For a fourth straight season, Razzball will be interviewing local NFL beat writers for some actual in-depth football knowledge to shed some additional light on our fantasy football knowledge. Keep your eye out for an interview for every NFL team through the summer. This installment comes courteous of Jon Machota from leading Dallas Cowboys blog Cowboys Blog at The Dallas Morning News:
1) First I have to ask – will this finally be the year for the Cowboys? I feel like they’ve been so close to a major run and it just hasn’t happened… But back to fantasy – Tony Romo was quietly one of the most consistent QBs last year, throwing for nearly 5,000 yards, TDs in all but one game and multi-TDs in 5 of the last 6. Can he keep it going this upcoming season and be a top-10 fantasy QB?
Like the majority of the league, a playoff berth will be greatly linked to the team’s overall health. If the Cowboys suffer as many significant injuries as they did last year then it’s probably a fourth consecutive season of missing the playoffs. If they get a mostly healthy year from Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten, the offense should be one of the better units in the NFL. Defensively, the front four has already suffered more than its share of injuries during camp. Not sure the Cowboys can win 10 games with a defensive line that doesn’t include a healthy DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
Romo can certainly be a top 10 fantasy quarterback. The Cowboys will likely run a little more with Bill Callahan calling the plays but I think Romo will finish with something around 30 touchdown passes, 4,400 yards and 12 interceptions.
2) A guy I liked a lot when we had our draft recap edition of the Razzball Football Podcast was Terrance Williams, the third-round draft pick at WR from Baylor. I think he can emerge as the WR3 behind Austin and Bryant and we’ve seen three big time WR options from the Cowboys system when Laurent Robinson was in town. How is he adjusting to life in the pros and do you share my optimism for his rookie season?
Williams has been – and will continue to be – given every opportunity to win that No. 3 job. His numbers at Baylor last year were beyond impressive (1,832 yards, 12 TDs). I don’t expect him to immediately come in and be what Robinson was a couple years ago, but I think he’ll get better as the season goes along. Learning the playbook and building confidence will be the biggest factors in adjusting to the pro game for Williams. I see about five touchdowns and 500 yards for the third-round pick. Remember, Witten, Dez and Miles still have to get their looks and Murray and Randle are good pass catchers out of the backfield. I also see rookie TE Gavin Escobar stealing a couple of redzone TDs.
3) Back to Bryant – the guy is crazy-talented, and last year was definitely a big breakout. But he’s had injury problems and despite putting up 1382 yards last year, only topped 100 in five games. I’m a little worried he’s too inconsistent for me to draft him in the second round where he’s going. Do you see differently?
I’d have no problem taking Dez in the second round. Calvin Johnson is the only receiver I’d absolutely have to take over Dez. You can obviously make a case for A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall and a few others but, to me, Dez belongs in that same group. I’m willing to gamble on the possibility of receiving the stats he put up during the second half last year (879 yards, 10 TDs) over an entire 16-game season. Considering his physical style, there’s always a chance Dez could miss time with an injury. But remember, the guy played through a broken finger last season when most advised him to have season-ending surgery. It takes a lot to keep him off the field. The biggest thing, his mind seems like it’s in the right place. Since last year’s alleged incident with his mother, it seems like he’s really reevaluated his life and is at peace. My projection would be something around 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns.
4) DeMarco Murray is a lot like Bryant – crazy-talented, but also shown inconsistency and had even more injury problems. However, his draft stock is so low that he could be a real home run pick in the 5th or 6th round. Are the Cowboys ready to turn him loose, or will they try to limit his workload a bit? And how many rushing yards/TDs do you see out of him this year?
I don’t see the Cowboys limiting his workload. Murray’s got to be a top 25 fantasy RB right now. If he’s healthy, possibly a top-10 season is in the cards. Murray is much more of an injury concern than Dez. If I drafted Murray, I’d definitely make sure to get Joseph Randle in the later rounds. The good news is that the Cowboys are putting more emphasis on the running game and Murray did run for a franchise-record 253 yards in one game during his rookie year, so you know he’s capable of a blockbuster week. His rushing TD total is tough to predict because the Cowboys have been so bad running the ball in the redzone. I think he should finish with six or seven rushing TDs and a couple of receiving scores.
5) I gotta tell ya – I was all out on Witten with the spleen surgery then a slow start through the first three weeks. Then all the sudden Witten went on a tear, shattering his career high in catches by 14 and ending the season with 110 on 148 targets. That’s just unreal efficiency for that many passing attempts. Does he still have enough gas in the tank and can he improve on the 3 TDs he snagged last year?
There’s gas in the tank but I don’t see a repeat of last year’s numbers. Three touchdowns is what I’d put the over/under at right now. Again, there’s only one ball to go around. If Dez, Miles, Williams and Escobar are on the field, I can’t see Witten getting targeted 148 times. I think 110 targets and 700-800 yards is Witten’s ballpark in 2013.
Jon Machota covers the Dallas Cowboys for The Dallas Morning News and FOX Sports Southwest. You can follow Machota on Twitter: @jonmachota.