Our next stop in the 2020 preview series is at wide receiver. So far with the QB and RB positions we’ve glowed about Dallas quality starters and backups, and thankfully WR gives us no reason to stop. The Cowboys may have the best top-three in the NFL and some intriguing training camp battles to watch among their other prospects.
The future already looked bright with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup both putting up over 1,100 yards in 2019. Even with Randall Cobb leaving in free agency, Dallas still had reason for confidence in their starting pair and a modest replacement for Cobb keeping the offense potent.
But the Cowboys didn’t just patch up the hole that Cobb left. They spent their 1st-round draft pick on Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, who many felt was the best WR in this year’s class and probably a few others as well. Now Dallas has arguably the best receiving trip in football and great security if either Cooper or Gallup were to miss time.
Finding enough targets for all three players will be a fun problem for OC Kellen Moore to solve. But for the next month, the real focus will be on figuring out the depth chart below them.
These remainder of the WR contenders in 2020 are an interesting blend of experience levels and skills sets. Some like Noah Brown and Devin Smith are probably on their last chance to make something happen in Dallas, while others like Cedrick Wilson and Ventell Bryant are hoping to take advantage if they slip.
We’ll dive into those those competition in our next section.
Wide Receiver Pre-Camp Rankings
- Amari Cooper
- Michael Gallup
- CeeDee Lamb
- Cedrick Wilson vs. Devin Smith
- Noah Brown vs. Ventell Bryant
- Jon’Vea Johnson vs. Tevin Jones
- Aaron Parker vs. Kendrick Rogers
Some might argue that Gallup and Lamb are already competing for the WR2 position right now, but I just don’t see that given Michael’s big 2019 performance. Much like Dez Bryant in 2010, CeeDee is coming in with tons of hype but will still have to earn his ascension to a starting role.
The real battles begin at WR4 and below. I wrote a more detailed breakdown of those competitions last week, which I encourage you to read, but will summarize them now.
The top two contenders right now are Devin Smith and Cedrick Wilson. While Smith is a former 2nd-round pick and has more experience, Wilson is younger and has flashed just as much in his limited opportunities. Also helping Cedrick is that he may be Dallas’ punt returner in 2020, while Devin offers no real special teams value.
Next up are Noah Brown and Ventell Bryant, both bigger, stronger receivers who also make a living on special teams. Dallas has been waiting for Brown’s breakout for three years now but injuries have kept derailing it. If it doesn’t happen now, Bryant could easily step in as he did for a few games last season.
There may not be in roster spots left after those four guys duke it out, but that doesn’t mean Jon’Vea Johnson, Tevin Jones, or undrafted rookies Aaron Parker and Kendrick Rogers are out of the fight. The margins are thin enough that any of these eight players could wind up making the 2020 roster.
The only player I’d bet money on is Cedrick Wilson. Between his offensive potential and likely role in the return game, Wilson seems like he’ll be the 5th WR at worst. But we get surprised every year at this level of the roster.
Those surprises could be even bigger and more numerous in 2020 without preseason games. While they never were the be-all, end-all of roster decisions, they did at least give us a glimpse of these players and how they performed against other teams. We watched Jon’Vea Johnson’s stock drop in real time last August as he forgot how to catch the ball.
All of that will now happen on the practice field, leaving us at the mercy of reporters and the occasional video to gauge the competitions. When final cuts do come, we could find that our current front-runners lost that footing a long time ago.