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Spotlight: Tony Romo

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 6th


Jason Wood's thoughts

I feel like I've written the same Tony Romo Spotlight year after year. I'm sure this isn't the first time I've referred to him as the Rodney Dangerfield of Fantasy Football. For you youngsters, Rodney Dangerfield was a famous actor and comedian whose main line of humor revolved around his getting "NO RESPECT." Tony Romo - like Dangerfield - gets no respect.

What does the guy have to do to earn the reputation he deserves? For most, it will take a major playoff run if not an outright Super Bowl victory. While I can understand why some fans might hold Romo's lack of playoff accolades against him, it puzzles me why fantasy football hobbyists would care. After all, fantasy football typically ends during the NFL regular season; most of us get no points for how our rosters perform in the NFL playoffs.

And by any standard, Tony Romo has been an EXCEPTIONAL regular season quarterback.

  • His career passer rating (96.9) ranks 2nd ALL-TIME
  • His yards per attempt (8.0) ranked 2nd among active passers and 5th ALL-TIME
  • His net yards per pass attempt (7.3) rank 1st ALL-TIME
  • His 65.4% completion rate stands 4th currently and 6th ALL-TIME
  • His TD rate (5.7%) ranked 2nd among active passers

His fantasy production has been equally impressive:

Fantasy Points per Game, Quarterbacks (2006-2011, Minimum 32 games started)

Rank First Last Years Gms PaYds YPA PaTDs INTs RuYds RuTDs FPTs PperGame
1 Aaron Rodgers 2006--2011 66 17,301 8.3 132 37 1,164.0 16 1,568.5 23.8
2 Drew Brees 2006--2011 95 28,399 7.7 201 93 199.0 4 2,176.2 22.9
3 Tom Brady 2006--2011 81 21,944 7.9 177 49 383.0 7 1,836.5 22.7
4 Peyton Manning 2006--2010 80 21,639 7.5 155 68 57.0 8 1,687.7 21.1
5 Tony Romo 2006--2011 78 20,834 8.0 149 72 461.0 4 1,636.9 21.0
6 Philip Rivers 2006--2011 96 24,137 8.0 162 77 304.0 3 1,826.3 19.0
7 Donovan McNabb 2006--2011 73 17,843 7.3 100 51 946.0 8 1,383.9 19.0
8 Ben Roethlisberger 2006--2011 88 21,580 7.9 131 80 729.0 10 1,655.9 18.8
9 Kurt Warner 2006--2009 52 13,126 7.6 90 50 26.0 1 974.9 18.7
10 Michael Vick 2006--2011 53 8,881 7.4 60 33 2,399.0 14 975.1 18.4
11 Jay Cutler 2006--2011 78 18,283 7.3 117 86 883.0 6 1,420.5 18.2
12 Kyle Orton 2007--2011 51 12,659 6.9 71 44 213.0 3 912.3 17.9
13 Matt Ryan 2008--2011 62 14,238 7.0 95 46 359.0 4 1,105.8 17.8
14 Eli Manning 2006--2011 96 22,751 7.2 155 103 250.0 3 1,697.6 17.7
15 Carson Palmer 2006--2011 79 18,712 7.2 117 86 248.0 4 1,366.4 17.3
16 David Garrard 2006--2010 69 14,195 7.2 81 50 1,347.0 11 1,183.9 17.2
17 Josh Freeman 2009--2011 41 8,900 6.8 51 46 764.0 4 703.1 17.1
18 Brett Favre 2006--2010 77 18,225 7.1 112 81 99.0 2 1,300.2 16.9
19 Joe Flacco 2008--2011 64 13,816 7.1 80 46 414.0 4 1,033.7 16.2
20 Jon Kitna 2006--2011 52 11,486 7.2 61 61 391.0 3 815.3 15.7

And yet, in spite of being a top 5 fantasy quarterback over his career, Tony Romo finds himself with an average draft position of 48th overall and QB7. I've seen Romo come off the board even later in a few recent drafts, as late as QB11 - perhaps due to the news that Dez Bryant had an angry incident involving his own mother.

