It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but it’s been 15 years since the Dallas Cowboys selected Tennessee Jason Witten in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft. And 1,152 catches and 12,448 receiving yards later, the ever-reliable tight end has already solidified his place in Canton. But father time is undefeated and eventually Witten’s days in Dallas will be up. When that actually happens is anyone’s guess as the ageless veteran shows up and performs year after year. But eventually the team would be smart to start looking for a viable replacement.
Some fans will tell you that the team already has Witten’s successor on the roster. The Cowboys selected Baylor basketball star Rico Gathers in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. He has been kept on the shelf for these past two seasons because he’s needed time to learn the game of football as well as recovering from a concussion/head injury he suffered last preseason. While it’s okay to be excited about his potential, none of us really know what he has to offer the team going forward.
Dallas could very easily turn to this year’s deep class of tight ends to find Witten’s replacement. There are about half a dozen of prospects that could be nice pick up for the Cowboys in this draft. Unlike last season when three tight ends went in the first round of the draft, it’s possible that none are taken during Day 1. Instead, there are a several interesting candidates that could go between rounds 2-4.
Here are three options that would fit nicely with the Cowboys.
Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
With a first name like that, it would almost be serendipitous that the Jackrabbit’s star tight end could end up with the Cowboys. If the team is looking for a dynamic pass catcher, then Goedert is your guy. His production in college is off the charts as he’s had 164 catches and 2,404 yards and 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Like Gathers, Goedert is a former basketball player and uses his ball skills to his advantage. His ability to control his body and make mid-air adjustments has allowed him to come down with numerous acrobatic catches. He’s a tough player that strikes with good pad level which enables him to handles his own against rushers from the edge.
This is successful at any level. TE Dallas Goedert. pic.twitter.com/G12GvMg47k— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) November 15, 2017
Goedert is projected to go somewhere in rounds 2-4, but recently his stock has been climbing. He could be a nice early Day 2 option for the Cowboys.
Dalton Schultz, Stanford
If there is a Jason Witten clone in this draft, Schultz might be it. The Stanford tight end is a physical blocker with strong fundamentals and has been a key part of the team’s blocking scheme. He would fit nicely with the Cowboys rushing attack.
He’s not fast, but is sharp out of his breaks and makes for a great target on underneath routes. Schultz has a knack for attacking the voids in coverage and has proven to be a reliable target. His numbers aren’t impressive as he only had 22 catches for 212 yards last season.
As Walter Football reports, the comparison to Witten are noticeable:
Scouts have told me that they like Schultz and see him as a do-it-all Y tight end similar to Jason Witten. They say that Schultz is a good route-runner, excellent at catching the ball, and a really good blocker.
#TBT to @BinghamBaller9 threading the Bears defense for a TD. More in store from Dalton this season.#GoStanford #BeatCal #TightEndU pic.twitter.com/L5QSem1ykF— Stanford Football (@StanfordFball) July 20, 2017
And just like Witten, Schultz is a quiet sleeper candidate projected to go in the third round.
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
If you’re not thrilled about a using a second- or third-round pick on a tight end, then waiting for Fumagalli should be right up your alley. The tight end from Wisconsin isn’t really great at anything, but he’s really good at several things. He’s a solid route runner, smart in making adjustments, and shows good footwork to allow him to release from his breaks. He can be sneaky with his routes which allow him to sift through traffic unattended. Fumagalli also tracks the ball well and has the hand strength to snatch the ball out of the air.
His modest 46 catches for 547 yards and four touchdowns last season are indicative of the type of player he is - not flashy, but efficient.
Troy Fumagalli, who just said his dream is to play for the #Bears, is a model of consistency. Won't blow you away athletically but he's got some quickness, wiggle and a great pair of hands. pic.twitter.com/HTrFWRUynS— Erik Lambert (@ErikLambert1) January 23, 2018
Fumagalli is projected to go somewhere in rounds 4-5, but is good enough to go earlier, especially if there is a run on tight ends.
Would you like to see the Cowboys invest in a tight end this draft? If so, which round makes the most sense?