Spotlight: Tony Romo

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 2nd


Jason Wood's thoughts

Take a straw poll of your league's owners and ask them who they expect will finish as the top rated fantasy QB this year. How many QBs do you think will get votes?

Drew Brees?
Aaron Rodgers?
Peyton Manning?
Maybe Tom Brady?

How many people do you think would answer Tony Romo? I'm betting very few, and that's where the opportunity lies in this year's draft. I believe Romo stands as good a chance as any QB in the NFL this year to finish atop the fantasy standings, yet you can roster him two rounds later than those other studs. As long as Romo continues to fall a round or two past those other guys, he's likely to be my top target at the position.

It seems that every year I try to tell people that Romo isn't just good, he's great. You can argue all you want about whether he can "win the big one" but last time I checked we're talking about fantasy football and our seasons usually end before the real NFL playoffs roll along. And in terms of the regular season, Romo's achievements are indisputable. But for those naysayers who seem to think a non-playoff QB is someone worth avoiding, Romo and his teammates got that monkey off their back last year (against my beloved Eagles).

Romo not only has numbers comparable to his peers, but he has numbers that hold up against the history books:

  • 95.6 passer rating -- 4th All Time
  • 63.4% completion rate -- 8th All Time
  • 8.1 yards per attempt -- 4th All Time
  • 268 passing yards per game -- 1st All Time
  • 5.8% TD rate -- 18th All Time

It wouldn't be overstating things to say that the 2010 Cowboys roster is the deepest since the heyday of the Aikman/Smith/Irvin era.

  • TE Jason Witten -- Witten is one of the best at his position and is coming off his 2nd 1,000-yard season in three years. He's always near the top of his position in targets, receptions, YAC and catch percentage
  • WR Miles Austin -- Austin broke out last year (81 receptions for 1,320 yards and 11 TDs), is in his prime, and gives Romo a versatile WR1 he lacked in prior seasons
  • WR Dez Bryant -- Bryant was considered a Top 10 talent in the April draft but some character questions dropped him a bit. Either way, Bryant has the talent to be a perennial 1,000-yard receiver and should have a quick learning curve
  • WR Roy Williams -- The Cowboys and fantasy owners are desperate to replace Williams, but as a backup he's daunting for opposing defenses. Williams is still a 6'4", 210-pound weapon with 37 TDs in 85 games
  • WR Patrick Crayton -- Crayton isn't going to play a lot this year barring injuries, but he illustrates this team's depth better than anyone. Consider that Crayton was this team's starter for the majority of the 2007 season when Romo threw for 4,211 yards and 36 TDs!
  • RBs Marion Barber, Felix Jones & Tashard Choice -- This trio of talented runners will not only keep opposing defenses honest but each of them are above average receivers out of the backfield

The other positive factor is continuity. All but one starter from last year returns, as well as the offensive assistant coaches including OC Jason Garrett. The lone vacancy from last year is at left tackle -- the Cowboys parted ways with long-time fixture Flozell Adams. Now normally the departure of a left tackle would be a potential red flag and cause for concern. And more than a few NFL pundits have cited Flozell's departure as a risk. But other than name recognition, I'm not sure I see the problem. Adams -- for all his accolades -- is past his prime and that had started to show in his play.

According to ProFootballFocus, Adams gave up 8 sacks, 7 additional QB hits and an astounding 34 QB pressures. He was effectively a turnstile last year. So when you hear people talk about the competition between Doug Free and newly acquired Alex Barron for the left tackle job, realize that it could quite possibly end up in an UPGRADE over last year's situation.

Positives

  • Romo is accurate, has great mechanics, and has turned himself into a perennial fantasy QB1
  • The Cowboys are loaded on offense, returning the majority of last year's key contributors while adding WR Dez Bryant
  • The offensive line is solid, and Flozell Adams played poorly last year, so don't sweat the Doug Free vs. Alex Barron camp competition

Negatives

  • Romo spent a lot of time on the golf course this offseason
  • If I'm wrong and neither Doug Free nor Alex Barron are capable tackles, Romo could be under more pressure than he's used to
  • Dez Bryant suffered a high ankle sprain and could be limited early in the season, which makes Roy Williams the starter and possibly disgruntled about his intended role this year

Final thoughts

Tony Romo has been a Top 10 fantasy QB for three consecutive years (and put up Top 10 numbers on a PPG basis the year before when he took over mid-season). This year the stage is set for an even better season. The team returns its key contributors intact, has added Dez Bryant, RB Marion Barber isn't playing on a torn left quad, and they got over the mental playoff hump last year. So long as he stays healthy, I suspect Romo will put up Top 5 numbers and could very conceivably push the likes of Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers for the #1 fantasy spot.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

gandalas said:

Last year, Romo threw for 4483 yards and 26 TD. This season, they added potentially the best WR in the draft. So you would think that his throwing stats would go up as a result? I definitely agree.

The fact was, the Cowboys are talking all about how they want to re-establish the run, and yet even with that high passing total, the Cowboys also ran the ball for 2100 yards at a 4.8 YPC clip. I don't honestly see how they do that much more than that, and in fact I expect them to fall back to somewhere around 1800 rushing yards, which was around their yearly average from 2005-2008.

