A Decade Under the Influence
Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
It is finally safe, the hand-clapping has been silenced, and Jason Garrett’s time in Dallas is finally over. After 10 years of regular-season mediocrity (.559 record) and playoff struggles (.400 record), a new era in Big D is about to begin. It’s time to throw out the conservative play-calling and clock mismanagement, and bring in an up-tempo, pass-happy offense.
After taking a season away from coaching, Mike McCarthy returns as the Cowboys new head coach and hopefully brings a breath of fresh air to Dallas. His 13 years in Green Bay prove he knows how to win in the postseason, taking the Packers to the playoffs eight consecutive years (2009-16). He has a .556 postseason winning percentage, compared to Garrett’s .400, and led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2010.
I believe that McCarthy is the right man for the job. The Cowboys have the right weapons on offense to get the job done for both fantasy and actual football. During his tenure, McCarthy’s total offense was in the top 10, while Garrett’s was inside the top 15. McCarthy’s passing offense was top 15 in attempts, top 10 in yards, and top 10 in touchdowns. In perspective, Garrett’s passing offense was top 20 in attempts, top 15 in yards, and top 15 in touchdowns. The tables turn when it comes to rushing though, with Garrett’s rushing offense in the top 15 for both attempts and yards, and touchdowns in the top 10. McCarthy’s rush offense was in the top 20 for attempts and yards, and top 15 for touchdowns. The rushing offense will change with Zeke in the backfield, as McCarthy has never had a back of Zeke’s talent.
Dallas saw one of its best offensive performances, leading the league in total yards (431.5). Jason Garrett was not the reason for the offensive explosion. It was Kellen Moore taking over the play-calling that finally let the offense show it's full potential. Moore paired with McCarthy, who won’t run a stagnant offense as Garrett did, will be a huge boost to this offense. If McCarthy gives the offensive reins fully to Moore, like Garrett should have, this offense will be a top-five offense again next season.
Below is a breakdown of each fantasy-relevant player and how they should fare in this new McCarthy offense.
Dak Prescott - Quarterback
Prescott is coming off of a career year. He set career highs in passing touchdowns (30), yards (4,901), completions (338), attempts (596), yards per completion (12.6), and yards per attempt (8.2). According to Pro Football Focus, McCarthy ran a no-huddle offense on 20.7 percent of the time from 2014 to 2018, while Garrett ran no-huddle just nine percent with Dak Prescott as the starting quarterback. A fast-paced offense will bode well for Dak, who should see plenty of open receivers with Zeke demanding attention in the backfield.
Dak is primed for a top-five fantasy season with McCarthy at the helm. McCarthy loves to air it out and inherits a quarterback who can do that. He was one of only three quarterbacks to average over 300 yards per game (306.4). Since coming into the league in 2016, Dak has averaged a top 10 fantasy finish, and McCarthy is no stranger to having a fantasy-relevant quarterback. Under McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers finished in the top 10 eight times, with seven of them being in the top-two.
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Ezekiel Elliott - Running Back
The Cowboys recent boost in offense started in 2016, the same year they drafted Ezekiel Elliott (and Prescott). Zeke has given the Cowboys what they were desperately missing since Emmitt Smith, a workhorse back. Under McCarthy, the Packers had a top-10 running back only three times in 13 years (Ryan Grant - 2009, Eddie Lacy 2013-14). Zeke has done that three times in his four seasons in the league, where he finished as the RB12. Elliott is arguably the best running back McCarthy has had, and he will not be misused like Aaron Jones was in McCarthy’s final season with Green Bay.
Over the past two seasons Elliott has seen at least 70 targets and 50 receptions out of the backfield. He will continue to be a dual-threat, and McCarthy coming in will not change that. Amari Cooper and the emergence of Michael Gallup will keep Zeke’s targets out of the backfield in the 70 range and not the 90 range that he saw in 2018. He will be a sure-fire RB1 next season even in a more pass-heavy offense. When the Cowboys get into the red zone Zeke will be the one they will lean on.
Amari Cooper - Wide Receiver
The Cowboys locked up Amari Cooper this off season and will have him for at least the next two seasons. They lost Cobb to Houston in free agency, but the combo of Cooper and Gallup should make McCarthy, or any coach for that matter, very happy with his new offense. During his time in Green Bay, McCarthy had a top 10 receiver seven of 13 seasons, with a top 10 finish for Jordy Nelson (3) and Randall Cobb (8) in 2014. Cooper is more talented than either Nelson or Cobb, and when healthy, he is among the top receivers in the league.
Cooper was constantly banged up throughout the 2019 season and still managed to finish as the WR10. If he can stay healthy, he will have another top 10 seasons again in 2020. With Gallup emerging and demanding more attention, Cooper could see less double coverage. Coupled with his strong route running and another year in the offense, Cooper could be looking at a top-five finish.He is a WR1 without question, and as long as he stays healthy, he stays in your lineup.
Michael Gallup - Wide Receiver
Full disclosure, I am a huge Cowboy fan, and no matter what team Gallup played for, I would still be a huge fan. Gallup took a huge leap in his second year, seeing career highs in almost every category. He cemented himself as the Cowboys WR2 and saw his targets almost double, going from 65 to 112. He broke 1,000 receiving yards, tripled his touchdown count, and increased his snap percentage increased by almost 20 percent.
Gallup is a play maker and is just exciting to watch. On plays of 20 yards or more Gallup was targeted 17 times, which ties Cooper, for a team-high. On plays of 11-20 yards, Gallup edges Cooper out on targets 30 to 32. Cooper takes the advantage on short-yardage situations of 6-10 yards, seeing 31 targets to Gallup’s 19. It is clear Gallup is quickly becoming one of Dak’s go-to targets down the field. With Gallup's second-year breakout, McCarthy is getting a great receiver combo, much like what he had with Nelson and Cobb in Green Bay.
Gallup is a must buy in dynasty formats. He is currently going off the board at the beginning of the fifth round, and is worth the reach if you want to grab him earlier. I would personally take him over Cooper and would reach for him one to two rounds early to make it happen.
Blake Jarwin - Tight End
McCarthy had a good amount of tight end talent during his time in Green Bay, but in 13 years, he only had two tight ends finish in the top-ten (Donald Lee-2007, Jermichael Finley-2011). Blake Jarwin, who just signed a three-year extension, is the next man up now that Jason Witten signed with the Raiders. He has done well in limited opportunities over the past two seasons, averaging 8.7 yards per target and has six touchdowns on 58 catches. He isn’t a must-start, but more of a dynasty stash until he’s shown to be a focal point in the offense. I don’t think he’ll get the “McCarthy” treatment as long as Kellen Moore is around calling plays. He could become Dak’s new “safety blanket” now that Witten is no longer a Cowboy. Jarwin is one of my favorite targets right now at tight end, along with Mike Gesicki and Hayden Hurst.
Prediction: This will be a fun offense to watch. This will be a top-five offense again. Dak will finish as a top-five quarterback, Zeke will be a top-three running back, Cooper will finish inside the top-10, and Gallup will finish a top-20 wide receiver. The Cowboys will win the NFC East and finish the season with a 12-4 record (all this being based on the fact we have a full season).
Thank you for reading. If you have any comments, drop them below or you can find me on Twitter @CarbonFox_FF.