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Jalen Tolbert or Simi Fehoko: Who is under the most pressure in 2023?

The have made some notable free-agent acquisitions over the past several weeks. This is exciting for fans, but on the other side of that coin is the fact that bringing in experienced veterans means someone is getting pushed lower on the .

The , especially the latter weeks and the post-season, highlighted just how much help the Cowboys need at . Common narratives even suggest that was the only receiver who truly showed up during the playoff game against the .

So, as the works to add more weapons to the wide receiver room, one particular question comes to the forefront. Who is in the most danger of being pushed out of that room?

The name at the of that conversation is . Since the end of the Cowboys' season, Tolbert's lackluster rookie season and his future as a starter for Dallas have been discussed repeatedly. Multiple analysts on multiple platforms are wondering where things went wrong.

A look at the depth chart reveals another name – . He is less discussed, but when the discourse does take a turn in his direction, the sentiments aren't always positive. Skywalker Steele of A to Z Sports Dallas recently described Fehoko as a “bust” due to his lack of contributions to the Cowboys .

So, which one of these receivers, stuck in the purgatory between potential and production, is actually under the most pressure to perform this season? Let's dive in.


It is a commonly held belief that expectations lead to disappointments.

In Jalen Tolbert's case, the expectation for him to make an impact as a rookie wide receiver is certainly the biggest contributor to the disappointment expressed by many.

Tolbert was drafted by the Cowboys in the of the with the 88th pick. He was also a standout in . Jalen Tolbert's performances left much to be desired, however, and his struggles continued throughout his appearances.

Compared to what was expected of Tolbert, he definitely under-performed. But when we remove those expectations from the equation, what we see is a rookie wide receiver who struggled in his first year.

admitted at one point early in the season that Tolbert had been given too much of a challenge.

also said, in a press conference, that a lot had been asked of Jalen Tolbert. He added, “We were all so impressed when he arrived, and the hamstring really played a factor in this, because having him play all the positions- treating him, frankly, how we treated CeeDee when CeeDee arrived, and not really having the opportunities early on , he's a step behind the other guys.”


The fact that a lot was asked of Tolbert is not an excuse for his poor performance. His inexperience explains things like his inability to grasp route concepts. It does not explain things like an embarrassing offensive offsides that negates a nine-yard run by .

But since we're acknowledging that expectations were a bit high, maybe we should temper our disappointment with a bit of reality, specifically these points:

  • Most NFL rookies do not deliver impressive performances in their first year.
  • More snaps, on the offense and with special teams would be very beneficial to Jalen Tolbert's development.
  • Every receiver but two drafted after Round 2 of the 2022 averaged 11 yards or less.


Simi Fehoko had a much better start to 2022 than Tolbert did, but if we rewind back to his rookie year, the , we see that his rookie season wasn't much better than Tolbert's.

And this is where we address that fact that we're not comparing apples to apples here. It's expected for NFL players to see improvement from their first year to their second, so Simi Fehoko should logically have been expected to perform better in 2022 than Tolbert.

But those aren't the expectations that were set.

Simi Fehoko was only active for six games in 2021. He took the field on offense for a total of seven snaps between two games. Even on special teams, he only played 48 total snaps.

Simi Fehoko was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the with the 179th pick of the . Because the pandemic limited Stanford's 2020 football season to six games, Simi's numbers were unremarkable at first glance – 574 yards and three touchdown. Adjusted for a full season, those numbers put him on pace for 1,148 yards, six touchdowns, and 15.5 yards per catch.

If the expectations for Fehoko had been as high as they were for Tolbert, we may have seen headline after headline expressing disappointment and concern over his rookie performance.

But not much was made at all of his lack of contribution to the Cowboys offense. The fact that Simi Fehoko is not as popular or frequently discussed is working to his advantage in this case.


As a matter of fact, Simi's 2021 stats are mainly mentioned to point out the growth he exhibited from one season to the next.

It's difficult to find a write up about Simi Fehoko during that doesn't use the words “serious deep threat.”

His physicality, speed, and ability to make use of his size (6'3″, 220 lbs) were impressive. He made good use of them as part of the offense. That is, until a shoulder injury cut his season short.

As unfortunate as that injury was, it could be another reason that Fehoko is not subject to the same criticism Tolbert faces.

When it comes to reputations, many times people believe that what they know is all there is to know. The last we saw of Simi Fehoko, he was a big, physical receiver averaging eight yards per catch. He just needed to get more snaps to prove his value as part of the offense.

Simi Fehoko was never criticized for not meeting expectations. He never made headlines for being a disappointment.

Even Skywalker Steele, who called him a bust, acknowledged the potential for Simi to be a major contributor to Mike McCarthy's offense. He expects Fehoko to “piss people off in a good way.”


Both Jalen Tolbert and Simi Fehoko are working their way up to their potential as NFL receivers. Both have a lot more to prove as contributors to the Cowboys offense.

Simi Fehoko will need to make a lot of noise at this year's training camp. He did it last year, and there's no reason to think he can't do it again. He needs to prove that what we saw before he was placed on was just the tip of the iceberg.

When it comes to who is under more pressure, it's the expectations placed on Jalen Tolbert that make this season a bit more crucial for him. He has more to either gain or lose as a result of what he does on the field.

We've seen Simi Fehoko make improvements. He's shown that he can be a deep threat and also that he's more versatile than just that. He's shown that he can be physical. Simi has also shown that he can play smart. We just need to see more of all of that.

We have yet to see those things from Jalen Tolbert. Tolbert is more known for his mistakes and struggles than for his skills or abilities. We haven't seen him make contributions to special teams. Some even doubt his ability understand and execute routes.

Tolbert says he want to show why he got drafted. For the sake of his reputation, it's crucial that he does that now.

Jazz Monet
Jazz Monet
Sports culture analyst. Sports competition enthusiast. Host of Bitches Love Sports podcast. Personal trainer. Roller derby athlete and trainer.

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