Dez Bryant is no longer catching passes for the Dallas Cowboys. For fans, this has been a tough reality to face for less than 24 hours still. For the Cowboys though, it is a decision they've been preparing for – with confidence that they've upgraded at WR through free agency and can continue to do so in the draft.
Always preferring to build through the draft, the Cowboys did sign Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns in free agency. As you'll learn from their respective scouting reports, both WRs can absolutely help the Cowboys this season.
These two FA signings fail in comparison to the extensive work the Cowboys have done on the wide receiver prospects available in this year's draft. From top to bottom, the Cowboys have relentlessly worked out and visited with pass catchers that could find their way onto the draft's hosting team through all seven rounds.
The Cowboys don't necessarily have to be married to any of the receivers available in the draft at 19th overall, but there is top talent available that would be too good to pass on (we hope). If they choose to add a first-round receiver, the two players that make the most sense are Alabama's Calvin Ridley and Maryland's D.J. Moore.
Both dynamic targets have been linked to the Cowboys enough, but which one actually makes the most sense for a team looking for a quick fix on offense in 2018?
Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
A 23-year old prospect, Alabama's Calvin Ridley did not test as a great athlete at the Scouting Combine. This has not jeopardized his status as WR1 in the draft, as Ridley should be viewed as a near finished product with plenty to love on tape in the SEC.
It takes a fine eye to truly evaluate the ability that Ridley will take into the NFL, as Alabama dealt with a surprising amount of struggles at quarterback this season. Given the chance to catch passes from Dak Prescott, Ridley could finally be given the chance to show off his effortless athleticism in separating from defenders and exploding down the field.
Calvin Ridley creates outstanding initial separation while presenting a large target and catch radius to his QB, making him as “Dak-friendly” as the Dallas Cowboys could ever possibly hope for.
As mentioned, he is also an older prospect that will carry high expectations into his rookie season anywhere around the league. Should he be playing 2018 in the silver and blue, the pressure on Ridley will only grow as an outside target for the Cowboys – with a passing offense abruptly starved for big plays.
Maryland WR D.J. Moore
D.J. Moore is a player that has received plenty of hype from Cowboys Nation, along with the rest of the draft community, and for very good reason. Perhaps unlike Ridley, this Maryland prospect is simply just scratching the surface of what he can be as a weapon for NFL offenses to utilize.
“A physical player for his size, Moore accelerates effortlessly in the open field with the elite balance that makes him difficult to bring down.”
This quote is from my in-depth breakdown of what D.J. Moore would bring to the Dallas Cowboys, which includes a full scouting report from Slant Sports.
When it comes to after-the-catch ability, D.J. Moore is exactly what the Cowboys need in their new-look receivers room. Moore is never going to be a player that wins with size or physicality to get open, but he is easily a smooth enough route runner to be a reliable target for any quarterback.
Moore glides in and out of his breaks with ease, creating depth with short and light strides that set him up exceptionally well for RAC opportunities. Seeing Moore consistently bounce off of would-be-tacklers at Maryland is what makes him such an exciting prospect, as well as one the Cowboys could use in a variety of ways.
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For the record, I do not believe that any rookie receiver should ever be viewed as a replacement for all that Dez Bryant meant to the Cowboys.
Calvin Ridley may be the most ready to step in and feel comfortable in this X receiver role, but D.J. Moore has a chance to shine in the right scheme from day one with his speed and open field toughness.
The Cowboys would be a better football team on April 27th with either of these prospects on their football team, preparing then for the second round of their 2018 NFL Draft. It is clear the Cowboys are going to target a WR at some point in the draft — likely early — and it will be imperative that they hit on a player to build their passing game around.
If it wasn't going to be at AT&T Stadium during the draft, as the Cowboys make their selection from inside The Star at Frisco, I would not think twice about adding D.J. Moore to America's Team over Calvin Ridley.
Ridley may do more “Dez things” on tape at Alabama, but this is clearly a Cowboys offense going in a new direction. D.J. Moore would do best in helping Dallas introduce this new look to the rest of the league.