The Cowboys’ wide receiver corps looks to be pretty crowded right now. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb are the three big names, but there’s a host of other players who are competing to make the final roster. In addition to returning players like Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns, we’ve heard about undrafted rookie Jon’Vea Johnson impressing Sanjay Lal early on, We’ve talked about a unique way to utilize Noah Brown, and most recently we’ve heard about Reggie Davis impressing the last few days of OTA’s.
While it’s exciting to hear so many good things about so many different receivers, especially given where this group was a year ago, let’s not forget about Cedrick Wilson Jr. Taken in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft, Wilson hails from Boise State, where he had an impressive two-year career with 139 catches for 2,640 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 26 games.
Not only did he have good production, but Wilson also showcased quality athleticism and agility at the combine. His 4.55 40-yard dash was only slightly slower than Gallup’s, while his vertical and broad jumps were one inch higher and lower, respectively, than his fellow Cowboys rookie receiver. But the more impressive part was his top ten finishes in both the 3-cone drill and the short shuttle.
Of course, another reason why Wilson was so successful in college is because of the way the Boise State offense is engineered to utterly confuse defenses into letting guys get easy plays. And therein lies the hook: Kellen Moore seems to be infusing this offense with the concepts that are evident in Boise State’s attack. That should give Wilson an inside edge in this position battle given that he has two years of experience in that kind of offense. While other receivers are learning some of the new aspects, particularly the pre-snap motion elements that are bound to be included, Wilson should already be more or less up to speed with what Moore wants.
More than that, Wilson has a certain trait that is evidently becoming a very crucial aspect of this new offense: the ability to be a threat on the deep ball. Word out of OTA’s is there have been a lot more deep passes for Dak Prescott, and Lal explained the importance of it the other day:
WR coach Sanjay Lal: "The whole premise, in my opinion, of this offense is vertical speed. If you can't hit a go-route, the comeback game isn't real, your slant game isn't real ...Being able to hit those deep balls in games is going to change everything if we're able to do that." https://t.co/DT82CQhQGv— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) June 5, 2019
Of course, this falls in line with one of the core principles of the Air Coryell philosophy, which is to make defenses cover every blade of grass, especially deep down field. And Wilson fits into this profile with his long-run speed. As well, Wilson has the size at 6’3” to go up in traffic and make some of the contested catches on those deep balls.
But Wilson is more than just a long-distance runner. Whereas Deonte Thompson was considerably one-note in that aspect, Wilson possesses separation skills that allow for him to succeed on other routes, like the comeback and slant that Lal mentioned. Shortly after the 2018 draft, analyst Jonah Tuls pointed to this ability as one reason he expected big things for Wilson:
Don’t be surprised when Cedrick Wilson makes this roster and competes for snaps. Had him in the 4th round and was one of my favorite route runners. Savvy, technical player who knows how to separate without being an elite athlete. He can play.— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) April 28, 2018
And he was almost right, as Wilson began to separate himself from the pack early on in OTA’s. While it still seemed like there was work to be done to make the roster, Wilson had been lauded by Lal for how quickly he picked up the playbook. However, Wilson tore a shoulder labrum in training camp and was placed on the injured reserve, ending his rookie year before it began.
There’s been little word on how Wilson is progressing heading into this season, but his familiarity with the concepts Moore wants to bring over from Boise State, as well as his ability as a route runner and deep threat receiver, should make Wilson a candidate to get involved in this offense in a bigger way than many of us expect right now.