The Cowboys will run, but don't discount Romo in fantasy drafts

The Dallas Cowboys plan to utilize a more run-based offense in 2009 with one of the league's best backfield trios in Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. But that doesn't mean the team will abandon it's pass attack. Not by a long shot. That was evident over the weekend in their 30-10 preseason win over the Titans.

Tony Romo, who will be without superstar wide receiver Terrell Owens for the first time in his career as a starter at the NFL level, completed an impressive 18 of 24 passes for 192 yards -- in the first half.

Maybe life without T.O. and Jessica Simpson won't be that bad after all.

Romo was considered one of the top five quarterbacks in fantasy football last season coming off a breakout 2007 campaign that saw him throw for 4,211 yards with 38 total touchdowns. It was hard not to love this one-time unknown reserve who all of the sudden looked like the second coming of Roger Staubach.

However, a combination of injuries, offensive line woes and a brutal schedule down the stretch last season hurt Romo's fantasy stock.

He finished with a respectable 3,448 yards and 26 touchdowns in 13 games, but Romo's five scores and nine turnovers in his final four starts didn't help fantasy leaguers in their quest for a league championship. Couple that tough finish with the offseason release of Owens, a future Hall of Famer, and Romo's draft stock started to fall.

After Saturday night's performance, though, we were all reminded of how just how good Romo can be between the white lines.

While it's hard to envision a scenario where he'll duplicate his immense 2007 totals, Romo will still have more than his share of opportunities in the offense. Coordinator Jason Garrett will look to establish Barber, Jones and Choice and the ground game, but not at the expense of Romo. Even with Owens out of the mix, the 'Boys still have some nice options in the pass attack.

Roy E. Williams dedicated himself during the offseason and is a high-end No. 2 fantasy wideout worth as much as a late third-round pick. Patrick Crayton has won the No. 2 spot and has late-round value.

Tight end Jason Witten remains Romo's favorite target and the top-rated fantasy tight end on Garrett will also look to get second-year tight end Martellus Bennett more involved this season. Bennett, who led the team in receiving yards against the Titans, could be a dangerous weapon at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds. With an expected increase in two tight-end sets, Bennett might even be worth a roster spot in larger fantasy leagues.

Romo will also have the advantage of that new running game, which has a chance to be a top-10 attack in 2009.

Barber is a beast who will wear defenses down with his hard running style, and he's a virtual lock to score double-digit touchdowns as the team's goal-line back. He's still falling into the second round though, so Barber (18.34 ADP) could turn into an absolute steal. The same holds true for Jones, who could be better than his middle-round price.

The Arkansas product showed some flashes of brilliance during an injury-shortened rookie season, and now he's back at 100 percent and looking good in the preseason. Jones caught two passes for 47 yards and adding 17 rushing yards with one touchdown against the Titans. He might have the most big-play ability on the team and is a threat to find the end zone every time he touches the football.

That characteristic is certainly attractive in fantasy circles and makes Jones a major sleeper candidate.

Though much will depend on Garrett and his ability to create a well-rounded offense without Owens, there's no questioning the talent and potential of this Cowboys offense. There's also no reason to believe Romo can't throw for 4,000 yards with around 25-28 total touchdowns in the post-T.O. era.

Numbers like that would make him a solid No. 1 fantasy quarterback across the board.

News and notes

  • » Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams looked to be in midseason form against the Dolphins, rushing for 40 yards on eight carries with a touchdown in a 27-17 preseason loss. Last season's top fantasy running back could see more carries then we expected to start the season if Jonathan Stewart continues to miss time with an Achilles issue. Regardless, Williams should be a top-five pick in all standard fantasy drafts.
  • » The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Rams wide receiver Donnie Avery (foot) "appears to be fairly close to getting back to action." Coach Steve Spagnuolo added that Avery ran "pretty good" over the weekend, which is a bit of a surprise considering the nature of his injury. If Avery is projected to be back in time for Week 1, fantasy leaguers should considered the sleeper wideout well worth a middle- to late-round pick.
  • » Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer (ankle) will miss Thursday's preseason game against the Rams according to reports. He injured the ankle in the preseason opener against the Saints and hasn't been able to practice ever since. While Palmer is expected to be back in time for Week 1, fantasy leaguers need to monitor his status. If he has a setback, it would hurt not only his value for the value of every Bengals wide receiver.
  • » The Florida Times-Union reports Jaguars wide receiver Troy Williamson is having a great training camp and is now in the mix to start opposite Torry Holt. The veteran has shown flashes of potential in past camps only to flounder during the season, however, so take his success with a grain of salt. If he does pass Mike Walker on the depth chart, Williamson will be worth no more than a late-round flier in larger leagues.
  • » Browns running back James Davis is making some noise in the preseason. He rushed for 116 yards on 12 carries against the Lions this past weekend, including an 81-yard touchdown jaunt. Davis' numbers still opened eyes in fantasy circles -- even if it was against the Lions. With Jamal Lewis now 30 and coming off ankle surgery, Davis is suddenly looking like a viable sleeper and worth a look in drafts.

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