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Why Cowboys WR Michael Gallup could be this year’s Cooper Kupp

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Why Gallup could step right in and lead the Cowboys receiving corps as a rookie.

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Colorado State Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Analysts say that receiver is one of the hardest positions in football to translate from college to the pros. Outside of the 2014 NFL Draft that produced 11 receivers that are now household names like Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry and others, an average of just three receivers make an impact in their rookie seasons.

Lately, it’s really been trouble to take a receiver in the first round. In 2015, only two first-rounders, Amari Cooper and DaVante Parker, made an impact for their teams. The following year, only one first-round receiver did much of anything. However, just because some first rounders have failed doesn’t mean some later picks haven’t made their presence felt.

In 2016, Michael Thomas (47th overall) was the top guy, catching 92 balls, producing over 1,000 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. The next top performers after Thomas were selected 40th, 165th, and 55th in order. This past year was more of the same, JuJu Smith-Schuster (62nd overall, 58 rec, 968 yards, 7 TDs) and Cooper Kupp (69th overall, 62 rec, 862 yards, 5 TDs) were the standout rookies. With that said, the Cowboys picked Michael Gallup in the third round at 81st overall, could he be this year’s Cooper Kupp?

Evan Silva, of Rotoworld, is pretty high on Gallup going into 2018 but he’s not the only one who believes the rookie can have serious production in his first year. PFF goes as far as to call him a potential replacement for Dez Bryant with his ability to break tackles. Gallup is a very physical type of receiver and tied for the most forced missed tackles with Korey Robertson and D.J. Moore.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons folks are feeling pretty excited about Gallup’s abilities is due to his great production. Last season alone, Gallup had 100 receptions for over 1,400 yards, and seven touchdowns. He also has some of the surest hands in this draft class:

Gallup does not have game-breaking speed but plays much faster than his 4.51 40 time would suggest. There’s no way he could lead the NCAA in yards after catch the past two seasons without good play speed. What you see on tape is a guy who consistently drives the defender off his backpedal. Gallup plays extremely light on his feet with good burst in and out of his breaks.

Where Gallup really learned to set himself apart was with his technique. When you’re not the biggest (6’1, 205 lbs) or fastest guy on the field, you have to make up for it with polished technique, which is exactly what Gallup brings to the table. In this class, a lot of praise was given to Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, and Anthony Miller for their route-running ability. The same could be said for Gallup, who is an incredibly savvy route salesman. He received very high praise from PFF on his understanding of the route tree:

It’s imperative that receivers learn the nuances of playing the position in the NFL and especially in today’s game. Very few receivers can coast on their athletic profile alone. They have to make adjustments because once a defense knows those tendencies, they’ll just clog up the passing lanes. If a receiver can’t run the route tree or create separation, that athletic ability is not going to save them every time. That’s where a receiver like Gallup makes all the difference with his attention to refining the little aspects of his game.

For this offense, with a young developing quarterback, route-running and separation are two of the most important aspects of having a successful passing offense. This is a team that runs through Ezekiel Elliott and a run-pass option offense. What we know about the type of receiver Michael Gallup is should fit right in with what this offense is going to be asking him to do:

Gallup will have to prove his capabilities against quality competition but he possesses the attributes to make him a quarterback’s best friend. If he can build that trust in the offseason with the quarterback, there is no ceiling for that relationship. Where PFF may look at him as a potential replacement for Dez Bryant, it’s really not about replacing anyone. It’s about the Cowboys offense evolving into something more fitting. Michael Gallup will fit nicely in that style where the open receiver gets the ball and we all got a pretty good idea of what he can do after the catch. All things considered, this could certainly be the second season in a row where it’s a third-round receiver that impresses the most. It’s okay to get just a little hyped for this kid: