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Cowboys Draft '10, Part Three: Catch a Play Maker


We continue the process of self-scouting the Cowboys '10 draft by looking at wide receiver profiles.

"Fine size. Big target. Has over-the-middle courage.  Large, soft hands. Moves easily. Very smooth and fluid. Adjusts to the ball well.  Makes difficult catches look easy.  Will lay out for the ball.  Very effective on the hitch screen.  A play maker. Can run after the catch.  Separates from the defender most of the time.

-- Joel Buchsbaum, Draft Preview 1992, review of WR Jimmy Smith  (emphasis mine)

Jimmy Smith's Cowboys career didn't turn out as any of us would have hoped, but he nonetheless turned in a fine career, with 862 catches and over 12,000 yards.   For draft purposes, he serves as the Cowboys prototype, a player who combines all the main qualities the team pursues.   They can be summarized as four primary qualities and one bottom line trait.

When teams break down receivers they look for four dominant skills.  They want to see quickness.  Can a player make cuts at speed?  Can he get off the line of scrimmage and up to speed in a hurry?

Next, does that player have top end speed?  Can he create separation and get deep on a secondary? 

Dallas also places a premium on strength, for personal and for team reasons.  Unlike their college counterparts, NFL receivers see press coverage almost every week.  Pro corners will bully weak wideouts and erase them from games.  Moreover, the Cowboys want to run the football.  Receivers who are either unwilling or unable to block are liabilities and won't get on the field. 

Lastly, and obviously, receiver need good hands. That said, there's more to catching than good mitts.   Can a prospect track the football, adjust to it, and snag it, in all areas and situations?

If you look at the physical qualities, they point towards bigger prospects, especially the premium the team places on strength.  A once over of the current receiving corps bears this out:

Here are some more recent starters:

Antonio Bryant -- 6'1", 205 lbs.

Keyshawn Johnson -- 6'4", 211 lbs.

Terrell Owens -- 6'3", 224 lbs.

Terry Glenn -- 5'11", 196 lbs.

Dallas loves the big guys.  Terry Glenn was the only productive Cowboys receiver who wasn't close to the prototype size (which incidentally, was Michael Irvin's height and weight). 

It's not enough to have all the physical tools.  Above all, the Cowboys want play makers.  They play pro football, not track and field.  If your speed, quickness and strength don't translate to broken tackles, first downs, touchdowns and make a consistent difference for your team, you're going to break your new fans' hearts and maybe get your front office replaced. 

Check out this profile and tell me what's missing?

"Excellent athlete with rare speed.  Exceptional deep speed and ability to separate from the defender.  Can get open quickly.  Jumps very well.  Stronger than most receivers and is well built...

Lacks experience, judgment and really soft hands.  Has a lot of trouble catching passes that he must come back to.  Occasionally has some trouble tracking the flight of the ball... Inconsistent player.

Alexander Wright had one of the most impressive physical profiles I've ever read.  He excelled at track.  He bench pressed almost 400 lbs., even though he weighed just 185 lbs.  His problem, as his highlighted profile from the '90 Scouts Notebook makes clear, was that he wasn't a true football player.   Jimmy Johnson, a man who emphasized play making as much as any personnel guy, took a chance on Wright's numbers in the 2nd round that year and got burned.  One year later, J.J. corrected the mistake, picking play maker supreme Alvin Harper to take Wright's place.

Does this mean Dallas doesn't look for smaller receivers?  Not at all.  Glenn is proof that smaller guys in the Steve Smith mold can catch Dallas' eye.  In the next story, I'll point out how to be an exception to the big guy template. 

In the meantime, here's an assignment.  Run each of the five current receivers through the profile.  Which skills does each possess?  Which ones does each lack?  How does each compensate for any shortcomings?  Lastly, which would you classify as playmakers?  How many fall short?

The number you come up with for that last question will tell you high high or how low receiver will land on the team's priority list.  Leave your grades in the comment thread.

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