The free agency period just kicked off and there has been no shortage of moves across the league — especially when it comes to the wide receiver position.
DeAndre Hopkins is teaming up with Kyler Murray after a questionable move from Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans; Stefon Diggs was traded to the AFC and likely makes the Buffalo Bills the favorite to win the AFC North; Amari Cooper, meanwhile, is back in Dallas after agreeing to a five-year, $100 million deal.
While Coop is back, the Cowboys are losing one of their top-three wideouts. Randall Cobb is staying in the Lone Star State, but is teaming up with Deshaun Watson on a three-year, $27 million contract. Cobb provided 55 catches, 828 yards, and three touchdown receptions during his lone season with America’s Team.
The Cowboys do have one of the best wide receiver tandems in all of the NFL heading into the 2020 season with Cooper and 2018 third-round selection Michael Gallup. Cooper has been worth the first-round draft choice that the Dallas Cowboys parted ways with prior to the 2018 trade deadline, while Gallup really emerged last season as a legitimate number two option.
With Amari Cooper in place for the long term, the Cowboys are one of 6 NFL teams with a pair of 1,000-yard receivers from 2019.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) March 17, 2020
BUF - Brown & Diggs
CAR - Moore & McCaffrey
CLE - Beckham & Landry
DAL - Coop & Gallup
LAR - Kupp & Woods
TAM - Evans & Godwin
While having two really good options to throw to is awesome, it is obviously even better to have at least three receivers to choose from; therefore, it should not be out of the question for the Cowboys to have a wide receiver as an option early in the draft.
Especially if one of the draft’s top three guys fall to pick 17.
Amari Cooper is a top-5ish receiver when he's on. He's a monster. But you NEED a good #2 to compliment him, and it shouldn't be out of the question for the Cowboys to still go WR at 17, especially if Jerry Jeudy is still around.— Dalton Miller (@DaltonBMiller) March 17, 2020
Jeudy is the perfect fit for Dallas.
Assuming that the trio of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and CeeDee Lamb are off the board by the time that the Cowboys come onto the clock, it is important to see who else Dallas could target in a loaded receivers draft class.
James Proche, SMU
A DeSoto native, James Proche emerged as a reliable target in Sonny Dykes’ offense at SMU. The former Mustangs wide receiver caught 111 balls for 1,225 yards and 15 (!) touchdowns in the air raid attack last season as SMU appeared in the AP Top-25 poll for the first time in decades. That came after a season in which Proche grabbed 93 passes for 1,119 yards, and 12 touchdowns in 2018.
The DFW native recorded 27 touchdowns and averaged 11 or more yards per catch in both of his last two seasons in Dallas. Not too shabby.
Where Proche lacks in speed and size, he makes up for it with his reliable hands and crisp route running. The 2019 first team All-AAC selection uses his 9 5’8” hands to consistently grab passes, which made him a go-to target for quarterback Shane Buchele. He showcased his hands in Indy at the scouting combine in front of a number of scouts and decision makers.
Best hands in the entire draft.— Sad Reporter Liam (@Blutman27) February 28, 2020
James Proche. pic.twitter.com/2cd1Cx9ShX
Proche is a tough receiver that did not shy away from contact. He was physical as a blocker, was not afraid of battling with defensive backs, and recorded an impressive 20 reps on the bench press at the combine, which is good for 89th-percentile per mockdraftable.
The Cowboys need to have their eyes on a slot receiver during the draft to pair with Cooper and Gallup for Prescott. Fortunately, there is a receiver right here in the DFW area that will be sitting there on the third day.
KJ Hill, Ohio State
Ohio State’s KJ Hill, a former four-star recruit out of high school, turned in a very productive career in Columbus. The Arkansas native reached a career high in touchdown receptions during his final season with the Buckeyes, hauling in 10 scores from quarterback Justin Fields while adding 57 catches, 636 yards, and a 11.2 average yards per catch.
Many believe Hill will have to wait until the third day of the draft to hear his name called, thanks in large part to his 4.6 40 yard dash time that he clocked in at the combine. Pro Football Focus is higher on the former Buckeye receiver. Which makes sense because what he did on Saturdays. Here is what PFF’s Anthony Treash wrote on Hill while matching him to the Cowboys in round two:
With having to pay an arm and a leg in free agency for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, it seems unlikely that the Cowboys’ 2019 slot receiver Randall Cobb will be brought back in free agency. K.J. Hill has been a reliable slot receiver for the Buckeyes throughout his career, dropping only nine of his 266 targets and generating an explosive play on well over a quarter of his catches from the slot. He’s not going to kill you with speed, but he can on underneath routes where he has averaged 8.6 yards after catch per reception and broken nine tackles on 46 such catches since 2018.
Hill has experience playing with a number of different quarterbacks on the collegiate level, catching passes from JT Barrett, Dwayne Haskins, and potential 2021 first-round pick Justin Fields. Could he be catching passes from Dak Prescott next?
Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
One of the more productive wide receivers on the college level in this draft class is Minnesota Gophers product Tyler Johnson. Johnson was a major reason for the Gophers’ rise in the 2019 season that ended with a win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
MINNESOTA UP 21-10!!!— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) November 9, 2019
TYLER JOHNSON ARE YOU SERIOUS!!?!?!? pic.twitter.com/O125S1e2u2
Johnson exploded during the 2018 season with Minnesota, recording 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior for PJ Fleck’s squad. He carried that momentum over to 2019, as he set career highs in catches (86), yards (1,318), and touchdowns (13). He was a problem for Big 10 defenses each and every Saturday, despite not possessing elite speed or athleticism.
Johnson saved his best performances for the biggest games. In contests against Penn State and Auburn last season, Johnson was a nightmare to contain: totaling seven catches for 104 yards and one touchdown versus the Nittany Lions and putting together a monstrous performance against the Tigers as he grabbed 12 catches for 204 yards and two touchdowns on New Year’s Day.
Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota— Felix H. Sharpe II (@sharpereview) March 14, 2020
Anatomy of the Deep Shot
In studying Tyler Johnson, I noticed PJ Fleck has a go to pet concept when the Gophers need a big play.
The concept is generally run out of twins formation, w/ a TE off the ball.
The slot WR is the primary target. [THREAD] pic.twitter.com/kjam5bLoa2
At one point in time, Johnson was considered closer to the tier-1 group of wideouts in the class. But with concerns about his overall speed and his decision to not participate in the combine, there are questions surrounding how he will translate to the NFL level.
Still, the Cowboys could get really good value with Johnson should he be the pick on day three.