Fantasy owners with Dallas Cowboys offensive players worst fear came true once again in 2016, and this year, they didn’t even have to wait until the regular season.
Quarterback Tony Romo suffered a “compression fracture in his L1 vertebrae” in the team’s third preseason game last week. In layman’s terms, he broke his back, which will keep the Pro-Bowl signal caller sidelined at least for 8-10 weeks. At the very earliest, Romo could return in Week 8 after Dallas’ bye week, but that’s a best case scenario.
As owners will recall from last season, any Romo injury deeply affects the fantasy value for the other players on the Cowboys offense. In 2015, Dez Bryant took a step back in the receiver rankings because there wasn’t a quarterback who could consistently get him the ball. And although Darren McFadden probably had more carries than he normally would have, he was also negatively impacted because the quality of his attempts decreased.
Fortunately, there’s hope that won’t occur this season, as rookie quarterback Dak Prescott takes over under center. Prescott obviously doesn’t have the experience Matt Cassel or Brandon Weeden had last year, but the former Heisman Trophy candidate definitely has more upside.
At Mississippi State, Prescott became the best quarterback in the SEC with two outstanding seasons in 2014 and 2015. Most will probably remember his junior year when he led the Bulldogs to the No. 1 ranking in the land and just their second 10-win season since 1940. He was an exciting dual-threat quarterback, throwing for 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns while rushing for 986 additional yards and 14 more scores.
Last season, he wasn’t the flashy Heisman trophy candidate, as he rushed for 400 fewer yards, but Prescott became a very confident, pocket passer. He would read through multiple progressions and rarely make major mistakes. In his junior season, if his first receiver wasn’t open, he took off running.
As a senior, he threw for 3,793 yards, 29 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Prescott went 288 passes without throwing a pick during the end of his junior and beginning of his senior year, which was the third-longest streak in SEC history.
Prior to the NFL draft, most scouts were comparing Prescott to Tim Tebow because of his big body, athletic ability and leadership skills, but quite frankly, that was an incredibly lazy assessment. Not that Prescott doesn’t need work, but he’s a better passer than Tebow ever was. Here’s a much better scouting report on the Cowboys’ new starter from Mark Dulgerian of NFL.com.
“He’s an ideal backup as he continues to work on overall consistency, but he’ll bring a dynamic element if his name’s ever called.”
Owners should remain patient with the 23-year-old. Young quarterbacks make mistakes and take a long time to develop in the NFL. That being said, he’s far more dynamic than any backup signal caller Dallas had last season, so there’s more hope Bryant and company can retain their value.
As far as Prescott goes, the consensus experts at Fantasy Pros rank him 27th overall at quarterback immediately behind Alex Smith and directly in front of Brock Osweiler. However, he should be rated a few spots ahead of that.
Either way, consider him a low-end QB-2 with upside in 12-team leagues. In bigger leagues, he’s worth the stash if there’s room on the bench.
In a perfect world, owners would probably like to have both Prescott and Romo. Remember, the 36-year-old is going to try and come back, and if he does, Prescott wouldn’t have any more value in re-draft leagues. If there are injured reserve spots available, fill one with Romo and stash the rookie on the bench as a potential sleeper.
Where Prescott has his best value, though, is in dynasty formats. Over the long run, the best case scenario might have been for him to learn a couple years behind Romo before making a start, but in today’s modern NFL era, more and more rookie quarterbacks start immediately and have success. Dallas and fantasy owners are going to find out what they have in Prescott immediately.
Target him after the 170th pick in dynasty leagues and stash him as a No. 3 quarterback. Prescott has enough upside to make him worth the risk that late.