Cowboys can’t replace Amari Cooper, but draft is their best chance to try

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Amari Cooper’s trade to the Cleveland Browns and Michael Gallup’s contract extension mean we now know what two-thirds of the Cowboys’ receiving corps look like. CeeDee Lamb is coming off a 1,100 yard season while Gallup’s new contract means he’ll be seen as shouldering the majority of the load against Lamb, even though he’s coming back from a torn ACL. So what?

If you want to dwell on why these decisions were made, I encourage you to read this wonderful article by my friend and cap magician KD Drummond. Ultimately, it was the realities of the salary cap that led the Cowboys to dump Cooper for a fifth-round draft pick plus a sixth-round player trade. It’s also why they claimed to be overpriced to bring Cedrick Wilson back. Bringing in ex-Steeler James Washington on a one-year deal has become a much more affordable, albeit much less exciting, alternative.

For the purposes of this article, however, I’m just going to focus on the “now what?” part of the equation. Because as far as Washington and re-signed Noah Brown are concerned, the Cowboys need a starting third wide receiver, and that deep in free agency, they’re most likely going to use a top 100 draft pick. to achieve it rather than finding one. on the free market. Washington could start when needed, and his arrival is the kind of smart business decisions teams make to ensure they aren’t forced to pick a certain position at a certain spot in the draft (think Taco Charlton). But it’s not ideal.

Luckily for Dallas, this class of draft at wide receiver is really good for a team that needs a plug-and-play sleight of hand. It’s not necessarily littered with guys who I think will be legitimate No. 1 receivers, a la Ja’Marr Chase in last year’s crop. But there are plenty of guys who can come in and contribute as they become good starters in the NFL. These are my favorite possibilities and I think the Cowboys should choose them:

First round

Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

Wilson is my highest-ranked wide receiver in this class, but he’s very close to the top four. What I love about him is the Stefon Diggs type vibes he gives off as a road runner. He’s an explosive mover both off the start and off and it’s natural to create separation to give his QB an easy window to launch. Explosive moves also help him after the catch.

Treylon Burks, Arkansas

Some are concerned about the 4.55 40-yard dash Burks ran at the combine or that his jumps in testing were average for an NFL athlete. I’m not. Burks made a ton of big plays for Arkansas and did it without the advantage of a top quarterback. He’s raw in terms of the course tree he’s run, but he’s a perfect fit for the modern NFL with his ability to make plays like a big body on the court and turn screens into big wins with his impressive after. – the capacity socket. And would anyone rule out Jerry Jones making a play for an Arkansas Razorback?

Jameson Williams, Alabama

Speed, speed, speed. Williams makes breakthrough plays fleeing cover on a weekly basis. He’s coming off a knee injury, but assuming a full recovery, he can threaten defenses in a way that none of the other guys listed here can. He’s a weapon with the ball in his hands on throw sweeps, he can win vertically and across the pitch, and that speed allows him to be effective down below as well.

Drake London, USC

London is a giant-sized receiver with the footwork to create separation and avoid media coverage. At 6ft 5in he has a huge grab radius and moves much better and smoother than you would expect from a guy this tall. An aggressive runner, he is also difficult to tackle once the ball is in his hands.

Chris Olave, Ohio State

I wrote the word “smooth” in my notes for Olave no less than eight times because that really is the best word to describe him. He is an exceptional road runner with a great awareness of the space he has to work with and where he is on the touchline. He is a technician who knows how to set up defensive backs to get where he wants to go. The big plays are there too: he scored 13 touchdowns on 65 receptions last year.

Second turn

Skyy Moore, West Michigan

To me, he actually belongs in the above group as first-round targets. That’s how much of a fan I am of him. He reminds me of Cooper Kupp as a road runner and after the catch. He’s not the best start-and-stop athlete, but he’s able to be so unstable in his routes and change direction at high speeds that he can easily beat media coverage and create easy-to-follow windows. pitch for a quarterback. These same traits are displayed once he has the ball. Although I think he can play outside if you need to, I would just leave him in the slot and let him eat.

George Pickens, Georgia

Pickens hasn’t played much this year after injuring his knee in the spring, but he still has the juice that made him an immediate impact player in the SEC as a rookie. He’s quite thin at 6-foot-3, but that also allows him to be a quick guy despite being a big receiver. He is effective at all levels of the field with a speed of 4.47, a large strike radius and a decision after the strike that allows him to miss the first defender on short trips. Pickens is an extremely fluid large offshore.

John Metchie III, Alabama

Jameson Williams grabs headlines with his high speed, but Metchie was the one who often kept readers alive for the Crimson Tide. He’s an average NFL athlete, but a clear student of the game with crisp running ability, sure hands and toughness. Like his teammate, Metchie is coming off a knee injury, but he’s the kind of complete player who will be the NFL’s No. 2 receiver for a decade.

Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama

“Manipulator” is a word I used often when studying Tolbert. He has the ability to switch gears during runs, which makes defensive backs unsure of what he’s running and leads to separation at all levels of the pitch. He makes a ton of plays on the court. His playing is built on explosive moves and shifting tempos.

Jahan Dotson, State of Pennsylvania

The only guy in this group that I’m probably lower than consensus on. He’s an explosive player who I think needs to stay in the slot. But when he gets a free release, he’ll find space, and his acceleration is key to opening up and making plays on the court. He’s also a good afterthought player who can dismantle a defense like a punt returner in the open.

Third round

Calvin Austin III, Memphis

Austin is a slot type player at 5-foot-7, 170 pounds. But his 4.32 speed shows up on the tape, and if you don’t get a hold of him on the line of scrimmage, he’s going to make you look like an idiot. He can get the better of the defense or create problems in the screen game or take a transfer.

Khalil Shakir, Boise State

Ball skills stand out when watching Shakir. He’s another guy you’ll probably want to play with in the slot and give him free spins because that’s when he’s most dangerous. He’s also a fun watch, a player who did a ton of one-handed and acrobatic sideline catches in college.

Alec Pierce, Cincinnati

Pierce is a 6-foot-3 receiver who can really run. When he is able to win off the line of scrimmage, he can split deep and make plays on the ball. He has a good idea of ​​where the holes are in an area, and he’s also confident. His moves are a bit like Mike Evans, though he’s not as tall.

That’s a lot of names, which hopefully illustrates the depth of this draft class at receiver and shows the Cowboys have plenty of options. And while none of them will replace Amari Cooper in becoming the Cowboys’ first receiving option as a rookie, that doesn’t mean the good one can’t combine with Lamb and Gallup to give Dallas a receiving body. stellar.

I would also advise you to play detective if you want to narrow down this list. Each NFL team leading up to the draft can have up to 30 prospects visit their facility to get to know them better, and so far we know of four of those coming to Dallas. Treylon Burks and Chris Olave are two of those, which tells you the Cowboys are absolutely interested in receivers at the top of this class. NFL teams do not pass these visits lightly. If a name is there, either the team is already interested or they want additional information to familiarize themselves with it.

Regardless of Dallas’ direction, going into next season without Cooper won’t kill this team. It’ll just give you another young receiver’s jersey to buy.

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