The 2017 NFL Draft is approximately one month away, and the Dallas Cowboys enter it with relatively no questions on the offensive side of the ball. Some would say that Offensive Tackle is of concern, but the recent signing of OT Byron Bell should help provide depth in that area. If you get someone to move past that and they're feeling really picky, the position of Tight End could come up. The Cowboys have future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Witten manning it currently, and they could have the NFL's next great star as well in Rico Gathers.
This, the tail end of March, is a time of year that Rico Gathers is quite familiar with. It was this time last year – March 17th, 2016 to be precise – that we last saw Rico Gathers in competitive action, during the annual NCAA Tournament. You see on that day Rico Gathers was playing Forward for the Baylor Bears basketball team, unfortunately in a losing effort to Yale (Rico scored six points and logged 16 minutes).
The story of Rico Gathers is well-known by Cowboys Nation at this point. He didn't play a lick of high school or college football, but he was a menacing player inside the paint on the hardwood. It's the frame that comes with that type of prowess, 6'6″ and 281 pounds, that NFL teams find appealing in a potential tight end. We've obviously seen many great tight ends in the game of football that also have basketball experience: Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and most recently Jimmy Graham.
“This year is the year to come out and take over and show Rico Gathers is the heir apparent to Jason Witten. That's how I feel, honestly.” Gathers told ESPN's Jean-Jacques Taylor
During an interview with ESPN's Jean-Jacques Taylor, Gathers elaborated on his position with the Dallas Cowboys. America's Team coveted him so much – despite no football experience – that they used a 6th Round selection on him in 2016's NFL Draft. Rico's rookie classmates Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Maliek Collins, and Anthony Brown all went on to have phenomenal first years in the pros… so much so that many Cowboys fans are claiming this is the greatest draft class in franchise history (shout out to the Dirty Dozen).
Rico Gathers is obviously anxious to contribute to the team, and there's certainly an opportunity for him to do so. Jason Witten flirted with the idea of retirement after the 2016 season ended, so the Cowboys need to be prepared for that phenomenal ride to finally end. Beyond “Gold Jacket Witt” Dallas doesn't really have much. There's James Hanna – who's coming off of a serious knee injury – and Geoff Swaim, who has an injury of his own that will sideline him until Training Camp.
“I feel like this could be my breakout year and I can really contribute to this offense in the right situation. When I first jumped out there and let people know I wanted to play football, it was all a thought, but a thought without work is just a thought. Once I started working on my craft as a football player, that's when everything started coming together.” Gathers told ESPN's Jean-Jacques Taylor
There is already expectation for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys Draft Class to get even better with the addition of 2nd Round pick Jaylon Smith on the defensive side of the ball. If Rico Gathers can not just contribute to that, but be the heir to Jason Witten in the process… my oh my. The Dallas Cowboys could have conceivably replaced Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray (to a degree), and Jason Witten all in one draft… with room to spare. Can you believe that Dez Bryant is now the old man in the room?!