Tony Romo has been a top-ten fantasy quarterback during four of his last five seasons (excepting the injury-shortened, six-game 2010 campaign), and he's played a full slate of 16 games in three of the past five seasons, finishing no lower than seventh among fantasy quarterbacks in those three years while averaging 4,293 passing yards and 31 TD passes in those three full campaigns. He is the engine that powers the Cowboys' passing attack. However, he has also missed 13 games over the past five years, including 10 games during 2010. It is not outside the realm of possibility that he might miss significant time during 2012. So, what should a fantasy owner of Romo (or the other Dallas offensive players) do in the event that Romo is out due to injury or suspension during 2012?
Below is a set of recommendations for fantasy owners in the event that Romo is out for a significant period of time this year.
Kyle Orton, QB - Orton hasn't been as successful as Romo in his chances to be an NFL starter, but he's put up quality numbers for Chicago (2008, 15 games played with 272/465 for 2,972 yards passing, 18 TDs and 12 interceptions) and Denver (2009, 16 games played with 336/541 for 3,802 yards passing, 21 TDs and 12 interceptions; 2010, 13 games played with 293/498 for 3,652 yards passing, 20 TDs and nine interceptions thrown). He has 80 career TDs vs. 57 interceptions, and a career 58.3% completion percentage (which is very respectable). Given Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Demarco Murray and John Phillips/Jason Witten as targets, Orton should be able to keep the Cowboys' passing attack viable if he were to fill in for Romo - during 2010 while in Denver he had five 300+ yards passing games, and one 476 yard performance, and during 2009 there was one 300+ yard game and one 431 yard performance. Orton can throw down explosive games when the matchup is good, folks.
Starting Dallas Receivers - As we see above, Orton is capable of creating explosive passing outings, and he's also pretty accurate - Dez Bryant, Austin Miles and John Phillips/Jason Witten shouldn't see their numbers drop off a cliff if Orton is forced into the starting lineup. There might be a slight drop off in the number of receptions and a decline in touchdowns thrown, but you'll still be hard-pressed to find someone better on the waiver wire than Bryant/Miles/Phillips/Witten would be with Orton under center.
Demarco Murray, RB - Murray wouldn't necessarily face "stacked" eight-man fronts with Orton under center - Orton is a proven NFL starter with the ability to make defenses pay if they load up to stifle the run. Given Murray's receiving skills out of the backfield (35 targets for 26/183/0 receiving last year over 13 games) he might actually see an increase in receptions as Orton dumped off the ball while knocking the rust off his passing arm. There would be no reason to panic in the event that Romo misses time during 2012.
Stephen McGee/Rudy Carpenter, QB - If Orton is your primary starting QB with Romo out - and you play in a 14- or 16-team league, then you might consider picking up whoever is backing up Orton. In a standard 12-team league, though, you'll likely find a better fantasy backup than the reserve Dallas quarterbacks - it all depends on who is available on the waiver wire in your specific league.
Backup Dallas Wide Receivers - If you had rostered the third Dallas receiver (whoever that may turn out to be, perhaps Kevin Ogletree?), the drop off between Romo and Orton is likely to make the third Cowboy receiver extremely unpredictable and not worth carrying on your bench (unless you have Austin or Bryant rostered and want to have an injury handcuff to those guys).
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