Throughout the course of the offseason and training camp, a subset of Cowboys fans have begun to argue that Cole Beasley, mainly due to his size limitations, was a player that could easily be replaced by another player who may have a more complete skill set. To this I have continually responded that even if Beasley is a one-trick pony, there is plenty of room on the Cowboys roster for a player like Beasley, and that he provides a great value for the team.
To illustrate his value, I decided to look at the most important area of emphasis for the Cowboys offense in 2014, third-down success. To determine how valuable Beasley can be to these efforts I looked back at the 2013 season, to see which players on the Cowboys were the most successful at converting their opportunities on third downs into first downs for the team.
The following table shows the number of third and fourth down targets, catches, and conversions for each of the players who had 10 or more such targets in 2013, plus a group for everyone else who had at least one third-down target. These numbers are courtesy of pro-football-reference.
|Player||Targets||Catches||Catch %||Conv.||Conv. %|
When you look at these numbers, you can see that not only did Beasley have the highest catch rate on third downs (leading second-place Dez Bryant by 20 percentage points), he also had the highest conversion rate by the same margin. In other words, there was no receiver on the entire Cowboys roster who was more reliable on third downs in 2013 than Cole Beasley.
The argument I hear most from people who are in favor of releasing Beasley, or reducing his opportunities, is that mostly because of his stature he is limited on the field, meaning defenses don't have to guess about where he will line up or what route he will run. But the evidence from 2013 shows that it doesn't matter whether those other teams know what he's going to do, he still has the ability to be extremely effective in that role.
When you watch the film of 2013, you see that Beasley gets attention from opposing defensive coordinators as they try various ways to defend him and the option routes on which Beasley can be so deadly. When those teams do that, as the Dolphins did, doubling Beasley on 4th-and-4 in last week's preseason match up, that means they are paying less attention to a guy like Dez Bryant, giving more opportunities to the guy who led the Cowboys with six touchdowns scored on third down in 2013.
This is exactly why I believe there should not be a third down with four or more yards to go in 2014 where Beasley is not on the field.