In 2017, the Cowboys lacked any real speed on the outside, and failed to create separation and easy completions for their young quarterback. Of course, Dak Prescott must shoulder some of the blame as well, but there’s no question the Cowboys aging and underperforming wide-out group can use an overhaul.
Unfortunately, due to contact situations and emotions, it’s unlikely that overhaul will occur. Dallas will have the chance to upgrade their pass catchers through the 2018 NFL Draft, however. To get a better idea of who the Cowboys might target, I took a look at what the team tends to look at in terms of athleticism and measurables. What I found explained why the Cowboys have had such a problem in the passing game, and showed why they must stray from their normal thresholds during this year’s draft.
Since 2010 the Cowboys have drafted 7 receivers, only two of which came within the top 100 picks. Because most of these were late picks, it can be hard to find concrete trends for what the team looks for athletically. Still, when examining height, weight, 40 yard dash time, and 3 cone time, it becomes clear the Cowboys have a “type.”
Ryan Switzer skews the minimum requirements for height and weight, but outside of Switzer much of these receivers look the same on paper. On average, they run a 4.53 second 40 yard dash and a 3 cone just under 7 seconds. They also tend to be about 6’0″ tall, with 6’2″ being their ideal target.
As mentioned earlier, the biggest problem the Cowboys had on the outside was with their speed. It’s a rather slow group that relies on winning contested catching situations. This, of course, is not sustainable in the NFL unless your WR1 is 2014-level Dez Bryant.
An average 40 time of 4.53 would support the perception of a lack of speed as well. Plus, the Cowboys have only taken 2 receivers in the first 100 picks since 2010. When Dez was a top 5-or-so wide out in the league, this wasn’t much of a problem. Now, however, it definitely is.
Here are the numbers for some of the typical guys we talk about on here. I think you can forget about James Washington. Calvin Ridley is light but his 40 and 3 cone make him a real target. DJ Moore is a freak. pic.twitter.com/GcPfWJITMP
— Kevin Brady (@KevinBrady88) March 5, 2018
I then compiled the same numbers for some of the most popular targets in the upcoming draft among Cowboys Nation. Ignoring what you may think about their actual tape for a moment, a few players jump right off the page as potential picks for Dallas.
Clemson’s Deon Cain is someone the National Media loves, but I kind of struggled with when evaluating. I simply don’t see a first round player, despite what some national evaluators have had to say. Still, running a 4.43 40 and 6.71 3 cone at 6’2″ 202 pounds should put him right in the Cowboys’ cross hairs.
Michael Gallup also fits the Cowboys’ typical thresholds to a “T.” At 6’1″ and 205 pounds he certainly looks the part of a receiver the Cowboys would draft. When you then consider his 4.51 40 time and 6.95 3 cone, he is basically a prototypical draft target for the Cowboys.
It may be time for the Cowboys to think outside of their “typical” targets, however. I love Michael Gallup as a prospect and would like to see him with the Cowboys, but how bad does this team really need another wide out with rather average speed? Breaking the mold a bit and going after a DJ Moore 19th overall could be just the shot-in-the-arm this offense needs going forward.
That 4.42 speed is clearly missing from the Cowboys’ weapons, and I’m sure Dak Prescott would be ecstatic to have a guy like that to throw to.
Calvin Ridley’s poor overall combine performance, coupled with his age, has led many to question just how good he’ll be in the NFL. His 4.43 40 time and 6.88 3 cone help him remain a realistic target for the Cowboys, however.
Of course, there is a lot more that goes into drafting a player than just these few numbers, but they do provide a good baseline for what the Cowboys look for when drafting a wide receiver.