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Recent history doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys new crop of UDFA receivers

Just because they’re undrafted doesn’t mean they don’t have a shot... except maybe at wide receiver for Dallas.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Mountain West Championship - Fresno State at Boise State Photo by Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jon’vea Johnson.

TJ Vasher.

Dennis Houston.

We remember the names. We’ve heard the hype. If we’re being completely honest, we’ve all signed our share of pet-cat adoption papers for an undrafted free-agent flavor of the year wide receiver. Sadly, that ends in disappointment. And despite not learning our lesson, we still find ourselves suckered into believing that maybe, just maybe, this year will be different.

Enter the 2023 undrafted class of wide receivers for the Dallas Cowboys.

Starting with Fresno State’s Jalen Moreno-Cropper, the 5’11, 172-pounder is the best separator of the UDFA group. He has 4.4 speed, and alters his tempo extremely well, keeping defenders guessing. He shows good body control to adjust to passes and has the ability to turn small gains into larger ones. And he’s got gadget-guy ability with the ability to throw the ball, play in the wild cat, and run jet sweeps for an offense that wants to put on their fancy pants.

While JMC is my feline flav this year, another player who stands to be a fan favorite is West Florida’s David Durden. He’s been around the sun a lot more than others in this class as he’ll turn 25 this year, but he has a feel for making plays. With great hands and good overall athleticism, he has some sneaky good appeal. And did we mention he’s a special teams player with both gunner and returner experience? If Durden starts making snags in camp, don’t be surprised if he’s all the UDFA craze this year.

Temple’s Jose Barbon has similar size and traits as the above-mentioned Moreno-Cropper. He’s on the smaller side, but exhibits nice body control and does a great job tracking the ball. Unlike JMC, Barbon isn’t as good as a separator as some of his movement is a little lackadaisical, but he’s got good pack to his punch and could offer the team a pesky, chain-moving possession receiver.

At 6’5” 232 pounds, Lousiana’s John Stephens Jr. towers over these other UDFA’s. In fact, he’s viewed as a wide receiver/tight end hybrid. Part of that is because of his size, and part of it is because of his effort as a blocker. He’s not going to impress you with his separating ability, but with his large catch radius and physical play ability, he could carve out that special teams/in-line blocker/part-time pass catcher role similar to Noah Brown.

Rabblerousr and I discuss UDFA wide receivers on this week’s episode of The Star Seminar was we assess their chances of making the Cowboys 53-man roster in 2023.

While it’s easy to get excited about the potential of this new crop of UDFA receivers, we should remind ourselves that potential and a dollar will only get you a cup of coffee. In other words, we need to slow our roll. Despite the early excitement, the Cowboys have gotten next to nothing out of UDFA receivers. Let’s run through the list of priority free agent receivers over the previous five seasons.

UDFA wide receivers over the last five years

2022 Dontario Drummond Ole Miss 0 0 0 0
2022 Ty Fryfogle Indiana 0 0 0 0
2022 Dennis Houston Western Illinois 2 2 16 0
2022 Jaquarii Robinson Wake Forest 0 0 0 0
2021 Osiris Mitchell Marshall 0 0 0 0
2021 Brandon Smith Iowa 0 0 0 0
2021 Brennan Eagles Texas 0 0 0 0
2021 TJ Vasher Texas Tech 0 0 0 0
2020 Aaron Parker Rhode Island 1 0 0 0
2020 Stephen Guidry Mississippi State 0 0 0 0
2019 Jon'vea Johnson Toledo 0 0 0 0
2019 Jalen Guyton North Texas 38 61 1023 6
2018 Malik Earl Missouri State 0 0 0 0
2018 Marchie Murdock Iowa State 0 0 0 0

What they ultimately ended up with in that span is the two catches for 16 yards from Dennis Houston. Yes, Aaron Parker did play in one game, but it was with the Carolina Panthers. And the numbers from Jalen Guyton jump out at us, but all that work came after the Cowboys waived him and he was re-signed by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Outside of CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys receiving group is open for business. Returning young players like Jalen Tolbert or Simi Fehoko are promised nothing. And the new draftee Jalen Brooks is a late-round selection who comes with no draft pedigree protection. It’s really anyone’s game in terms of earning a roster spot, so the opportunity is there, but as we’ve seen in past years, the odds aren’t in the favor of these undrafted guys. It should make for a fun camp but don’t hold your breath that your pet cat makes the cut, as he’s more likely to run out of lives before the start of the new season.

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