Kickoff and punt return duties are niches that often don't get talked about much leading up to the NFL Draft. But with one of their most-utilized return men gone and another moving into a critical offensive role in 2022, the Dallas Cowboys could be thinking about their next punt return specialist as they prepare for next week's event.
Lamb has been the primary PR since arriving in Dallas. He returned 24 punts as a rookie compared to just five for Wilson. They shared duties more evenly last year as CeeDee moved into a primary role on offense.
Now Amari Cooper's gone and Michael Gallup's probably not coming back until October.. With Lamb becoming a critical element to the Cowboys' offensive solvency, the undisputed number-one receiver, it's hard to imagine that he'll continue to be risked on punt returns.
Unfortunately, Wilson is no longer here to pick up the workload. He signed with the Dolphins last March as a free agent.
Kickoffs are another matter. Tony Pollard has that job locked up for one more year and hopefully Rico Dowdle will be back as another option. But Pollard has never been asked to handle punts in his three seasons with the Cowboys, and there must be a good reason why given his athleticism.
Newly-signed James Washington also won't help, having not been a return man for the Steelers at all in his four season. And while Noah Brown keeps finding his way back on the roster through special teams, returning isn't his game,
This need could come into play as Dallas builds its 2022 draft class. It could be the tiebreaker between receivers they're considering; a very real need on the roster that one of these rookies can hopefully fill.
With Gallup expected back for most of the season and Washington here for experienced depth, Dallas may be leery of using a high pick at WR for a guy who's offensive role could be limited. But if he can provide additional value as a return specialist, that helps justify the pick.
Even if the Cowboys draft a WR high who doesn't offer much PR potential, their bevy of 5th-round picks could be another opportunity to strike. Someone like Tennessee's Velus Jones, with 4.31 speed and a dynamic special teamer with limited game at WR, could be a worthy Day 3 pick if available.
Hopefully Dallas isn't going to revert to the days of just sending Cole Beasley out there to signal for fair catches. Improving field position through the return game is a basic and yet underrated aspect of winning football. The Cowboys need every edge they can find to be competitive in 2022, and hopefully they find one in the return game through the upcoming draft.