The news of Sean Lee tearing his ACL is detrimental to the Dallas Cowboys‘ chance of success this year. At this point in the offseason, there’s no replacing the gigantic gap in the wake of Lee’s injury. But I’m an optimist. At least this means Tony Romo will have a better fantasy football season.
Lee has been injury-prone ever since he entered the league. In fact, he was even drafted while injured. So there’s quite the history to look at the affect his absence has on the team’s quarterback.
Since 2012, Lee has played in 17 games, missing 15 games. That’s a pretty even split. So using the law of averages won’t skew either projection made for Romo. Take a look at the tables below:
That difference in stats is quite substantial, almost 30 points difference between the two projections. But it’s the amount of attempts and yards that are even more impressive. With those projected totals, Romo would essentially be playing 18 games in which Lee was not injured.
Looking at his overall totals though, it seems as if we’ve already seen this season in his 2012 campaign. This makes sense because that was the year Lee had his longest injury. In that season, Romo attempted 648 passes for 4,903 yards, 28 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. In turn, he had 279 fantasy points. Why? Because Lee, as the center of the defense, was gone, putting the Cowboys in more passing situations since the defense could not stop the opposing offense.
Last season, when the Cowboys had Lee for a longer period of time, his production dipped near the projection of him playing with Lee all season: 261 points. Looking further at the projected totals, his projection without Lee playing would make him the fifth-ranked QB in 2013, whereas his position on the QB chart with Lee all season would be 12th.
Romo was already a top-10 quarterback target this year, but now with this news of Lee’s expected season long absence, we can expect him production to be even greater than originally projected. Also, the Cowboys lost DeMarcus Ware to the Denver Broncos this offseason, so you can expect the defense to be affected.
And of course, because Romo has increased production, his passing targets, especially Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant, will reap the benefits as well. But because of a need to distribute the ball among his wide receivers, tight ends and running backs, the effect won’t be as large, though they could all certainly see a few more yards and TDs out of it.
Better yet, not many other GMs will read into the importance of this. So you can likely grab him in the 10th round of the draft as the the 12th QB taken. But I’d advise taking him in the eighth. You’ll still be getting a top-five candidate in a later round as opposed to taking Matthew Stafford in the fourth round as he typically goes in mock drafts.