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With Amari Cooper leaving, Cowboys Simi Fehoko has a chance to get some playing time

The Cowboys second-year receiver should have an opportunity to make a big jump.

NFL: AUG 21 Preseason - Texans at Cowboys Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the weekend, the Cowboys officially traded Amari Cooper, a move that has realistically been in the works since he signed his contract extension two years ago that provided an out this offseason. In preparation for getting Cooper and his $20 million off the books, Dallas re-signed Michael Gallup and franchise tagged Dalton Schultz, buying them time to work out a long-term deal with the tight end.

Keeping Gallup is nice, and his deal already looks like good value after Christian Kirk’s market-setting deal in free agency, but the Cowboys are still one receiver short. Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are a good duo, but we live in a league that uses 11 personnel (one tight end, one running back, three wide receivers) the majority of the time. Cooper’s departure - as well as Cedrick Wilson’s signing with the Dolphins - still creates a need at the position.

Opportunity abounds.

The reality is that the Cowboys planned on this. They wrote in the potential out in Cooper’s contract for this offseason because it coincided with the expiration of Gallup’s rookie deal, and Dallas wanted to choose between the two. Clearly, they chose Gallup, but the team understood they would end up needing a receiver regardless of what choice they made.

That’s why Dallas spent a fifth-round pick just last year on Stanford receiver Simi Fehoko. They knew that they would need to have depth with either Cooper or Gallup leaving, and Fehoko was tabbed as a guy to potentially earn more playing time. The Cowboys reportedly didn’t consider Cooper to be a good fit for Kellen Moore’s offense.

Of course, that brings up the question of what the Cowboys want that Cooper wasn’t able to provide. Considering how little similarities there are between Cooper and Fehoko’s styles of play, that might offer some clues as to what they’re actually looking for.

As for Fehoko himself, he was considered a good value pick at the time he was drafted. He spent two years as a starter for the Cardinal, although Stanford’s 2020 season was limited to six games due to COVID-19. In his first season, Fehoko had 566 yards and six touchdowns on just 24 catches; that broke a school record with 23.6 yards per reception. The next year, Fehoko’s role expanded beyond being just a deep threat. In the six games he played, Fehoko caught 37 balls for 574 yards and three touchdowns. Serving as the team’s go-to receiver, he was well on his way to a 1,000-yard season had the team played a full 12-game schedule.

Beyond his production, Fehoko offered an ideal blend of size and speed for a receiver. He measured in at 6’4” and 222 pound with nearly 32” arms and 10.25” hands. For comparison, Dez Bryant had a similar build and had measures of 34” arms and 9.75” hands. Fehoko also put on a show at his Pro Day, earning a 9.17 (out of a perfect 10) relative athletic score (RAS):

Simi Fehoko Relative Athletic Score, courtesy of Kent Lee Platte

A main reason why Fehoko fell to the fifth round was his lack of playing time at Stanford. Of course, none of that was his fault, but a consequence that many Pac 12 prospects encountered last year when their season started later than other conferences. In watching his tape, though, Fehoko showed a clear development from being exclusively a deep threat guy to a top receiving weapon. Had Fehoko played 12 games instead of six at the pace he was going, it’s entirely possible he gets drafted much earlier.

So how does this fit with the Cowboys now that Cooper is gone? Well, that remains to be seen, especially so if an elite route-runner like Cooper isn’t considered a scheme fit. But we know that Gallup is viewed as a viable deep threat, and Lamb is at his best when playing in the slot. Fehoko has the size to thrive on the outside, and he can function as an additional deep threat, too. That would, in theory, open up a lot more for Lamb as well as Schultz in the middle of the field.

However, the biggest thing that Fehoko adds is size, thus making him a potential red zone target. The Cowboys offense has struggled in the red zone ever since Dez Bryant was let go, as they’ve lacked a true red zone receiver. With how the field shrinks closer to the goal line, size and length at the catch point becomes imperative down there. Well, that’s something Fehoko has in spades. He has the speed and agility to run lateral routes in levels and mesh concepts - favorites of Moore in the red zone - while also being able to run fades, outs, and slants where he can use his size to box out and be aggressive at the catch point.

Obviously, Fehoko isn’t guaranteed to be the Cowboys’ third starting wide receiver this year, and it’s a stacked draft class at the position; if a more talented prospect falls to them, Dallas shouldn’t pass. But Fehoko was every bit the type of prospect Dallas was looking for last year, when they were planning ahead for this kind of roster change. Now that it’s happened, and Fehoko has spent a year with the team getting to know the offense, he has a real chance to prove himself.

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