What if Miles Austin or Dez Bryant is lost for the season?
By Matt Waldman
September 2nd, 2012

The duo of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant is physically the best receiver tandem in football. Both can win press coverage against most cornerbacks, they have deep speed, and they can break tackles and make defenders miss in the open field on short and intermediate routes. However, this duo has also proven to be the most unreliable big-league tandem for fantasy owners. If one or both of these receivers miss significant time, the Cowboys offense will have to make radical changes.

BUY

Jason Witten, TE The only reason Witten isn't a top-three tight end is the presence of Austin and Bryant, who command opportunities that would otherwise go to the tight end if Dallas didn't have receivers of this caliber in its starting lineup. Witten may be closer to decline than he's ever been, but he's still a capable of elite play if given the opportunity. He's a smart buy if in need of a tight end and you have the depth at other positions to pry him away from an owner.

HOLD

DeMarco Murray, RB Although the Cowboys offensive line is struggling with injuries and the middle of the line is most suspect, the one thing that even most mediocre to poor NFL guards can do is run block. If the Cowboys lose one or more of its outside starters at receiver, Murray will be called upon to carry the load the way we've seen from Maurice Jones-Drew or Ray Rice in recent years. Murray is a good receiver from the backfield and the Cowboys will probably incorporate a variety of screens, swing passes, and short routes to get Murray into space.

Tony Romo, QB One of the best things about Romo is also one of the worst: he'll often play by the seat of his pants. His best and worst moments come as an improviser. There's a thought that the more choices Romo has when improvising, the less focused he is. Limit his choices and increase his focus. If only one of Bryant or Austin gets hurt, there's still a trio of strong skill players in Murray, Witten, and one of Bryant/Austin to keep this Cowboys offense a strong fantasy unit. If both receivers are gone, Romo's value still won't take a significant drop because the Cowboys will have the mentality to add a veteran capable of helping immediately. Think Plaxico Burress.

SELL

None.

ADD

Cole Beasley, WR The undersized rookie from SMU has good burst, adjusts well to the football, and consistent hands. He is another candidate for slot duty. Beasley had to be talked back into playing football after he left camp to retire, but he returned to the team and had some impressive performances during the preseason. He'd be a player to add if Austin and or Bryant get hurt, but the likelihood this rookie explodes into a viable fantasy starter isn't strong. He's arguably a player along the lines of Danny Amendola, who is has also been a somewhat overrated commodity. You will likely be adding Beasley in order to sell him fast at some level of value gained off the waiver wire.

Dwayne Harris WR Harris has excellent skill after the catch, good balance, and the willingness to attack the football in traffic. He has made his share of mental mistakes early in his career, but he has improved enough to stick to the roster in his second season. If called upon to play, he'll be a viable run after the catch threat capable of taking a short pass the distance. Add him and hope he can bring a return on investment as a viable flex-play or short-term depth you can sell in a few weeks.

Kevin Ogletree WR Ogletree is in a similar mold of player as Harris, but has less athleticism. He is also prone to mistakes with reads that has led to incomplete passes. However, Ogletree knows the Cowboys offense better than the rest of the young receivers and he will be an asset to Tony Romo if called into service.

DROP

None.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to waldman@footballguys.com.

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