ability positions him as a low-end RB1. Durability and over usage remains concerning; Murray's dynamic ability does not.
RB Felix Jones (RB - #52) - Fantasy Handcuff
Bad news for anyone who typically avoids the Felix Jones hype train: many more people are now on your side. After laboring through the Cowboys' first five games last season, injuries slowed Jones (shocker!) and DeMarco Murray happened. Both are training room regulars so a depth chart change is possible - and likely at least once or twice. For now Jones is the other guy – and a fantasy reserve.
RB Phillip Tanner (RB - #91) - Deep-league Only
Playing behind a pair of high profile runners like DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones means little week-to-week action for the Cowboys' third back. Playing behind a pair of frequently injured players means Tanner's role could be elevated at any time. The 220-pounder proved capable as a rookie and is a potential Murray handcuff in deep leagues.
WR Miles Austin (WR - #16) - Solid/Safe Pick
Generated decent production despite hamstring issues and a crowded receiver situation. Fantasy owners were expecting more. Austin enters this season in the middle of the WR2 pack though reports of renewed focus to offseason training could have him primed for a rankings rise by preseason. Expect numbers closer to his last full season (69-1041-7) rather than his 2009 breakout campaign.
UPDATE (8/11): The recent hamstring injury reminds owners that durability is a concern and it could push Austin down a touch in the deep WR class. That might not be a bad thing; if Austin lands outside the top 20 or so of receivers drafted, he suddenly becomes a nice value play. Monitor that hammy during the preseason.
WR Dez Bryant (WR - #18) - Gamble (high risk)
The two sides of the enigmatic playmaker: Bryant topped 900 yards and hauled in nine touchdown passes with five clutch fantasy scores coming in a six-game stretch during the second half of the season. The 6-foot-2 target with blazing speed also failed to top 90 receiving once all season. Entering year three, Bryant's potential remains immense, but the inconsistencies are worth noting. The fear of more off-the-field issues also must be factored into drafting equation. Since the WR position is so deep, there should be safer and yet equally potent options available for those owners not willing to risk the drama.
WR Kevin Ogletree (WR - #58) - Deep-league Only
The Cowboys' third receiver spot is up for grabs now that Laurent Robinson left for Jacksonville. Ogletreee (15-164 last season) has the inside track, but his first three campaigns do not speak of a breakout star. Would not be stunned to see Dallas add another target before the regular season kicks off. Like the Cowboys, look elsewhere for reserve receiver help.
TE Jason Witten (TE - #8) - Solid/Safe Pick
Now that speed merchants and big wide receiver types populate the tight end position, Witten's plodding style is truly old school. His fantasy numbers remain mainstream. The sturdy Witten led the Cowboys with79 receptions and 942 yards, though both totals represented his lowest in five seasons. Though just outside the top five, his ability to stay active makes him a safe and steady TE choice.
TE John Phillips (TE - #53) - Low Potential
Martellus Bennett finally escaped the hulking shadow cast by the durable Jason Witten. Now Phillips inherits the backup tight end role, which means lots of blocking and around one catch per game for the ordinary athlete with decent hands. Phillips should not be on fantasy rosters, though he could be solid in a pinch should Witten miss a start for the first time in six seasons.
PK Dan Bailey (K - #6) - Stud (low risk)
Bailey finished tied for third with 31 made field goals while knocking in a high percentage of his attempts. Playing his home games indoors is a plus, as is working with a potent offense. Would prefer something later than a week 5 bye, but that minor detail does not remove Bailey from the list of high-end fantasy options.
Dallas Defense (Def - #14) - Quality Backup
DeMarcus Ware finally has some capable bodies backing him up on defense. High-priced free agent Brandon Carr and first-round pick Morris Claiborne will upgrade the trouble corner spots while giving Ware and the other pass rushers more time to create havoc. Middle-of-the-pack option, with potential.