The Dallas offense is probably the most talked about in the entire league this offseason and for good reason. The Cowboys offense was a fantasy goldmine in 2014. Tony Romo was outstanding, Dez Bryant was his typical dominant self, and DeMarco Murray turned out the best fantasy season he’s ever had. But, for some reason, all is quiet on the Terrance Williams front. With Murray joining the Eagles, most of the Dallas talk revolves around who will take over the backfield. At the same time, with Murray out of the picture and no great options to replace him, the Cowboys are almost guaranteed to throw more. That’s good news for all Dallas pass catchers.
While sure to see more targets after an already outstanding 2014, Bryant is now worth the first overall pick in some popular fantasy minds. Jason Witten is being looked at as a mid range starting tight end at age 33. The biggest change in ADP belongs to Cole Beasley who is now being considered a huge value late in drafts. For some reason, Williams’ ADP isn’t getting the same boost. Below are the ADP graphs of all four players mentioned in both dynasty and MFL10 formats since the start of March. For reference, Murray signed with the Eagles on March 12th, although that didn’t seem to spark any immediate change.
As shown by the charts, Beasley’s ADP really didn’t start to take off until mid May and there’s no clear reason as to why his ADP started to rise at that time. Williams ADP has actually slightly lowered in dynasty formats since March began.
How Much Will Dallas Throw?
There’s probably no real way to get a handle on how much more the Cowboys will put the ball in the air without Murray. We don’t really have much of an indication of how much they like their current running back situation compared to last year. In 2014 the Cowboys threw the ball 476 times. In our current staff projections we have Romo projected at 559 attempts in 2015. That would be a 83 attempt bump from 2014 to 2015, or just over five more passes per game. Seems reasonable to me.
Now with the assumption that there are 83 targets to be had in Dallas, it’s almost anyones guess as to who will see what portion of those extra looks. Dez saw 136 targets in 2014 and it would probably make sense for Dallas to throw him an extra 20 or so in 2015. I find it hard to see Witten getting a large share of the extra targets. It doesn’t make much sense to increase the role of a 33 year old tight end who certainly isn’t getting any better. I can see the argument that the Cowboys decide to run more three WR sets without Murray and thus Beasley is on the field more often and sees more targets as a result, so I guess I understand the logic behind his ADP rise. That leaves us with Williams. Is there any real argument as to why he shouldn’t see a big bump in looks? The numbers don’t think so.
I can’t really blame the fantasy community for forgetting about Williams when he’s played beside Dez throughout his short career, but he’s quietly been an absolute stud right out of the gate. Williams came out of college extremely late and will turn 26 as the 2015 season begins. Dallas hasn’t shown Williams the amount of attention you might expect a WR2 to draw seeing only 139 targets since he’s been in the league, but if they’re looking at the numbers that has to change soon.
Of all WRs who have seen at least 100 targets since 2013 when Williams came into the NFL, only Kenny Stills, DeSean Jackson, and Odell Beckham Jr. have been more efficient on a per target basis according to the Fantasy Efficiency App. Williams is averaging 0.65 fantasy points over expectation per target during that stretch. Dez is averaging 0.57. In 2014 alone Williams actually had a higher reFPOEPT score than Beckham Jr. who had the most talked about season in the entire league. Here’s a look at Romo’s AY/A data with players he’s targeted at least 100 times:
Evidence suggests Williams is an underused stud without much opportunity, but he’s being drafted as an average talent with an average amount of opportunity. It would be going too far to suggest Williams is better than Bryant, but I don’t think its outrageous to suggest he’s undervalued.
What To Expect
Without knowing what the Dallas coaches are thinking there’s not a solid way to predict what share of the newly available targets Williams will see, but I think a 30 target bump is pretty realistic if the Cowboys realize how efficient Williams has been. That size bump would leave Williams with 86 balls thrown his way in 2015. Using William’s efficiency numbers last season, Williams would finish with a line of 46 receptions, 821 yards, and 10 touchdowns, which comes to 188.1 PPR points. That line would have ranked Williams as the 30th ranked WR in 2014. Williams currently has a dynasty ADP of 140 as the 60th WR off of the board behind massive disappointments Rueben Randle and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Williams is clearly a very solid WR who deserves close to 100 targets per season. The only question is whether Dallas recognizes his value or decides to load a 33 year old tight end with targets or get cute and send too many balls towards the undersized Beasley. If the Cowboys are smart, Williams could sneak into high WR3 territory for 2015 while he’s being drafted at WR54 in best ball formats. Romo recently said Williams “has had one of the best offseasons I’ve seen in a while” and Cowboys’ Wide Receiver’s Coach Derek Dooley claims Terrance has made a “big jump” this offseason, if that’s your kind of thing. Williams is only a spike an opportunity away from being an every week starter. The chance he gets that opportunity could be a lot closer to a reality than most expect.