Heading into this year’s draft, the Dallas Cowboys are fully stocked as far as starters are concerned. Depth however, is a question at every position across the board with the exception of running back. At the wide receiver position, the starters are set. Roy Williams will line up at split end, Miles Austin will likely man the flanker position, and Patrick Crayton will occupy the slot in 3-wide sets. After that, the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver depth chart reads more like a questionnaire. Here are the wide receivers currently under contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
Roy Williams (6-3, 220)
Miles Austin (6-3, 216)
Patrick Crayton (6-0, 205)
Isaiah Stanback (6-2, 208)
Sam Hurd (6-2, 196)
Paris Warren (6-0, 213)
Travis Wilson (6-1, 213)
Heading into this year’s draft, the Dallas Cowboys are fully stocked as far as starters are concerned. Depth however, is a question at every position across the board with the exception of running back. At the wide receiver position, the starters are set. Roy Williams will line up at split end, Miles Austin will likely man the flanker position, and Patrick Crayton will occupy the slot in 3-wide sets. After that, the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver depth chart reads more like a questionnaire.
Here are the wide receivers currently under contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
The only known commodities on this list are Williams and Crayton. While he has logged only one outstanding statistical season, Williams has proven that he can be an NFL difference-maker. Now moving into the "X" position (split end/#1 wide receiver in Jason Garrett's office), he will have ample opportunities to prove his worth. Say what you will about Patrick Crayton, but the team could do a lot worse for a third wide receiver. The guy is consistent if nothing else. Too much has been made of Crayton's crucial playoff drop two seasons ago. He is still a good, crafty route runner, and still has the most reliable pair of hands on the team.
51 receptions, 862 yards, 3 touchdowns. Pretty acceptable season for a #2 receiver, right? Well, those aren't season statistics for the Cowboys' #2 receiver, they are the combined career stats for wide receivers on the roster not named Williams or Crayton! That is frightening.
I want Miles Austin to succeed as much as the next guy, but it is foolish not view him as a huge question mark heading into the upcoming season. Don't let Austin's rare combination of size and straight-line speed fool you. Austin has stiff hips, and very little "wiggle" or lateral agility. His routes are undisciplined, and he only this past season began to display the ability to catch the football consistently. In his three NFL seasons, Austin has had a tough time getting on the field, and an even tougher time staying on it injury-wise. Austin's supporters cite his age as a reason for hope, but I defy you to find a Pro Bowl wideout who entered his fourth NFL season with only 18 career receptions. Don't worry I'll wait.
Similar to Austin, Isaiah Stanback looks the part of a top-notch NFL wideout. However, Stanback's injury history makes it difficult to even envision him ever reaching his full potential. Sam Hurd is a serviceable receiver, who has to this point maintained a roster spot on the strength of his special teams play. Paris Warren has been an NFL roster bottom-feeder going on four years now, and Travis Wilson has for all intents and purposes been a bust.
Currently holding 11 picks in this April's draft, the Cowboys have got to look at a wide receiver at some point. I for one would be shocked if the team selected one in the second or third rounds, but I was also shocked when the team selected Martellus Bennett last year. A more likely scenario would have the team looking at receivers in the middle to late rounds.
As Rafael has pointed out before, the Cowboys have a certain height/weight template for wide receivers. All of the Cowboys wideouts stand six feet or taller, and only Hurd (196) weighs in under 200 pounds. The Cowboys like their receivers big, but don't you at some point have to say to hell with the template? At some point talent has to prevail. If Steve Smith walked into Valley Ranch and said, "Mr. Jones I want to be a Cowboy," what are you going to do? Are you going to pat him on the head and say "Sorry little fella, maybe next year when you're bigger."
None of the Cowboys' current wide receivers are great after the catch. If the Cowboys do select a wide receiver in this year's draft, he will likely be called upon to return punts, so a smaller, shiftier guy would be ideal. Here are a few guys who might draw the Cowboys interest.
- Arizona's Mike Thomas was among the nation's top punt returners (14.0 average) in 2008. While his speed (4.40) and hands make him an intriguing prospect, scouts don't like his size (5'8"/195). He will not be an early selection.
- North Carolina's Brandon Tate was averaging an obscene 22.6 yards per return before being sidelined by a mid-season knee injury. Tate's inability to work out for scouts will certainly hurt his draft status. He should be available in the middle rounds.
What if Miles Austin doesn't live up to expectations? What if Stanback gets hurt again? What if Hurd gets hurt again? We have been promised that the post-T.O. era will feature an array of young playmakers, making plays all over the field. However, with only two proven legitimate NFL receivers on the roster, the Cowboys have got to believe there is room for one more.