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Cowboys 2018 Draft Needs: Wide Receiver

After last week's stunning of , the receiver position has become the primary focus of the 2018 draft analysis. There is no guarantee that they will use their first-round pick there, but it's looking like a pretty safe bet.

Even if Dez had stayed in town, a young receiving talent was being targeted in the early rounds. Now the Cowboys may need this rookie to contribute immediately, which makes waiting even until the 50th pick (2nd round) a dangerous proposition.

You can read plenty of content about 2018 receiver prospects and how they may fit for the Cowboys elsewhere on our site. For this article, we're going to focus on the guys currently on the team and how their presence impacts the need for a receiver in the draft.

Here are the receivers currently signed to the Dallas roster:

Of these players, the only one who's ever come close to putting up numbers like Dez Bryant is Hurns. In 2015, Allen had 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns for the .

That said, Hurns was the second receiver in the Jags with Allen Robinson doing even bigger and better things. With Robinson missing nearly all of 2017 with an , Hurns' per-game production only saw a minor increase from the year before. The Jacksonville offense, despite their playoff success, was not its strong point.

Terrance Williams
Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

Receivers who've proven unable to step into the lead role is the big issue for the Cowboys. For five years, Terrance Williams has shown he's nothing more than a player. You can count as many blunders as highlights over his career, and even when Bryant's been injured he hasn't shown he can respond to more opportunities.

This is one of the reasons that Dallas let walk in . Like Terrance, Brice showed he could make the occasional play but was not consistent enough to be trusted with more responsibility.

Cole Beasley was the Cowboys' leading receiver in 2016, when they went 13-3 and the future looked bright. He caught 75 balls on just 98 targets, a staggering level of efficiency, and has by far shown the most chemistry with so far.

But Beasley isn't going to stretch the field or keep defenses honest. Last year, realizing that Cole had become the bigger concern than Dez Bryant, opponents took him out of the game and forced Prescott to go to his other guys.

Of course, this was helped by the absence of during his . But even when Zeke was on the field, the Cowboys offense rarely looked the same as 2016. This had a lot to do with the strategic elimination of Beasley from the receiving game.

Cole Beasley
Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley

We can expect things to stay the same as the opens. Until one of them proves otherwise, Allen Hurns or Terrance Williams aren't going to scare anybody. Teams will still focus on Beasley as Dak's favorite receiver until another receiver starts to take advantage of that.

Hurns is a far more proficient route runner than Bryant, and still just 26 years old, so there is hope that he could bring a little more juice to the offense. Perhaps that addition, plus Elliott's full-time return, will open things up for Beasley and Prescott to get back to their 2016 form.

But as we said before, Hurns hasn't shown he can play big without a true franchise receiver across the way.

Dallas also added veteran Deonte Thompson in free agency, but he's essentially a Brice Butler replacement. He won't be higher than fourth on the and bring a vertical threat, but isn't expected to take on a major role.

This is a key reason that Dallas will be looking at receivers early in this 2018 draft. There is no guarantee that any of their current players can command enough respect from defenses.

In that situation, what you hope is that you have enough talented guys out there to give your QB options. A rookie receiver isn't likely to step into leading role this season anyway, but he might provide enough spark that everyone benefits.

And even if 2018 concerns weren't enough, a long-term view also makes receiver a top priority. The Cowboys need to invest now to prepare for the future at the position.

Calvin Ridley
Alabama WR (Butch Dill/Getty Images)

Cole Beasley's contract expires in 2019. Depending on how next season goes, Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns could be released for savings. Deonte Thompson is on just a one-year deal.

If nothing else, the Cowboys are going to need more guys to play receiver in years to come. But bodies aren't enough; they need a young guy to form the complete the offensive nucleus of the team with Prescott and Elliott.

Nobody expects Ryan Switzer or Noah Brown to emerge as the next franchise receiver, and it would be foolish to do so. But if the Cowboys can land a Calvin Ridley or now, that player might be ready to step into the top spot in 2019 and for future seasons.

Clearly, for both immediate and long-term reasons, Dallas will be focused on the WR position in this draft.

Still, it may not be the . Depending on who's available at the 19th pick, Dallas may decide they'd rather grab a new starting , defensive , , or . The current is loath to draft solely for need.

But if all things are even on talent, there is an easy case to be made for receiving being the team's greatest need in this draft.

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Other 2018 articles:

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Chuck Wright CLU

If Dallas takes Ridley or Moore at 19, good to go. but there are some options in round 2 and maybe 3.

Realize everyone has their favorites. Top of the 2nd round group to me is James Washington, very productive in college, runs good routes, has the speed and talent to get separation then make teams pay when he catches the ball. Great locker room guy.

Of course there is Anthony Miller, Cain from CLemson, Hamilton PSU DJ Chalk LSU and a guy who would be great in the slot, big upgrade over what we have now, Donte Pettis.

Chuck Wright

More good stuff. Clearly WR a bigger need. Ridley or Moore in Round 1. They could hang to round 2 and select from James Washington (would be my choice), Cain from Clemson, Hamilton PSU or Anthony Miller Memphis or Donte Pettis. Frankly would not be opposed to seeing them take a chance on a kid like Foutain from N Iowa and land 2 WRs.

