This is the first in a series examining the Cowboys' draft preferences by position. Today, we look at wide receivers.
When I eyed the Cowboys' receiving corps at Oxnard last year, I felt I was viewing the products of a successful cloning operation. Look at the consistency of receiver size:
No shrimps need apply. Add the 6'3", 220 lb. Roy Williams to the list and you have a clear size template -- Dallas likes its receivers in the Michael Irvin mold: only Crayton is shorter than 6'2" and only Hurd weighs less than 205 lbs. (Irvin, of course, listed at 6'2", 205.)
Dallas looks for wideouts who can provide a well-rounded game. The team looks for:
- players who can block;
- players who have deep speed;
- players who have exceptional hands;
- players who are quick in and out of cuts and can separate;
Above all, they want playmakers. Guys who can make the most of the three, four or five times they'll touch the football in a game.
Projection: The Cowboys don't appear likely to select a receiver high in the draft. That said, they've had good success mining the late rounds and after rounds. Crayton, Miles Austin and Hurd were all found in the 7th round or later.
When you're looking at prospects from the 4th round and later, know that there is some flexibility in the size profiles. The Cowboys will take a big receiver who lacks great speed if he can block and has exceptional hands. Hurd fits this profile.
The Cowboys will also take a smaller wideout, but he will need to have exceptional speed and quickness to compensate for his likely blocking deficiencies. I was told if you see a 5'9" guy, ask yourself, can he run like a Steve Smith or a DeSean Jackson? Can he run routes and separate like Wes Welker? Can he make a place for himself on third downs?
Lower-round guys will also have to prove it on special teams. When you find a bigger wideout, see if he draft profile says anything about kick coverage skills. The Austins and Hurds won their spots their rookie years because they could play gunners on punts and play the edges on kickoffs. If you're profiling a smaller wideout, see if he can return punts. And I'm taking at Dante Hall's level, not at Skyler Green's.
Let's look one last time at Danny Amendola as a long shot that failed. Once you know the Cowboys' preferences, you can see why he didn't stick. He was a productive college player, but lacked the top gear, and extra degree of shake to make the pro cut.
Now that you know what Dallas is looking for, and where they're likely to be looking, you should be able to filter the receivers' ranks to a handful or two of prospects. Tell us what you find.