Stellar Weapons, but Questionable Depth
Tony Romo has an enviable collection of targets at his disposal. At the top of the list is Jason Witten - Tony Romo's good friend and most trusted receiver. Witten may not get the accolades that Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski do, but Witten is just as good. Witten's 661 receptions ranks 2nd only to Tony Gonzalez among active TEs, and his 7,562 yards stand 2nd among active players, too.

The starting wide receiver duo of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant is as talented as any in the league, and if both are healthy for 16 games Romo will have no trouble eclipsing 4,000 yards and 28-30 TD passes again. Last but not least, 2nd year RB DeMarco Murray is an excellent receiver out of the backfield.

Where things get hairy is the depth. Last year at this time depth was a question, but free agent Laurent Robinson stepped up with an unexpected 11 touchdown receptions - playing a key role as a part-time starter in the process. Unfortunately Robinson parlayed last year into an overpriced free agent contract in Jacksonville, leaving the Cowboys in search of a reliable WR3. As training camp gets underway, the options are an unconvincing bunch:

  • 2nd year Dwayne Harris - 0 career receptions
  • 4th year Kevin Ogletree - 25 career receptions and zero TDs
  • Rookie 5th rounder Danny Coale - 0 career receptions and coming off foot surgery
  • 2nd year street free agent Raymond Radway - 0 career receptions
  • 2nd year street free agent Andre Holmes - 0 career receptions

Needless to say, if either Miles Austin or Dez Bryant misses significant time, the Cowboys may have trouble producing at the level we've become accustomed to.

Offensive Line Remains a Work in Progress
The Cowboys have done a nice job securing the offensive tackle positions - as 2nd year Tyron Smith will move to the left side after a strong rookie year on the right side, which in turn will allow Doug Free to handle the right tackle duties - where his strength and bruiser mentality are an ideal fit. The questions start on the inside, where Dallas has massive uncertainty at all three positions. Phil Costa returns at center, but the Cowboys were hoping to upgrade after Costa graded out as one of the least effective centers a year ago. His competition (Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski) are not yet practicing though. Free agents Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau were signed to become the new starting guards, but both missed most of the offseason workouts with injuries. Things are so bad at the start of training camp that Dallas brought in Daniel Loper, Derrick Dockery and Montrae Holland for workouts.

Positives

  • Tony Romo is not just a good passer, he's been among the historically best ever to play the game -- among the all-time leaders in passer rating
  • Romo is surrounded by a veteran unit and a well established system -- continuity should help with consistency
  • The addition of RB DeMarco Murray will help keep defenses honest

Negatives

  • The Cowboys offensive line has question marks, and could be the Achilles heel of this team
  • Dez Bryant continues to do things that leave one wondering if he's ever going to realize his full potential
  • Laurent Robinson -- a safety blanket who scored 11 touchdowns last year -- left in free agency and there is no depth among the receiving corps beyond the starters

Final thoughts

Every year I seem to be one of the guys imploring people to target Tony Romo as their fantasy starter because he's likely to deliver numbers that approximate the top passers in the league yet he'll cost you a draft pick two or three rounds later than his comparable quarterbacks. While I still think Romo has the opportunity to put up another top tier season, I'm hedging my bets a bit this season for two reasons. One, the WR depth is at best unproven and at worst problematic. With news that Miles Austin is already dealing with another hamstring problem, the Cowboys are playing with fire at the receiver spot. Two, the offensive line looks to be a mess right now. The good news is OL coach Bill Callahan can work wonders as long as he has enough live bodies. I still view Romo as a top 8 fantasy passer, but I'm less willing to entertain the idea he could push for top 3 numbers, even if the chips fall perfectly.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Bankerguy said:

I see Romo having a larger possible swing in points produced compared to prervious years. He is going to make or break a lot of fantasy teams this year in my opinion. The talent and tools surrounding Romo is significant. Dez, Witten, Austin, Jones and Murray equals a likely top ten or even top five offense. This collection of talent is very tempting to fall in love with on paper. The key questions are: will this talent produce as well as it has historically going into this year in the midst of a lot of off season change? I believe the off season changes and chatter are going to negatively affect the offense. Allow me to get into the weeds here.

