After discussing the left guard position on Sunday, today we are going to discuss the wide receiver position.
Over the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys made one of the quieter moves in adding Allen Hurns in free agency to a two-year deal worth $12 million. Looking back at the 2017 season, the Cowboys struggled tremendously on offense and the goal this offseason was to make the offense more “Dak-friendly”. By adding Hurns to go along with skill-players Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Jason Witten, it looked like that was going to become true.
However, Stephen Jones made comments after the Hurns signing that the conversation with Bryant will come. And if it does, there is a possibility that the Cowboys could release Bryant. Just last week there were reports coming out of the Cowboys’ facility that Bryant was a nuisance to the team and that “he was not good at many things” anymore.
All of this has led to a continued drama and it really looks to be a 50/50 proposition in terms of what will happen in the future. Nonetheless, the Cowboys have had Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, and James Washington as pre-draft visitors. These three receivers are likely to go in the top 40 of the draft. Dallas has also had Antonio Callaway and Daurice Fountain as pre-draft visitors, so it is clear that their intent is to add to the receiver position.
Depending on how things shake out once the draft begins, the Cowboys could go early at wide receiver, or later if they are looking to groom for the future.
Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Despite his poor testing at the combine, Ridley is the consensus top receiver in the draft. He is the best route-runner in this class, has solid hands, and has the ability to make plays at all levels of the defense. He is savvy and quick enough off the line of scrimmage to beat pressing cornerbacks and he can also separate in the defensive backfield to come up with big plays.
He needs improve at the catch point, but Ridley has the makings of a productive receiver in the NFL. No prospect is a surefire pick in the draft, especially receivers. The numbers have shown that first-round receivers have struggled in recent years:
The NFL's WR Crisis: 13 WRs were drafted in the first round since 2015. Nine of them have yet to top 35 catches in a season. @ConorOrr on why so many young wideouts are struggling.https://t.co/p5I7HgbGyl pic.twitter.com/h8bkt1DGpL— The MMQB (@theMMQB) April 10, 2018
Jason Garrett and much of the Cowboys’ brass traveled to Alabama’s Pro Day. While they may not have been there specifically for Ridley, they definitely were evaluating him.
D.J. Moore, Maryland
Perhaps the draft prospect who has seen his stock rise most in recent months, Moore is a playmaker who could provide a “dangerous” element to an NFL offense. An intriguing prospect with plus speed and size, Moore has the ability to score a touchdown whenever he has the football in his hands.
Moore is the type of player who is a fluid athlete, giving him the innate ability to play both inside and outside for an NFL offense. Due to his home-run threat, there have been comparisons of him to former Maryland product Stefon Diggs. However, there is some JuJu Smith-Schuster and Demaryius Thomas to his game.
Moore was a productive player in college, but that is most likely because he was by far the most dangerous weapon in the Terps offense, despite ineffective play at the quarterback position.
Courtland Sutton, SMU
At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Sutton absolutely looks the part and possesses the frame to be an elite option in the redzone. However, like a lot of receivers his size, Sutton is very slow through his motions. He does not have the ability to separate and he is not spectacular off the line of scrimmage, but Sutton uses his big frame to his advantage. He goes up and brings in footballs, he’s tough to bring down across the middle, and he uses his size to make plays at the catch-point on deep passes.
Dallas places a lot of value on receivers who can block. Well, Sutton can do just that. He is a developed blocker, despite only playing the receiver position for a couple of years. Like Moore, Sutton did not experience spectacular quarterback play, but there is a lot to like out of Sutton. Unlike most receivers, Sutton has the ability to come in immediately and play a role in an NFL offense.
James Washington, Oklahoma State
Uh-oh... watch out for Big 12 receivers! Looking back at the recent history of Big 12 receivers (From 2011 on), there really has not been a player that has stood out in the NFL. Really, the best receivers to come out of the conference is recent years are Corey Coleman, Sterling Shepard, Josh Doctson, and Dede Westbrook.
Washington looks to change that after three unbelievable campaigns. Washington has been top-five in receiving yards in Big 12 for the past three seasons. And had it not been for Westbrook in 2016, Washington would have been the league leader for the past two seasons.
While Washington had a productive college career, there are many questions about his size and play style in the NFL. His biggest knock is that he does not look like a receiver at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds. He somewhat looks like Ty Montgomery, who has made the transition to running back in the NFL.
