Rico Gathers - a tight end project Dallas took in the seventh round in 2016 and then stashed on the practice squad all season - and Ryan Switzer - a fourth-round 2017 pick who led North Carolina in receptions and yards last year and helped Mitch Trubisky get drafted second overall by the Bears - what do they have in common?
Certainly not size.
A little bit of a size difference between Rico Gathers (80) and Ryan Switzer (10) pic.twitter.com/ZqIZ7nZsU5— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 12, 2017
The answer is - they could be the two wild cards in the Dallas offense in 2017.
Almost all the other skill players are returning on the offense this season - Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Bryce Butler, Jason Witten, Darren McFadden, Geoff Swaim, and possibly James Hanna and Alfred Morris. The Cowboys also drafted big Ohio State wideout Noah Brown, and Andy Jones is back from the practice squad at wide receiver.
But all the buzz is about Rico Gathers and Ryan Switzer.
Rico Gathers is #2 on depth chart behind TE Jason Witten bc of injuries at position...wants it to stay that way. #Cowboys— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) May 12, 2017
Sage football advice from Scott Linehan, on what Rico Gathers can do: "if they're playing man across the board, throw it to the 6'8 guy."— David Helman (@HelmanDC) May 12, 2017
The Cowboys paid Gathers nearly $500,000 to keep from being poached off their practice squad last year. And he was lighting up the practice squad with Tony Romo throwing it to him. At 6’ 6” and 290 lbs, he’s not any taller than Martellus Bennett, but he outweighs him by 40 lbs. Gathers says he’s rapidly improving his blocking skills. If so, it could certainly be an upgrade from Gavin Escobar and would likely get him more snaps as the second tight end. From there, perhaps more of these types of plays could ensue?
Rico Gathers' highlight catch from last night. Michael Irvin: "This dude here, he looks like Zeus." pic.twitter.com/9ctC49nwZH— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 2, 2016
On the opposite end of Gathers, you have diminutive Ryan Switzer. Switzer is only 5’ 8” and 181 lbs. But what he brings to the table is unbelievable quickness. At the combine, Switzer had a 20-yard shuttle of 4.01 seconds (92nd percentile) and a 3-cone of 6.77 seconds (75th percentile). By comparison, Cole Beasley had a 20-yard shuttle in the 4.4 second range and a 3-cone of 7.16 seconds.
With his background as a running back and punt returner, Switzer could become more dangerous than Cole Beasley because of his ability to turn short catches into longer gains. His senior year at North Carolina he finished 10th in the country with 96 catches for 1,117 yards and six touchdowns. He also has surprising speed.
Still, even with all the proof of his explosiveness — Switzer has 17 career plays of 60-plus yards on just 370 touches — he feels people doubt his speed.
“I think they underestimate (my speed) a whole hell of a lot more than they should,” Switzer said. “I think if you watch the tape, I was never caught from behind in college. You don’t lead the country in 70-plus-yard all-purpose plays for the four years you’ve been in college and be slow.”
Here are some of his highlights.
The big man and the little guy. Could they each bring some new special sauce to the Cowboys offense in 2017? That’s burning question number 7.