The Dallas Cowboys were an offensive juggernaut with Dak Prescott under center during the first four weeks of the 2020 season, ranking first in passing yards per game (423) and third in points per game (24). The fifth-year QB led all quarterbacks in fantasy points per game (31.8) during that span.
Prescott's devastating Week 5 injury brought the offense to a screeching halt. Dallas rounded out the season as PFF’s 29th-graded offense (66.5) under the likes of quarterbacks Andy Dalton, Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci, a far cry from its hot start (76.9, 12th). Prescott's departure didn't zap all fantasy value from the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, but it robbed gamers of what very well could have been league-winning upside.
With Prescott back in action, the stage is set for multiple pieces of the Dallas offense to get back up to speed and ultimately alter the tides in 2021 fantasy football leagues.
2021 Team Preview
The Cowboys are an ideal situation for fantasy purposes: a powerful offense with favorable play-calling and elite receivers opposite a bad defense that keeps things moving on both sides of the ball.
Since Kellen Moore took over as offensive coordinator in 2019, Dallas ranks first in plays per game (68), fourth in passing plays per game (42) and seventh in average yards per play (5.9).
The Cowboys threw at the highest rate on early downs (69%) when Prescott was under center from Weeks 1-4. Under neutral game script conditions, they threw at the second-highest rate (70%).
Dallas is going to throw a ton in 2021, and the defense looks almost as bad as last year’s squad. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has his work cut out for him, as the Cowboys own PFF’s 31st-ranked secondary and 27th-ranked defensive line.
The Cowboys will constantly find themselves in shootout conditions, which makes Prescott's fantasy ceiling as high as any of the league’s top-tier of quarterbacks.
The fantasy goodness goes beyond just the quarterback position. Stud running back Ezekiel Elliott will clearly be fed as a rusher — Dallas ranks 11th in rushes per game (26) since 2019. But he's also more involved in the passing game than most realize — his 135 routes run to start last season ranked No. 1 among all running backs and helped vault his fantasy points per game (22.6) to third overall.
Elliott’s offensive line was also healthy during this stretch, which boosted his numbers. Entering 2021, the Cowboys' offensive line is PFF’s sixth-highest-ranked group, a massive improvement from its 2020 finish as the league’s fourth-lowest-graded run-blocking unit.
Elliott is primed for a bounce-back 2021 campaign as the featured runner and goal-line back in a high-powered offense — he led the NFL in carries inside the 5-yard line (26) last season. He's also due for some positive touchdown regression after converting just five of his goal-line carries into touchdowns. Dallas ranked fourth in goal-line plays per game last season (3.5).
Tony Pollard truthers might disagree, but Dallas has $90 million reasons to #FeedZeke. Despite all the turmoil that ensued after Prescott went down, Elliott maintained his high-end usage, averaging just under 20 touches per game in 2020.
Elliott is a no-doubt, top-five selection in fantasy drafts with sky-high upside, but he’s hardly the only Cowboy drafters should expect a big year from.