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With the lockout over, camps and pre-season games finally under way all I can say is welcome back NFL. However, with the extended lockout came a free agent signing frenzy like never seen before. Many players have new homes, some in new positions, and some in new schemes. The breakdowns below will help to show who went where and how it will impact their fantasy value as well as who stayed put and what to expect from them too. In addition, many teams have new defensive coordinators and you can read about them in the 2011 Coaching Changes article. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also follow me on twitter @IDPSteve. Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).
Defensive Line: For the most part the Cowboys DL does not really present any fantasy value. In 2009, Jay Ratliff had a top 10 season for a DT, but in 2010, his fantasy production dropped approximately 26%. Ratliff is currently fighting a hip injury but head coach Jason Garrett said that he expects Ratliff as well as some other injured Cowboys could practice in the upcoming week. My recommendation is to monitor Ratliff’s progression and see if he can get healthy. If healthy, I would be willing to take a chance on Ratliff in DT mandatory leagues. In FA the Cowboys added veteran Kenyon Coleman but I wouldn’t expect Coleman to put up viable fantasy numbers.
Linebacker: Bradie James and Keith Brooking are the veteran incumbents for the two ILB positions in the Cowboys defense. James seems to have a much more secure hold on his starting job as some seem to think that Brooking could start to lose snaps to second year linebacker Sean Lee or even rookie second round pick Bruce Carter. In dynasty leagues, I have both Lee and Carter as buys. Anchoring one of the OLB spots is All-Pro DeMarcus Ware, Ware is an impact player in the NFL, but in fantasy circles, he has been inconsistent due to his lack of tackles and reliance on sacks to put up fantasy points. This year under the direction of new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, I expect Ware to have one of the best seasons of his career. I would not want to rely on Ware as my LB1 but if you can get him as a LB3/4, he could be a steal.
Defensive Back: The one area that the Cowboys really needed to address on their defense was their secondary, and while they were in the running for Nnamdi Asomugha, they were unable to land the him. Instead of solidifying their cornerbacks, they ended up signing Abram Elam to play SS. Elam should be able to put up DB2/3 type numbers in the Cowboys defense. Gerald Sensabaugh is not someone I would target as a starter in normal 12 team leagues but in deeper leagues, he could be worth a look as depth.
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