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Wide Receiver at #4 Pick Making Sense to Me

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Wide Receiver at #4 Pick Making Sense to Me

As much as everyone is focused on defense or quarterback right now for  Dallas' first-round pick in April, I'm becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of them taking a wide receiver. The overwhelming favorite right now would be Laquon Treadwell from Ole Miss so I'm not going to spend time debating the value of various prospects. This is more about the merits if the idea that Dallas would add another offensive weapon over their other needs with the fourth-overall pick.

Dallas will go into next year with Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley locked into their positions and the number-one and slot receivers. The number-two spot will likely be Terrance Williams' to lose but he may face good competition from Brice Butler. Some are probably fine with that group and don't think any additions, especially with the fourth pick, are necessary.

No matter who emerges from the Williams-Butler battle, I'm pretty confident that neither of them could step into that number-one spot if Dez were to miss time. Both are adequate second receivers with Dez healthy and active but neither can be trusted yet for more responsibility if needed. We saw that clearly with Williams last year, his third NFL season, and it would take a surprising fourth-year bump in his play to convince me otherwise.

It's also worth noting the importance of the second receiver position has been negated for a long time in Dallas thanks to Jason Witten. He has not only taken care of the volume and production throughout seasons but has been the go-to target on critical plays when Dez is getting double coverage. Sadly, Witten can't play forever and is already slowing down. With his age and mileage, that decline could become pretty sharp at any given point. What's more, Gavin Escobar has yet to prove he can fill even one shoe of Witten's.

An elite talent added to that receiver corps accomplishes several things in just 2016 alone. It's insurance against another injury-filled season for Dez. It's someone who might be able to pick up some slack as Witten's twilight years continue. It's a different wrinkle in your offense that, after several seasons and a lot of game tape with the same key players, would help with strategy against the league's best defenses.

A major reason I'm liking this idea is what it means for the team's financial future. Last year's fourth-overall pick, Amari Cooper, got a four-year deal for about $22.6 million. There is a fifth-year team option that would pay him roughly the same as what a franchise tag would cost, the same option that Dallas declined on Morris Claiborne this year. When you line up what a 2016 rookie's deal (using Cooper's deal for comparison) would be next to the remainder of Dez Bryant's big contract, it makes a lot of sense.

Dez Bryant Rookie WR
2016 $13 million $4 million
2017 $17 million $5 million
2018 $16.5 million $6 million
2019 $16.5 million $7 million
2020 UFA Team Option

 

Dez Bryant will have turned 31 years old by the 2020 offseason. If the rookie pans out and is ready to be your new number-one, if he hasn't become it already, you can make a seamless transition from one big money deal to the next. What's more, if Dez body starts breaking down early, you have a decent option 2019 to cut him for $12 million in cap savings (provided they don't restructure between now and then). Having an elite talent ready to take over gives you the leverage to make that move if needed.

Obviously, there are plenty of reasons for Dallas not to do this and to take a defensive player. I'm not sold on any of these quarterbacks yet but maybe one of them will emerge in the next few months, too. None of this is to say that Dallas would be wrong not to take a receiver.

The bottom line is that any draft pick, and especially one in the top five, is about more than just filling your biggest needs. I am a firm believer in the "best player available" philosophy. History has proven that feeling secure at any position in the NFL can go away in a moment; one injury and suddenly you're ineffective. Dallas's receivers did not step up in Dez's absence, or even with Dez active but hobbled, to help make life easier for the backup quarterback carousel in 2015. There's little reason to think they'd be able to do it now.

If they're on the clock that Thursday night and Treadwell, or any other receiver, is the top player on the board then I hope they won't be too worried about the defense to make the pick. As the NFL continue to become a passing league and legislates to help offensive production, more talent in your receiving group can have an exponential benefit to your overall production and success.

After the year we just had, Cowboys fans need to see plenty of both in 2016.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. W

    February 11, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    QB. Period.

  2. RJ Ochoa

    RJ Ochoa

    February 11, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Non-QB for me thanks!

    Sent from my iPhone using Pigskin Hub – Pro Football Forums mobile app

  3. Jess Haynie

    Jess Haynie

    February 12, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    InsideTheStar.com UserQB. Period.

    That's probably my least favorite option right now. You have anyone specific you're in love with or just desperate to get someone behind Romo?

  4. Zac Fields

    February 14, 2016 at 9:48 am

    I can't understand why anyone wouldn't be on board with drafting Treadwell unless they just literally think he's not going to be any good. History shows us that having two #1 caliber wide receivers on a team is never a bad idea. Yeah, the two Super Bowl teams of 2015 didn't have amazing wide receivers but there's nothing saying we have to follow their blueprint. I know the NFL is a copycat league, but the blueprint for Super Bowl teams changes constantly. Teams have indeed ridden to the Super Bowl on the backs of potent offenses… many times, actually.

    I'm not really stuck on one prospect or another, but I will say Treadwell is very high on my list.

  5. Blue Star

    February 15, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    If Carolina had good wide receivers they would have won that superbowl. Those dropped passes killed momentum. Steelers showed how to beat Denver's secondary during the season. Denver played man against really good wide receivers and got burned. Carolina drafted a TE to play WR which was just stupid. Devin Funchess struggled catching at Michigan. Ted stone hands Ginn jr should of never been their number 1 threat.

    Treadwell does not struggle catching the ball. Does not allow the ball to come inside to his body. Catches the ball with his hands consistently.
    As for the other wide receivers I am not sold on any. Treadwell is a gem.

    Personally I would like to see Dallas trade for Martavis Bryant.

  6. AL Coffey

    February 15, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Jess HaynieAs much as everyone is focused on defense or quarterback right now for Dallas’ first-round pick in April, I’m becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of them taking a wide receiver. The overwhelming favorite right now would be Laquon Treadwell from Ole Miss so I’m not going to spend time debating the value of various prospects. This is more about the merits if the idea that Dallas would add another offensive weapon over their other needs with the fourth-overall pick. Dallas will go into next year with Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley locked into their positions and the number-one and slot receivers. The number-two spot will likely be Terrance Williams’ to lose but he may face good competition from Brice Butler. Some are probably fine with that group and don’t think any additions, especially with the fourth pick, are necessary. No matter who emerges from the Williams-Butler battle, I’m pretty confident that neither
    Read the whole post here.

    I like the pick at 4 and picking Treadwell , and I do like Butler as the number 3 receiver , but I also like to maybe trade Williams and try to pick up another 4th or 5th round pick . And we do need to fine a good back up for Romo that is going to get us wins not losses .

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Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick

Jess Haynie

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Devin Smith

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.

Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:

Jason Bernstein on Twitter

Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh

Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.

Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.

The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.

For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!



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DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.

Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.

One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.

ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.

ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t

DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.

Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.

Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.



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When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott

John Williams

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All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.

In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.

During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...

...of his offensive lineman.

During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.

As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.

It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.

With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.



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