Jess Haynie

Thanks for reading!

Russ_Te

Aikman remarks on Dez and Dak;

“Take Dez out of the picture. If I was a quarterback, I’d expect a
receiver to run the route the way it’s supposed to be run and be where
he’s supposed to be. Whether I have Brett Favre as my quarterback or
someone who’s able to improvise and run around is irrelevant. If you’re
going to have a successful passing game, you have to have receivers who
understand how to run routes, how to beat defenders, how to win
one-on-one matchups and how to do it within the framework of what the
design of the route is.”

https://sportsday.dallasnews.com/dallas-cowboys/cowboys/2018/04/16/troy-aikman-no-1-factor-will-determine-whether-dez-bryant-succeeds-without-cowboys

Jess Haynie

Bad enough when a HOF QB says it. Even worse when fellow receivers like Shannon Sharpe are calling Dez out for his lack of technical skills. I wish the fans would get on board with what most of the football community seems to get.

Russ_Te

All I want for camp is a fast WR… ;^)

Russ_Te

2 project WR’s down this draft who ran 4.3 at the combine. Make sure to take one of those. With Dez out it’s probably WR in the first also. It has to be a guy who can beat NFL corners. Don’t f*ck it up…

Russ_Te

Williams got reps while Butler sat. Will not be surprised if he has a big year in AZ.

Sean Grubbs

Hey Jesse, I was really interested in
reading this article in the beginning …You wrote more about 2 college players in your article than 2 guys already on the team that were not even given a chance to shine last year! Give some props and a little tip of the hat to Switzer & Brown. The team hasn’t even touched the tip of the iceberg on what those 2 can and can not do on the football field. Your talking about next year /the future (2019) with a draft pick ?? THAT’S foolish!! You be lucky if you could tell me 4 = #1 draft picks at WR that have made an impact in their 1st year in the NFL and are still dominating now ( last 10 years of #1 WR draft picks)

Jess Haynie

Appreciate you reading commenting, Sean. But let’s think about what you said for a minute. On the one hand, you’re telling me that it’s foolish to hope in 1st-round draft picks at receiver. You’re right that the history hasn’t been good lately.

But on the other hand, you’re telling me that I should put my faith in Switzer (4th round) and Brown (7th round). If first-round talents haven’t been working out, how much more likely is it that mid and late-round guys will?

See the inconsistency in your logic?

Sean Grubbs

Inconsistency in logic?! I just believe we need to make a solid pic at #19 on defense, preferably linebacker (God bless Jaylen and Sean but with injuries and future production, we are in real libo here) I just think #19 is really high for a wide receiver but then I guess we said that with Randy Moss a couple years ago. I don’t think any of them are the specimen he was!!!!! I was just saying I would have liked to have read a little bit more on other wide receivers already on the squad that were not even given a chance last year. They both were drafted for a reason… please don’t tell me we wasted a 4th round pick on a guy to receive kickoffs and punts! Ryan was explosive in college (esp. YAC) he lost reps to struggling Beasley for whatever reason. I wasn’t in the film room or on the practice field, maybe he just wasn’t getting the offense/playbook down?! Brown?? so what I have read he was drafted not only for his high ceiling but Zeke championing for him? For whatever reason our coaching staff didn’t make adjustments last year, made me want to throw up so many times. I just felt those two guys were drafted, they should have had more opportunities. T. Williams is a cap causality next year unless he finally shows up and truly balls out!!!

EverybodyTalks

The knee-jerk reaction to the Dez cut is that the mocks are all saying WR in the first 2 rounds. I’m not so sure…maybe, maybe not. I would much rather see the Cowboys go with defensive picks. The first 3 picks being DT, LB and S. Before you say this is messed up, then let me say that we only need to the Smeagles and ask a couple of questions.
Who was their “X” and how much of an impact was he? Were the WRs of the Eagles head-n-shoulders above the current Cowboys – Torry Smith/Mike Wallace vs. Deontae. Alshon Jeffreys vs. Hurns. Agholor vs. T-Will. I just don’t see it. So why are we in such a hurry to draft a WR? Most WRs never make an impact in their rookie year anyway.
The reason to draft a WR should be more for next year than this year. Beasley’s contract is done after 2018 and T-Will’s dead money will be down significantly in 2019. I want to see what Sanjay Lal can do with a Noah Brown (Who has the Dez build) before we dismiss him. Hopefully, we can change it up with Switzer and Beasley out there together. Get them more involved.

Jess Haynie

I wouldn’t call it a knee-jerk reaction given that most had Dallas taking a WR that high even before Dez was released. More may be leaning that way now, but it was already one of the leading projections.

Corey

I agree that Dez wasn’t a good route runner and threw little fits on the sideline, but it would also have been nice if there had been a true no. 2 opposite him. Brice Butler was a joke. He did great in preseason, but then during the regular season he faded into the back ground. The same with Terrance Williams, that guy couldn’t catch anything. No wonder defenses tee’d off on Bryant, there wasn’t anyone on the other side to worry about

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