Few players in the entire National Football League had as large of a jump in production from 2018 to 2019 as Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup did. The Colorado State products’ ascension played a big role in the success of the Dallas offense early on.
Gallup’s first year in the NFL was an up and down ride. One thing we learned about the rookie in 2018 was he clearly could create separation. Gallup found himself getting open plenty of times, but was only able to turn this into 33 receptions for 507 yards. The biggest reason for these struggles was he and quarterback Dak Prescott being unable to get on the same page. Far too many times we would see Gallup and Prescott just be a tad bit off from hitting a big play down the field.
Dak Prescott doesn't deserve Michael Gallup... pic.twitter.com/dw8Rjlztrw— Thomas R. Petersen (@thomasrp93) June 22, 2020
The two worked on the connection in the offseason, helping lead to Gallup’s breakout year. Last season, he and fellow wide receiver Amari Cooper both became the Cowboys first 1,000 yard receivers since Dez Bryant did it back in 2014. Gallup was the 20th leading receiver, in terms of yards, in the entire NFL, and the second youngest behind 22-year-old D.J. Moore for the Carolina Panthers.
Gallup showed his ability to go up and get the football.
just a friendly reminder that Michael Gallup is the most underrated receiver in football pic.twitter.com/Jmhz6JkaWX— ⁴ (@HoodieDak) June 24, 2020
A look at his ability to beat people deep.
Michael Gallup. Good at this football thing(ignore the score) pic.twitter.com/AHZ6HZXfss— (•_•)(•_•) (@comedy_motion) May 20, 2020
And his ability to make things happen after the catch.
Gallup doubled his rookie year catches in 2019, 33 to 66, and more than doubled his total yards receiving, 507 to 1,107. He averaged 79 receiving yards per game, 16.8 yards per reception, and had a 58.4% catch rate, still not great but much better than his rookie year. Also, Dak Prescott’s quarterback rating when targeting Gallup went up from a 71.1 in 2018 to an extremely impressive 101.9 last season.
Pro Football Focus graded Gallup with an overall receiving grade of 74.4, top 25 in the league of qualified receivers. His PFF overall offensive grade jumped twelve points in year two, from a 62 to a 74, and finished with a higher overall grade than Amari Cooper in six games.
Gallup’s impressive leap in production was one of the biggest storylines of the Cowboys 2019 season, but after such a jump from year one to year two, what will he do for an encore in year three? If there is one thing Gallup needs to improve on to up his game even more is eliminating drops.
Pro Football Reference gave Gallup 11 drops on the season, the second worst in the league behind Julian Edelman’s 13. His drop percentage of 9.7% also qualified as the sixth worst in the entire league.
Michael Gallup led the NFL in drops in 2019. Some are imperfect throws but all ruled "catchable". Here is the whole roll and I will have a written piece out this morning on the topic, too. He has come a long way, but there is definitely room for improvement in Year 3. pic.twitter.com/50tQneOVhC— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) June 4, 2020
Drops aren’t everything. You can still be an extremely productive receiver in the NFL with some drop issues, see Mike Evans, Devante Adams, and Travis Kelce, all who had seven or more drops last season. If Gallup can just cut the drops down by three or four a year, he could become one of the top-tier receivers in this league.
When teams face the Cowboys this year, they are going to have a decision to make. With a receiving corps of Cooper, Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, defenses are going to have to pick their poison on who they believe is the least threat to beat them. No disrespect to Gallup, but Cooper likely will draw the team’s best cornerback, not all teams travel their cornerbacks, but a good majority do. With Lamb likely playing mostly in the slot, he will also draw some talented slot cornerbacks. This leaves Gallup as the odd man out, likely facing for the most part, the opposition’s second- or third-best corner.
It’s safe to say Gallup could be a mismatch for most teams second or third corners, especially within the Cowboys own division. Philadelphia, New York, and Washington all have at most one cornerback who would be considered above average.
Adding CeeDee Lamb to the equation may decrease some of Michael Gallup’s targets, but it could increase his production. Opposing defenses are going to try to make sure Cooper and Lamb don’t beat them, leaving Gallup to deal the damage.
The leap in production obviously won’t be as large as from his rookie season to year two, but Gallup looks primed for another Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2020.