Dallas Cowboys Could Have Four Top-5 Fantasy Football Players in 2012

By Jeric Griffin

The Dallas Cowboys have a very high-powered offense, but haven’t managed to turn that into victories over the past two seasons. Whether that changes in 2012 remains to be seen, but Dallas’ high-flying offensive attack is sure to light up the fantasy football scoreboards this fall. That’s a given, but just exactly how good can the Cowboys be in fantasy land?

Last season, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finished 7th in total fantasy points among NFL passers, throwing for 4,184 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He only finished eight points behind 6th-place finisher Eli Manning, who was 60 points behind Matthew Stafford and the rest of the Elite 5.

With offensive weapons DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Miles Austin and John Phillips healthy, Romo might put up even better numbers in 2012 and challenge for a top five spot. He battled broken ribs and a punctured lung for a month of the season and even missed an entire game with a contusion on his throwing hand. If healthy this year, Romo might approach the 5,000-yard mark and a place among fantasy football’s elite quarterbacks.

Murray was arguably the best player in the NFL for a month span as a rookie and that garners high expectations for the sophomore running back in 2012. In six full games as a starter last season, Murray carried the ball 122 times for 761 yards and two touchdowns. Over a full 16-game season, those numbers stretch to 325 carries, 2,029 yards and five touchdowns.

Obviously, those are incredible numbers that Murray will have to stay healthy to eclipse, but he was at that pace before a broken ankle derailed his stellar rookie season. Murray averaged over 20 carries per game during that stretch, so he should see plenty of opportunities to put up those astronomical numbers in 2012 and the help of Romo’s passing threat only makes him that much more dangerous.

Witten finished 6th among NFL tight ends in total fantasy points in 2012 while catching 79 passes for 910 yards and seven scores. In the first month of last year, Witten was on pace for 108 catches and 1,464 yards before the bye week and the emergence of Laurent Robinson.

Witten’s numbers dropped considerably after that, but Robinson is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars and fellow fantasy studs Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham proved those astronomical numbers are not unreachable by tight ends. Witten is sure to see plenty of targets again this year (he was targeted 117 times in 2012), so topping his numbers from a year ago won’t be hard with Robinson out of the picture and the probability that Austin and/or Bryant will miss time due to injury.

Bryant finished 18th in total fantasy points among NFL receivers in 2012, showing flashes of sheer brilliance during his sophomore season. The Oklahoma State product hauled in 63 passes for 928 yards and nine touchdowns. Although Bryant technically played in all 16 games last year, he was only healthy for about 12½ of them. For fair argument’s sake, let’s say he played 13 games.

Stretch Bryant’s numbers out over a healthy 16 games and the rising star would have posted 78 receptions, 1,142 yards and 11 scores. Those numbers would easily have made Bryant a top 10 fantasy receiver in 2012. Bryant’s production compared to time on the field improved drastically from his rookie to sophomore seasons, so it’s only natural to assume he’ll get even closer to reaching his potential in what fantasy owners call “that magical third season” for young receivers.

If you miss out on one of the elite five quarterbacks, taking Romo after Round 2 will prove to be a brilliant move in 2012. If you take an elite five quarterback in the first round instead of a running back, Murray is a high risk-high reward option in Round 2 that might lead you to a fantasy title.

Witten will be forgotten by many due to the high production of Gronkowski and Graham, but he’ll be a solid, consistent option at tight end in Round 5 or later. As for Bryant, he’ll go everywhere from Round 2 to Round 5, but owners who take him will be very pleasantly surprised in 2012. Actually, that’s the case for all of these Cowboys in fantasy land.

Follow Jeric Griffin on Twitter @JericGriffin or on Facebook at Jeric Griffin – Rant Sports

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