Earlier Raf profiled what the Cowboys look for in wide receivers. In short, Dallas likes guys who are over six feet tall and are 200 pounds or more. This has brought guys like Miles Austin, Sam Hurd and T.O. to Dallas. It also meant Roy E. Williams (insert joke here) was a must-have for Jerry and Co.
But I wonder if this may be the year to break away from that profile. Last year we saw Kevin Ogletree has success in a limited role for the Cowboys, and even though he is 6’0” 192 lbs., his game relies more on quickness than strength.
Jason Garrett’s passing tree includes many stop and go and/or double moves to try and get receivers deep. These types of routes require receivers to be able to stop on a dime and then re-gain top speed in an instant; in short, quickness and acceleration. To me, this is a major reason why Roy E. Williams has been unsuccessful thus far in his Cowboys career. Roy’s strengths are straight-line speed (4.37 & 4.42 at his Combine) and his size (6’3” 215 lbs). In my opinion, Roy E. would be best served if Jason Garret went back and looked at tape of Troy Aikman throwing to Michael Irvin on a skinny post, but that’s a post for another day.
Back to looking for smaller, quicker receivers. Another quality of looking for guys who fit the mold is they often bring return ability to the table. The ability to make people miss in the open field is crucial to returns, as well as the ability to accelerate through small openings before they close, and the ability to outrun guys who have angles on you.
For the Cowboys, WR is a position JJ says he’s comfortable with. Most fans would agree. Miles Austin is capable of being a #1 WR. Roy E. Williams is an average #2 WR (just wish he were paid like one) and Crayton is good #3. Ogletree has shown promise, but still has much to prove before we can say he has arrived, and Sam Hurd has maxed out his potential (good special teamer, but will never be more than an average #3 WR). But, as has been pointed out many times, Williams’ contract vs. his production are way out of line and Crayton isn’t getting any younger – he’s 31.
While not a priority yet, the Cowboys would be wise to look for depth at the WR position. While there are definitely some guys who fit the current profile – Dez Bryant 6’2” 210 lbs, Demaryius Thomas 6’3” 230 lbs, Arrelious Benn 6’2” 214 lbs, Brandon LeFell 6’3” 209 lbs and Taylor Price 6’1” 212 lbs – I want to focus on smaller guys I think the Cowboys should keep their eye on.
First up is a BTB favorite, Emmanuel Sanders out of Southern Methodist. Sanders measures at 5’11” 186 lbs. and runs the forty in the low 4.4’s with a 10-yard split of 1.49. Sanders stats are slightly inflated because he played in a pass happy June Jones offense. But he also displays good hands, and good field vision and awareness. He caught several passes on the sideline and was able to drag or tap his feet to make the catch. He is also able to find and adjust to the deep pass. He's not afraid to cut back across the field if he sees an opening. He has good initial burst, but not elite. Sometimes he doesn’t seem to play as fast as his 40 time suggests, but shows the ability to beat DB’s down the field. Some character concerns as he was suspended for two games after his junior season for missing team meetings and study halls. Came back for his senior year with no incidents I’m aware of though. I’ve seen Sanders projected anywhere from the 5 to 7th round.
Next up, someone I’ve only started looking more closely at; Antonio Brown of Central Michigan. Brown is 5’10” 186 lbs. He ran a 4.56 at the Combine but followed up with a 4.47 at his pro day. Brown shows the speed, agility, acceleration and vision to be a dangerous return man in the NFL. He scored 5 special teams touchdowns – 3 on punt returns 2 on kick returns in three years for the Chippewas. He averaged 15.5 yards per punt return. He was named MAC special teams’ player of the year in 2008 & 2009. As a receiver, he averaged 101.6 receptions and 1,066 yards for his career; he also averaged a little over seven receiving touchdowns per year. His biggest strength is his breakaway/big-play ability, Brown has a catch and run over 75 yards in every one of his seasons. His return ability has him rated in the fourth round of some mocks, but he could drop as low as the sixth.
Jacoby Ford is one of the fastest players in the nation running the 40 in the 4.2 range. Standing only 5’9” and weighing in at 186, Ford is also one of the shorter WR’s available in the draft. His specialty is the deep ball, but he needs some work on his shorter and intermediate routes. Not a polished product. He should be able to contribute on returns immediately.
And lest we forget the man without a position, Dexter McCluster. McCluster is a human highlight reel despite his diminutive frame (5’8” 168 lbs.). McCluster did a little bit of everything for Ole Miss. McCluster plays faster than his 4.53 forty yard dash time. Extremely quick and agile, McCluster is an intriguing prospect who doesn’t have a natural position in the NFL. He primarily played RB at Ole Miss but projects more as a slot WR or Wildcat option in the NFL. McCluster has second round talent, but his lack of a true position may scare a few teams away. Still the man is dangerous with a football in his hands.
So there you have it, four guys who don’t fit the Cowboys WR profile, but who may fit in with the Cowboys anyway.