The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the 2017 NFL standings. The next team on the docket:
Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
Things looked pretty rosy for Dak Prescott through the Cowboys’ first nine games, as the second-year signal caller averaged 227 passing yards per game with a 16:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio with four additional scores on the ground. However, things went south for Prescott in a hurry once the NFL upheld running back Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension, which had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the Dallas offense. With Elliott out of the Cowboys lineup between Weeks 10 and 15, the Cowboys’ dearth of secondary offensive weapons became magnified. After finishing as a QB1 six times between Weeks 1 and 9, Prescott had just one QB1 performance from Week 10 onward (coming in Week 14 against a rudderless Giants squad that had already mailed it in by midseason). During Prescott’s slump, he scored just eight touchdowns (six passing, two rushing), while turning the ball over 12 times. Prescott is a rebound candidate for 2018, though he will be a risky choice as a QB1 given his reliance on a strong running game to operate at peak capacity.
Anyone who spent a top draft pick on Ezekiel Elliott encountered what amounted to a worst case scenario, as the embattled running back spent most of the season fighting to overturn a NFL-imposed six game suspension stemming from a 2016 domestic violence allegation. The end result of Elliott’s legal fight was seeing the suspension enforced between Weeks 10 and 15 (as opposed to say, Weeks 1 and 6), which amounted to the final four weeks of the fantasy regular season, as well as the first two rounds of the playoffs in most leagues. The only silver lining was that any Elliott owner fortunate enough to make it to their league championship was able to use him for that Week 16 matchup. When on the field, Zeke was a beast, and likely would have won the NFL rushing title had he not been suspended (Zeke’s 98.3 rushing yards per game were 15.4 more than Kareem Hunt‘s). A true workhorse in every sense of the word, Zeke had at least 25 offensive touches and/or 93 total yards of offense in all but one of his 10 games played, even though his yards-per-carry (YPC) dipped to 4.1 (down from 5.1 the year prior). Assuming Zeke is free from further offseason drama, he’ll be a top 5 overall fantasy choice for 2018. Alfred Morris showed he still has some juice in his legs, as the Cowboys’ backup averaged 71.7 rushing yards per game over the six contests Elliott missed due to suspension, and finished the season with his highest YPC (4.8) since 2012. Morris is currently a free agent as his contract with Dallas has expired, though his upside is limited as a 29-year-old two-down runner who offers nothing in the pass game. Rod Smith, a converted fullback, carved out a role as a goal line hammer and passing game specialist over the second half of the 2017 season, though was mostly fantasy irrelevant outside of a 160 total yard/two touchdown explosion in Week 14. Smith can be safely ignored in all fantasy formats this Summer. Darren McFadden spent most of the season as a healthy inactive, managing just a single carry in Week 10 before ultimately deciding to retire late last November. McFadden wraps up his NFL career with 5,421 rushing yards and 28 rushing scores after being the 4th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, though it’s fair to wonder what more could’ve been if the injuries not continuously hampered him.