Before breaking down the two surprise candidates who have the best shot at filling out the Cowboys wide receiver room, there are two things to make note of in this scenario. One is that KaVontae Turpin is looked at as a specialist instead of a receiver, and either Simi Fehoko or Jalen Tolbert gets beat out by one of these two players mentioned below.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, there is one other fact that is quite clear at this moment, and that is who will be the team’s top three options at wide out. The trio of CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Brandin Cooks on paper looks to be a formidable group in comparison to other wide receiving units around the NFL today.
The fourth receiver isn’t as clear cut as the top three, but it would be a shock if it isn’t either Simi Fehoko or Jalen Tolbert. The even bigger shock would be in a scenario where both Fehoko and Tolbert get the boot from the franchise. The latter part seems unlikely, but it is certainly plausible to think that someone could steal a roster spot from at least one of these two players.
Lets take a dive in, and see the two sleepers to keep an eye on throughout the summer who have the best shot at making the roster ahead of the 2023 season.
At pick 244 in the seventh round of this past draft, the Cowboys selected Jalen Brooks out of South Carolina. Typically when a team drafts a player this late in the draft, that player in many cases is an afterthought because the focus of many is on the Day 1 and Day 2 selections. However, in the case of Brooks, he was reportedly a hot commodity by other NFL teams if he were to go undrafted. This type of intrigue by multiple organizations should provide a little insight as to the type of player that he is. Instead of taking their chances and fighting those other NFL franchises for his services, they opted to use their final draft selection on him. That alone should at least give him a leg up on the competition because the Cowboys felt the need to draft him, whereas some of his competitors are undrafted free agents.
As a player, Brooks possesses good ball skills and has strong hands. In 50/50 situations downfield, he tracks the ball quite well and is good at high pointing the ball. It also doesn’t hurt to be savvy in the route running department area either. His long arms gives him the ability to play bigger than he really is which helps in the separation game, especially on crossing routes. His length helps in the blocking game as well. Although he runs routes quite well, he comes from an offense that limited his route tree which is something he will need to work on at the next level. He also isn’t a very explosive player which leads to more contested passes downfield.
Even though his 40 time at the combine was the slowest among wide receivers this year, he plays quicker on tape. He also uses his length to make plays on the ball. His journey from Division II all the way to being drafted by the Cowboys makes him a guy that has had to overcome various challenges to get to where he is now, and that mentality is what will give him a good shot at making the team.
While playing for the Gamecocks, he had only 58 catches for 785 yards and two touchdowns in his career which isn’t going to blow anyone away. However, his stats at South Carolina do not tell the whole story due to Brooks only playing in six games each of his first two seasons on campus. When he finally played a full season, he flashed plenty of ability in the best conference in college football, the SEC. His final season in college shows promise in a player that has the traits and tools to be a good player in the NFL someday.
Unlike Jalen Brooks, Jalen Moreno-Cropper did not hear his name called during this past NFL Draft. It had nothing to do with his talent, but more to do with his size as he is 5-11 and 172 pounds. Although Moreno-Cropper did not get drafted, it had to be a full circle moment for him as he signed with the team he grew up watching as a kid. Heading into this past draft, many experts had him graded as a sixth-rounder. The Cowboys getting him via the undrafted free agency market was good value.
Prior to joining Fresno State, he was a 4-star recruit who in high school played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, returner, and defensive back. He played at a high level anywhere he was deployed which is why he was a highly-coveted prospect prior to graduating from high school. When he arrived on campus, it was easy to see why he was as good as advertised which turned into a highly productive college career. His route-running ability is already at an NFL level as he is already a technician in that department. It also doesn’t hurt to have game breaking speed that was backed up by a 4.4 40-yard dash time at the combine. When the ball is in his hands, he can certainly make some magic happen. His in-game awareness is already at a high level as he understands situations quite well. At the NFL level, he has the tools to make a living playing in the slot, on the outside, on gadget plays, and as a returner. The main knock on his game once again is his size which affects his ability as a blocker. He also can get knocked off routes in press coverage, and will look to improve his strength at the next level.
While at Fresno State, his talent was undeniable as he started in five games as a true freshman. In his first year with the Bulldogs, he would finish the season second on the team in all-purpose yards with 652. During his sophomore season, he would rank fourth in the Mountain West in receptions per game at just over six. In his final two seasons with the Bulldogs, he would combine for 168 receptions for 1,985 receiving yards, and 16 receiving touchdowns. In those two seasons he would first garner All-Mountain West second-team honors and would cap off his senior year by being awarded first-team honors. When his days in college concluded, he ranked in the top-10 in school history in many categories such as receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Not a bad for a school that a guy named Davante Adams once played for.
Speaking of Adams, while he was in school he had a pretty good quarterback named Derek Carr throwing him passes which made them a dynamic duo in college. Moreno-Cropper also had a quality field general throwing him the ball which made them quite the duo.
“Moreno-Cropper chose to play at Fresno State over more notable programs like Oregon and Utah, and once he got to Fresno State he dominated. Fresno quarterback Jake Haener was selected by the [New Orleans] Saints in the fourth round, but you can bet that never would have happened if not for Moreno-Cropper serving as Haener’s WR1 with the Bulldogs,”
Jalen Moreno-Cropper is name to lookout for this summer as we inch closer to the regular season.
Both Jalen’s, regardless of their talent and potential, have their work cut out for them if they want to make it on this year’s team. Of all the bubble players at wide receiver currently battling it out for their shot at sticking for 2023 season, these two players arguably have the best shot and it wouldn’t be shocking to see this happen. One thing that is for certain surrounding the wide receiver room, and that is the competition will be heating up in the dog days of summer and will be a fun watch.