1. The defensive FA signings of Carr, Pool, Connor and by also moving up to get Claiborne, the team has significantly upgraded the defense. How does this affect Romo? Well, the defense provided lots of opportunities to the offense because opponets scored at will. The 4th quarter was epically poor. They could not make stops and get off the field with the weak link being the secondary. This helped inflate some of Romo's totals and the teams run/pass ratios. There were many shoot outs last year with lots of fantasy points being scored in Cowboys games.

2. Jason Garrett is moulding the team into more of his vision. I see Garrett moving away from passing so much and moving closer to the 90's Cowboys offense. The newer model is becasue of the emergence of Murray, who showed signs of being the back the Cowboys have needed for years. The key sign for me was the signing of a top FB in Vickers. This guy is smashmouth and blocked for some of the leagues best rushers. You cant't discount how he helped those run games. I believe the Garrett plan is to insulate Romo from having to carry the entire load with his arm. A vastly improved defense and more formidable run game will mean more wins. By no means does this totally kill Romo's stats, but I think it should give FF drafters some cause for additional thought/analysis.

3. Dallas has quietly done nothing to replace the departure of Laurent Robinson and the WR3 spot or Martellus Bennett at TE2. Ask yourself why? See point 2.

Overall for the 2012 year:

I see a much more conservative, smart and efficient offense that will rely on the run a whole lot more. Romo will still get his TD's as teams are going to have to respect and play the run unlike they have had to in the recent past. Murray will force some teams into more eight man fronts then we've seen. This will benefit Romo as it will open up space in the secondary for play action and vertical routes. Last year the Cowboys running backs only scored single digit TD totals. You can bet Garrett will ensure that will not repeat itself and the Vickers signing provides some credence of that mindset. I see Murray exploding into a good FF back and Romo takes a fairly decent slide in fantasy production. I will go so far as to say that Romo could be the demise of several FF teams that draft Romo for "potential" with all of his surrounding talent. It even will affect those who draft him for "value".

Being a huge Dallas fan I am fond of Romo the NFL quarterback, but he will not be on any of my 2012 rosters.

Mustang Man said:

I fully expect another great season from Romo. last season was a great season for him minus the two games everyone talks about. With that said his numbers should fall a bit because Dallas will run the ball more for two reasons. 1. Demarco Murray, he should take pressure off of the Dallas offense and Romo cause this guy has that something extra to make something out of nothing and always seems to see the right hole to go to and get that extra yard. 2. Caiborne and Carr, the Dallas defense should be better and they should be playing with the lead a bit more and not in shootouts in the 4th quarter as they were last year because of a horrid pass defense.

Urinal Mint said:

I think Garrett is molding this team in his vision... but that is still a throw-first team. They threw 56% of the time last year, which is damn near league average. I don't see that changing. If anything, they will maybe run a little more in short-yardage, but only if the Gs and C can sustain the point of attack. If Phil Costa is still playing C, you can forget about any of that. A good run-blocking FB can do only so much when he has to deal with the OL's assignments on top of his own.

The 90s Dallas offense threw for the lead in the first half, then killed the clock in the second half. This Dallas team won't be able to do that. Most think that the defense will suddenly improve just because they threw money at the secondary. They will still struggle to win 3rd down when Ware is double-teamed and Anthony Spencer is still hugging a RT 5 seconds after the snap. The best DBs on earth cannot sustain coverage that long consistently. I just don't see what everyone else seems to see. I think they'll still be throwing heavily late in contests because they'll remain in close games. I don't anticipate they'll be able to run when they have to and the defense knows about it.

Sorry for the stream-of-consciousness, but I have a lot of thoughts about why this team won't be one iota better in 2012 and it's difficult to put them all out there. However, it all adds up to Romo throwing just as much as he always has and being as successful as he always has, provided Phil Costa doesn't get him killed.

cobalt_27 said:

If Romo had a decent offensive line, he'd be a top 5 QB with scheme and talent around him. But, I would go so far to say, as currently constructed and without one of these stiffs magically turning into gold...this is one of the worse offensive lines in the league. It's a huge risk for Romo, and I fear significant injury. Jerry did a terrible job protecting his investment.


Tony Romo projections

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