However, Washington is extremely quick off the ball, plays bigger than his size, and is awesome at the catch-point. He should be able to make in the NFL and the Cowboys believe it too, as they used one of their 30 pre-draft invites on him.
Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame
Let’s first start with the name. What a fun one to say. How great would it be to hear Cowboys broadcaster Brad Sham say this name on a weekly basis? Like Moore and Sutton, St. Brown suffered from inexperience at the quarterback position. Regardless, St. Brown is an intriguing prospect because while he is a bigger target at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, he does things that smaller receivers tend to do and excel at.
There is a connotation with bigger receivers that they are slow-moving and elongated with their movements. However, there is plenty of tape of St. Brown in college winning at the line of scrimmage and making plays out of the slot.
He improved each season in college, but there is still some rawness to his overall game. St. Brown would benefit heavily by continuing to improve as a route-runner and improve at the catch-point. Dallas does not have a receiver over 6-foot-3 on their roster, having an option like him in the redzone could be an additional element to the offense.
Antonio Callaway, Florida
It may seem to be the trend of the article, but talk about inefficient quarterback play. Florida has not had a good option at the quarterback position since Tim Tebow! And even that is saying something. Regardless, Callaway is an intriguing prospect who the Cowboys like, as he is one of their pre-draft visitors.
At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Callaway is a little shorter/smaller than normal for the Cowboys on the outside. A stud receiver who decided to play in-state for the Gators, Callaway really did not live up to the expectations. He was a continuous headache and problem off the field and he was not spectacular on the field either, scoring just seven touchdowns in his collegiate career.
After recently turning 21, it is clear that Callaway is only going to improve in terms of his physical nature. The speed and athleticism are there, but he will need to add on to his frame before beating NFL cornerbacks. He may be a project to start, but a troubling college career should not completely put him off the board.
At least relative to this class of receivers, Antonio Callaway's ability to eat cushion and make his defender pay for slow processing and transitions is highly valuable. Only a few that I've seen so far bring any value in that respect. pic.twitter.com/YW3S2ahuCK— Corner Handbook Out Now! (@NFLFilmStudy) April 8, 2018
Dante Pettis, Washington
Perhaps one of the more underrated receivers in this class, Pettis got lost in the fold a little bit in 2017. In the previous year, Washington’s offense was truly filthy. But when John Ross graduated, Pettis’ touchdown numbers dropped from 15 to seven.
A four-year producer for the Huskies, Pettis is a guy that can be a nice piece to an NFL offense. He may not develop into a top-end receiver at the professional level, but he possesses the unique ability to be a shifty route-runner and make plays at each level of the defense. Pettis also provides an added dynamic as a punt returner. He could go on Day 2, or slide into Day 3.
Daurice Fountain, Northern Iowa
Another pre-draft invite, Fountain is a guy that clearly has the Cowboys’ interest. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Fountain has ideal NFL receiver size. His pedigree consists of unbelievable athleticism, he was a state champion hurdler in high school. While he is relatively new to the game of football and extremely raw at the receiver position, Fountain’s potential was seen a little bit at the Shrine Game.
For Fountain to get used properly, it would be up to Cowboys’ receivers coach Sanjay Lal to not only understand how to use him, but also work on the issues of his game and round him into a more complete player. Dallas’ interest in this prospect should tell you that they most certainly have their pet cats at the position.
6-foot-1 WR Daurice Fountain, #Cowboys Top 30 visit and NFL Combine snub, killed his recent pro day: 42.5 vertical, 11-2 broad jump would have been tops among WRs at the combine, 4.46 40time would have tied for 10th. https://t.co/7jHRx6Xo7D— One Cool Customer (@OCC44) April 8, 2018
Steve Ishmael, Syracuse
Perhaps one of the more underrated receivers in the nation, Ishmael is a guy that teams should know. He led the ACC in receiving yards this past year in an offense that, despite its coach and playing style, does not have a lot of talent. Unfortunately, Ishmael was not given a combine invite, but he has a lot of skills that will be of use on an NFL roster.
He is not going to be the biggest prospect or the guy who puts on a show at an event like the combine, but he is going to outwork cornerbacks and win at the catch-point. Ishmael is a competitor and has awesome chracter. He was nothing but consistent, despite different coaching regiments and injury-laden quarterback play. Ishmael is a guy the Cowboys could look into targeting in the middle of Day 3.