Dalton Schultz was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and at that time it was expected that he would soon compete for the starting tight end job with the Dallas Cowboys. However, one year later, you aren’t hearing Schultz mentioned much compared to some other names.
The name you hear most is Blake Jarwin, who emerged as the new starter by the end of last season. When Geoff Swaim was lost to injury, Jarwin’s year of experience in the Cowboys system from 2017 gave him an advantage over the rookie Schultz.
Jarwin capitalized on his opportunity, highlighted by a three-touchdown breakout game in the regular season finale over the Giants. He earned a lot of hype off that day and carried into the offseason, leaving Dalton as a bit of an afterthought.
The landscape for the Cowboys’ TE position in 2019 changed in a big way last February when Jason Witten announced he was returning after a year in retirement. Before that, some thought Dallas might sign or draft a player to compete for the starting job. After all, despite his flashed potential, Blake Jarwin is still an undrafted player with limited experience.
But Witten’s arrival suggested that the Cowboys would stick with their current young talent. That was confirmed a few weeks ago when Dallas didn’t spend any of their 2019 draft picks at tight end.
Not adding new talent is a vote of confidence, but for whom? Does it mean that Dallas is expecting bigger and better things from Jarwin? If so, what does that mean for Schultz in 2019?
It’s a safe assumption that Jarwin and Witten will occupy the top-two spots on the TE depth chart. Last year, despite the moving pieces with Swaim’s injury, Schultz received just 17 targets over the entire season. There could be even less opportunities in 2019 with the new dynamic.
That said, there’s still training camp and preseason for Dalton to show his stuff. Remember, one guy was a fourth-round pick and the other was undrafted. On paper, Schultz should have more upside than Jarwin.
A lot can happen in a player’s second year. Not only do they get more physical development but system familiarity changes a lot from their rookie season. Jarwin had that edge over Schultz last year, but now both players should know the playbook.
On top of that, that playbook could be changing with Kellen Moore’s rise at Offensive Coordinator. Which of the two young prospects will do more of what Moore likes in his tight ends?
Again, it’s safe to assume that Jarwin will continue to rise based on last year. The Cowboys seem to think so as well, given their lack of investment in the TE position this offseason.
Part of that confidence also comes from the fourth-round pick they spent last year on Schultz. Even if they’re leaning toward Jarwin now, Schultz hedges their bet and provides a solid second option if Blake doesn’t progress.
Without question, right now it looks like an uphill battle for Dalton Schultz in 2019. He’s up against what Jarwin’s already shown and the legacy of Jason Witten. He may very well be stuck in the number-three spot this season.
Still, the door isn’t closed on Schultz making a push this offseason for a bigger role. The Cowboys thought enough to spend a Day 2 pick on him last year, and that will motivate them to make sure he gets opportunities to prove himself over the next few months.