The Dallas Cowboys got a jump on most NFL teams in using their 2019 draft picks. Last October, they traded this year’s first rounder to the Oakland Raiders for Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper. Thanks to that move, the WR position is not a dire need in this week’s draft.
While Dallas won’t enjoy the usual 3-4 years of discounted play from a rookie deal, they aren’t regretting trading for Cooper. He was the spark that saved their 2018 season, and he reestablished himself as one of the top receivers in football.
Along with Amari, Dallas goes into 2019 with high hopes for last year’s third-round pick Michael Gallup. He ascended into a clear number-two role by the end of last season and still has plenty of room to grow.
Dallas mitigated the loss of Cole Beasley in free agency by signing another veteran, the Packers’ Randall Cobb, to be their new slot receiver. They also re-signed Tavon Austin as a depth option, though perhaps primarily for his punt return skills. Allen Hurns was also retained using a team option on his contract.
That is a stout top five, and it doesn’t even include some of the intriguing prospects such as Noah Brown, Cedrick Wilson, and Lance Lenoir. Dallas also signed Devin Smith, a 2015 second-round pick whose struggled with knee injuries, as a potential reclamation project.
That’s nine players currently under contract, all of which provide varying levels of experience and intrigue. Given that, you have to wonder how highly the Cowboys will prioritize the receiver position in this 2019 Draft.
While it sounds like the team is loaded at WR right now, that could change very quickly. Cooper and Gallup who have clear long-term futures in Dallas.
Cobb, Austin, and Hurns will all become free agents in 2020. Noah Brown is signed thru 2020 and should be a contributor, but the rest of the players we’ve mentioned are far from reliable.
Dallas could easily justify drafting a new player now, a young prospect who’d have a four-year rookie deal and the change to be groomed behind veterans. They also have some measures in place to clear room for that player on the roster.
Allen Hurns may be on the roster now but can easily be released, having little dead money on his contract. In fact, many feel that Hurns is only here now as an insurance policy in case of injuries. He may not make it past final cuts as is.
The same really could go for Tavon Austin, too. If the player they draft can also be a return specialist, Austin’s value to the team gets reduced.
Nothing says that any of the the younger prospects have to make the team, either. They were all just late-round picks or undrafted players. The Cowboys could decide that a player taken this year is an upgrade, or at least has more upside.
All of this means that the receiver position is a real wild card for Dallas in this 2019 Draft. They could go about as high or low as they want, depending on the talent available.
Could the Cowboys go as high as their second-round pick? Probably not, given their greater need at positions such as safety, tight end, or defensive tackle. Even a backup running back is a greater current concern than another WR.
But what if someone like Deebo Samuel is available at the 58th pick? He checks a lot boxes for Dallas; slot receiver, return man, and great value if he falls to them in the second round.
If Samuel, or some other WR prospect, is higher on their board than the available safeties or other positions, the Cowboys can justify that pick even that early in the draft.
Because of the Amari Cooper trade, the focus on the 2019 draft is much more about long-term value. Most of the immediate impact players, at least by current projections, will be gone by Dallas’ first pick.
The more likely scenario is that Dallas will take a WR somewhere early on Day 3 of the draft. They have two fourth-round picks and a fifth, giving them several shots at a player they like or even the ammo needed to trade up for one.
In conclusion, had it not been for the Amari Cooper trade last year, the receiver position would have been the top priority in this draft. One way or another, Dallas used their 2019 first-round pick to fill that void.
Given the short-term contracts and uncertainty of everyone beyond their starters, they may not be done adding WR talent this year.
Draft Likelihood: 80%
Projected Round: 4th-5th
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