So those extra yards have to go somewhere, right? I honestly do not think Tony can improve TOO much on last year's yardage total, but I think the TD total will go up. Witten only had 2 TD last season, which was RIDICULOUSLY low with the yardage and catches that he had. I expect Austin will still get his, and Bryant should get 4-5 or so.

rzrback77 said:

Tony Romo has been a consistent producer during the regular season for the Cowboys and for fantasy owners. In his four seasons of starting, he has averaged between 61% and 65% completion rate. in the past three seasons, he has averaged between 263 and 280 yards passing per game. He has also been a steady TD producer with two seasons at 26 and a third at 36.

The surprise to me is that even producing over 4,400 yards and 26 TDs, last year, he ranked only as the QB 6. He has a current ADP of QB 7 and 38 overall. I typically am a proponent of waiting patiently on QBs, but almost a guaranteed rate of 4,000 yards and 26 TDs sounds very attractive.

I don't see any way for the passing production for the Cowboys to decrease, barring a Romo injury. He is accurate and throws for a very solid yards per attempt, averaging over 8.0 his last four years. The Cowboys have three RBs that are all good receivers. They had excellent WR play a year ago and have added another outstanding weapon in Dez Bryant. They have one of the top receiving TEs. Just sounds too much like a stone cold lock.

TheDirtyWord said:

The Cowboys are truly primed for a big year offensively in 2010, one that could rival if not exceed their 2007 offensive season when they scored 50 offensive TD's.

If you look at their history including that season, here is how their profiles work out:

2007: Romo heading into first year as starter. Parcells first year gone from Cowboys. Everyone loves the soft touch of Wade Phillips - perhaps noone more than Terrell Owens who on his best behavior is a production monster. Romo & Owens appear to be best buds.

2008: Cracks in the armor start to show. Owens starts to fume about Romo's reliance on Witten and quietly seethes over the in-season acquisition of Roy Williams. Critics start to hammer Phillips about that soft touch of his. Turmoil permeates the entire team. Romo's leadership is questioned. Team disappoints with a stinker in the final game of the season against Philly. Owens is jettisoned.

2009: Season starts off rough at 2-2. Williams never pans out as a replacement #1 WR for the departed T.O. But Miles Austin comes out of nowhere and provides the #1 target that won't show up his QB that the Cowboys though Williams was to be. Increased offensive production after Austin emerges in Game 5 results in lots of yardage production but only 22 PPG.

Fact is, for as much as the Cowboys re-emerged as a legitimate threat in 2009 for the NFC crown, they averaged 18 PPG in the second half of 2009. To be fair, they had a pretty difficult schedule and still went 5-3 during this time. But IMO, the Cowboys could be explosive in 2010 to the point where even in the late 3rd round, Romo represents excellent value.

The Cowboys have been a team in transition ever since Parcells left and 2010 feels like the first year where stability reigns.

Romo in his 4th season as unquestioned starter.
Wade Phillips is in his 4th year as HC
Miles Austin is the #1 WR.
Jason Witten is the #1 TE.

The rotation of Barber/Jones/Choice at RB is solid with experience under their belts and roles they are familiar with. Any locker room prima donnas/distractions have been eliminated or marginalized.

...the wild card is a wildly talented WR they just drafted in Dez Bryant who can provide a type of X-factor that might be the passing games missing ingredient.

Before Austin emerged, Romo was having a pedestrian season, for him at least. He was on pace for just under 4000 yards and 16 TD's. Upon Austin's emergence, it gave Romo new life and not only was he productive, but efficient as well sporting a 22:5 TD:INT ratio all the while keeping a 64% Completion Rate with an 8.3 YPA. Going into 2009, the WR position was a question mark for Dallas. Now it's a big strength and with a maturing QB and team leader, this could be the year Dallas puts it all together.

This is a big play offense that now has another big play weapon. Instead of having Patrick Crayton or Roy Williams be their 3rd option in the passing game, it's a WR whose been compared to Randy Moss in terms of physical gifts. Whether that's hyperbole or not, the stars couldn't be lining up any better for Romo to have an MVP type of season.

Tyrion said:

Romo has the best weapons he has ever had on offense and his game, which was already in the upper tier of QBs, went to another level last season. What's not to like?

The talk of him not being dedicated and having poor work habits is laughable to me. We are talking about an undrafted free agent who managed to beat a former probowl QB out for the starting QB job on possibly the most storied franchise in the NFL with one of the most conservative personnel men as head coach. The same coach that kept bringing back 40 year old Vinny T. Yeah that sounds like a player who would take his job for granted.

The best thing about his weapons is that they are all in their prime this season and have great incentive to perform at their best.

Miles Austin- Playing for a big contract.
Roy Williams- Playing for his spot on the team and possibly even his spot in the NFL. He doesn't want to have to go to a non contender.
Jason Witten- This guy always plays hard and smells a super bowl.
Dez Bryant- Wants to prove he is a top WR after dropping in the draft.
Patrick Crayton- Playing for his job.
Kevin Ogletree- Former undrafted FA Playing for a spot on this team or any team. Sam Hurd- Same as Ogletree but with more experience and since he will cost a team more money as a vet he has a smaller window.
Martellus Bennett- Physical freak at the position who wants to make his mark and might be playing for his spot on the team as well.
Felix Jones- Very short ride from the next big thing to the next draft bust. Marion Barber- Wants to keep his job.
Choice- wants a starting job on this team or the next.

Some people are worried about Free but this guy goes against Ware and Spencer in practice. The players and the coaches believe he is ready. Who am I to argue?

Jason Garrett is trying to get his name back into the offensive genius catagory. He will be putting his best foot forward this season.

Romo will blow his former stats off the chart this season.


Tony Romo projections

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