Dak Prescott (L) became the Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback in 2016, replacing Pro Bowler Tony Romo (R). File Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Former NFL quarterback-turned-CBS color analyst Tony Romo named New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley when asked who he would take with the top pick in a fantasy football draft.
The former Dallas Cowboys gunslinger also named Ezekiel Elliott among his candidates for a top pick in a draft, but he believes there is a possibility his former teammate will miss some part of the regular season due to his contract holdout.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the team's front office are negotiating with Elliott, star wide receiver Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott this off-season.
Prescott and Cooper are playing in the final year of their contracts, while Elliott is under contract through 2020. Romo is confident Jones will sign all three players, but Elliott could take the longest to ink.
"I think Zeke is the coin flip," Romo said. "I don't know if they'll have it for Week 1 or not. That one will be close."
If not for the contract controversy, Elliott would be a no-brainer elite option at the top of every fantasy football draft this season. The two-time Pro Bowl selection and 2016 All-Pro has led the league in rushing during two of his three NFL seasons. Elliott has averaged 101.2 rushing yards per game while scoring 34 touchdowns.
Despite Elliott's success, Barkley erupted into the conversation of the league's best back in 2018. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft had a league-high 2,028 yards from scrimmage during his rookie campaign.
For fantasy football purposes, Barkley should be drafted over Elliott at this time, because Elliott's availability is unknown.
"I think you always have to go with the running back [first in your draft]," Romo said. "You'd have to start with the two runners and two pass catchers ... Barkley and Zeke, then [Christian] McCaffrey and [Alvin] Kamara. Those are the four guys who really stand out to me."
Romo shares a fantasy football team with fellow CBS announcer Jim Nantz. He also will share in fantasy football excitement with fans this season as part of the Corona Hotline. Fans can call 1-844-9-Corona this season and get a Romo pep talk on game days. The Hotline also offers prizes.
Cowboys' good problem
Romo said the Cowboys "absolutely" can make a run at the Super Bowl this year. In addition to Prescott, Elliott and Cooper, the team is loaded with stellar defensive playmakers and a solid offensive line.
But Dallas hasn't been to an NFC Championship game since the 1995 season, when they went on to win their fifth Super Bowl with an offensive core of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. All three players were first-round draft picks over three consecutive seasons.
Elliott was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, a year after Cooper was picked No. 4 overall by the Oakland Raiders. Prescott was a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
"I think when you have young talent the way they do, it's a good problem to have right now," Romo said. "They are going through the contract stuff, but that just means they've drafted well and done well doing trades. ... I think for them, they can absolutely make a run this year. They have ability and talent all over the place."
The Cowboys haven't been able to make it past the divisional round of the playoffs in their last two postseason appearances, losing two games into the 2018 postseason and losing their lone playoff game during their 2016 run. Dallas also lots of talent during Romo's tenure, but the Cowboys were 2-4 in the postseason over that stretch.
Romo dealt with a similar situation to Elliott's when he played for the Cowboys. DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing, was voted to the Pro Bowl and named an All-Pro during his 2014 season with the Cowboys. The 2014 season was also the final year of Murray's contract with the team. He failed to agree to a contract with the Cowboys that off-season and joined the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
"They are different [situations], but I'm sure that's part of why Zeke made the decision to hold out," Romo said. "He sees what the trends are, and it's a position where you only have leverage for so long, and I think he's using that."
It is very rare for the NFL's leading rusher to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory. It has only happened four times in league history, with Smith doing it three times for the Cowboys 1992, 1993 and 1995.
"You have a player with the ability of Zeke ... not everybody has that," Romo said. "That's different."
Romo conceded the starting quarterback job to Prescott in 2016 after recovering from an injury. The rookie never looked back and Romo ended up in the announcer's booth. Romo signed a six-year, $108 million extension with the Cowboys in 2013, before restructuring that deal.
Prescott is reportedly seeking $30 million to $40 million annually.
"That's the thing when you play quarterback in the NFL," Romo said. "The numbers really just change from era-to-era. They are always going to be big numbers regardless of when it is.
"But if you have production, from Dak's side, it's where do they rank him in their eyes as far as his ability to help the team win compared to other quarterbacks in the NFL?
"The Cowboys look and say they think he is in this position in the NFL. They find people around that for the [salary] numbers you can hit. The idea is to have both visions be somewhat similar so you can finish it.
"The divisions are really far apart, that makes it longer to negotiate. These deals are going to get done with all of theses players. Jerry and [Cowboys executive vice president] Stephen [Jones] have done it for a long time and it's pretty simple."
Romo has quickly earned recognition for his uncanny ability to predict plays before they happen from the announcers' booth. The former Cowboys star learned that during his 13-year NFL tenure. Romo, 39, was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and has the fifth-best passer rating in NFL history.
Those skills also could translate to coaching, but Romo said he doesn't want to run back to the sideline quite yet.
"I'm not going to get into coaching now," Romo said. "It will be later on when my kids are older. I'm sure it will be there years down the road. Right now, I love where I'm at. I love announcing football games and I can compete and play golf and I get to be a dad to my three young boys."