The Cowboys 2018 draft centered around a question: should the Cowboys add a promising linebacker with an injury history in Leighton Vander Esch to supplement the aging Sean Lee and potentially upgrade the middle of the defense, or should Dallas add a bona fide wide receiver prospect to the roster for Dak Prescott to throw the ball to? Both options provided strong arguments, and the Cowboys ultimately went with the linebacker in round one.
The two wide receivers that appeared to be in consideration for the Cowboys were Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and Maryland’s D.J. Moore. Despite having the option of taking either one because both were still on the board, Dallas preferred defense and would take their chances of finding a receiver later in the draft.
Boy, did they find one.
After taking Vander Esch in the first and then Connor Williams in the second-round, the Cowboys grabbed Colorado State wide receiver Michael Gallup with the 81st selection of the draft. Gallup starred on the collegiate level, but his struggles with drops combined with his lack of elite speed and athleticism pushed him down draft boards. As a result, the Cowboys came away with a steal.
It took a minute for Gallup to truly get going early in his career. The wideout showed glimpses of what he was capable of during his three-catch, 81-yard touchdown performance versus Washington a week before the team made the move for Amari Cooper. Gallup continued to show promise over his initial season in the NFL, catching a critical touchdown from a nicely thrown pass from Dak Prescott in a win over the Seahawks in the playoffs.
.@dak to @michael13gallup... It's a @dallascowboys TD!— NFL (@NFL) January 6, 2019
: #SEAvsDAL on FOX #NFLPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/i8hscmErMl
Michael Gallup truly took off in his second season in the NFL. Playing opposite of a talent such as Cooper has to help, but Gallup himself improved as a receiver after another offseason on the professional level.
He exploded right out of the gate by catching seven passes on seven targets for 158 yards against the New York Giants in the opening week of the regular season, and he carried the momentum the rest of the way.
Ultimately, the Cowboys’ wideout eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark during his second season in the league. He added six touchdowns and nearly 17 yards per reception in 14 games while catching passes from Dak Prescott.
Good company to be in, Michael!— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) May 21, 2020
(McLaurin, Sutton, Renfrow, Deebo all also in Top-15) pic.twitter.com/HlgBBnyIft
Michael Gallup has built an impressive case as the best wide receiver from the talented 2018 draft class.
Gallup was the ninth wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. Notable wideouts taken ahead of the Cowboys’ pass catcher includes the aforementioned Moore and Ridley, along with the likes of local product Courtland Sutton, Christian Kirk, and D.J. Chark.
Moore and Ridley have proven to be worth first-round selections. The talented Moore has emerged as one of the Panthers’ go-to weapons after Christian McCaffrey and recorded 1,175 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Ridley has developed into a nice complementary option to Julio Jones — already catching 17 touchdowns in his young career.
Sutton has become the top option for the Broncos’ passing attack, while Chark has flashed his talent despite some questions regarding the quarterbacks in Jacksonville. Kirk is a nice option for Kyler Murray to throw the ball to, but has not taken the next step of becoming a number one receiver.
Here are the numbers of the first ten wide receivers that were taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. As you can see, Gallup’s numbers stack up quite nicely despite being the ninth player taken at his position in the class:
The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak wrote a piece in which he makes the case that Gallup is the best wideout from a talented draft class of receivers. Solak writes that Gallup’s game may not be the flashiest but that the Cowboys’ receiver is reliable and gets the job done.
Gallup is a physical, polished intermediate receiver in the mold of Michael Thomas or JuJu Smith-Schuster. Gallup’s releases at the line of scrimmage are urgent and effective, and he’s able to immediately generate leverage against press coverage and work a full route tree off of his releases. He doesn’t do anything too pretty; no sexy Stefon Diggs or Odell Beckham Jr. foot fire. He just wins off the line, and those wins allow Cooper to rotate into the slot as Gallup remains at the X.
Solak, who also contributes to Bleeding Green Nation, ultimately says that Gallup will continue to develop into “one of the best possession receivers in the league by the time his rookie contract expires.”
It’s more than a two-horse race for the best receiver to come from the 2018 class, but it’s a dead heat between Sutton and Gallup as the favorite of the group. For my money, assuming Gallup’s drop numbers naturally go down and he continues to play for a Dak Prescott-led Cowboys team with a hypercharged receiver room, he’ll continue to become more efficient than Sutton, tipping the scales as one of the best possession receivers in the league by the time his rookie contract expires.
Many in Cowboys Nation were wanting Dallas to grab one of the top prospects at the wide receiver position in the 2018 draft with their 19th overall selection; however, Dallas used its first-rounder on a linebacker that earned second-team All-Pro honors as a rookie and has shown star potential when healthy.
Vander Esch was banged up a season ago and neck injuries are always scary, but LVE recently said that he feels “as good now as I ever have”, which has to be a good sign.
As for Gallup, the Cowboys may have grabbed the draft’s best wide receiver in the third-round. Now paired with both Amari Cooper and 2020 first-rounder CeeDee Lamb, the sky is the limit for these receivers and the passing attack in Dallas.