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ESPN ranks NFL #1 wide receivers, Cowboys fall into a special category

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Just one more look at the Cowboys receiver situation.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys-Minicamp Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It seems that we can’t escape discussion of the Cowboys revamped receiving corps. That’s fair, it wasn’t exactly business as usual when Dallas parted ways with Dez Bryant. You see, Bryant was still considered a number one wide receiver by some (not by me). They were incredulous when Dallas released him and signed Allen Hurns as a replacement, although Hurns has essentially matched Bryant’s production over the last three years.

Without Bryant, the Cowboys receiving corps has been dissected to death, with one analyst calling it the worst in the NFL (I promise you that isn’t even remotely the case). In a more sober analysis of the number one wide receiver situation around the league, ESPN used a Stephen Jones quote as motivation to classify the position around the NFL.

“I think that you can estimate that there are 10 No. 1 receivers in this league, and 22 others get it done in another way.” -- Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones, after the release of Dez Bryant.

Even though this is all based on the flawed assumption that Bryant was a still a number one receiver, we’ll bite and see how the Cowboys fared. (BTW, if NFL teams thought Bryant was a number one receiver, I guarantee you he would be signed by now, regardless of what Bryant says about picking the perfect situation. Money would talk.)

ESPN separated teams into four classifications. The first three dealt with teams that had something remotely close to a number one receiver - Clear No. 1s, Not-quite No. 1s, and emerging No. 1s. As you might guess, the Cowboys don’t fall into any of these categories. (We have to say, some of the guys labeled as number ones, or emerging ones, in the article are pretty dubious, but we’re playing along).

The Cowboys are placed in the fourth category - Tier 4: Committee attack.

You might think that’s a “loser” category where they dump the dregs of the NFL. But that’s not the case and underscores the Cowboys contention that you don’t need a number one receiver to succeed in the NFL. Sure, the Browns fall into this category, but you also have teams like the Rams, Vikings, Chiefs and Lions. All four of those teams had winning records last year and three of them made the playoffs. For all who are concerned about the Cowboys idea of spreading the ball around and not relying on one big-time guy, this should help soothe the soul.

Here, was the analysis of the Cowboys in the ESPN article.

Allen Hurns/Terrance Williams

2018 outlook: The Cowboys say they will go with a committee approach at receiver, but Allen Hurns is the only wideout with a 1,000-yard season to his credit, with 1,031 yards in 2015. He did not top 500 yards in his final two seasons with Jacksonville, which played a part in his release, although he missed 11 games in 2016 and ‘17. The Cowboys don’t need him to replace the 2012-14 Dez Bryant, who averaged more than 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns, but they will need him to be the leader of the committee. He had a good start to his work with Dak Prescott in the offseason program but will need to continue that once training camp begins. -- Todd Archer, ESPN Cowboys reporter

Projected target share: 19/15 percent. Dez Bryant and his career 25 percent target share are gone, which means the Cowboys’ wide receiver competition is wide open in 2018. Hurns averaged a share right at 18 percent during each of his four seasons in Jacksonville, Williams hasn’t eclipsed 18 percent during five years in Dallas, and Cole Beasley has cleared 14 percent only once in his career (21 percent in 2016). The three veterans and rookie Michael Gallup figure to lead the unit in 2018, but there might not be much separation in targets between the No. 1 and No. 4 option. -- Clay