The Cowboys have left plenty of room for speculation in regards to roster spots this off-season. While some may call this an annoyance, I simply call it fun. With the exception of the Quarterback position, and about 4/5th of the Cowboys’ Offensive Line, each position’s depth chart could shape up in any number of ways. So,which position group would be the most fun to break down and analyze? I emphatically tell you that it is the receiving corp.
The Sure Starters
Let’s start at the top of the totem poll, where things are the most clear. Dez Bryant, a former league leader in touchdown receptions, is back to redeem himself after an injury riddled 2016 campaign. With a healthy body and a new-found chemistry with 2nd year quarterback Dak Prescott, there is no reason to believe that he cannot channel the Dez Bryant of seasons past. Unsurprisingly, his position at the top of the depth chart is safe. He is a critical part of the three headed monster which is the Dallas Cowboys’ offense. The Cowboys will need every bit of his talent if they hope to make it out of an always competitive NFC East.
Say what you want about Terrance Williams in late-game situations. However, the 5th year receiver out of Baylor showed Cowboy fans that loyalty still has its place in Jerry World. Despite numerous suitors ready to pay him a bigger contract, Terrance Williams decided to take a hometown discount to remain with the ball club (4 years 17 mil). Although, with the opposing offenses in the NFC East reloading with talent this season, Williams must play in a way that demands Dak to take advantage of his abilities. I feel like too often Williams becomes the awkward third wheel between Dez and Beasley, and he is much too talented for that.
Cole Beasley was the unlikely hero of the 2016 season. Not only was he the Cowboys’ receiving leader, but he became the favorite target of Dak Prescott. While I believe he wont have the same statistical season again this year, I feel confident that his niche within the offense will be taken advantage of. Beasley has consistent hands, a high football I.Q, and is a sharp route-runner. My only concern is that after enough hours in the film room, opponents will learn how to take advantage of his 5 foot 8 frame. Although many believe that the drafting of Ryan Switzer could spell out bad news for Beasley, I think it would have to take a miraculous rookie showing by Switzer to overtake a high quality starter such as Cole Beasley in the 2017 season.
What Lies Below The Surface
While it may be true that Ryan Switzer has a skill set like Cole Beasley’s, I believe that Switzer’s presence on the team is a more immediate threat to Lucky Whitehead. Whitehead gets the bulk of his minutes as a punt and kickoff returner. Yet after another mediocre season for the Cowboy on special teams, it begs the question of whether Whitehead still has a seat at the table. A table that is really full. Like thanksgiving at your Aunt Betty’s full. Only time will tell if Ryan Switzer is as dynamic on special teams as his college film indicates, but if he lives up to his potential, it could cost Whitehead his job. He simply doesn’t produce enough in the offensive ( 3 receptions for 48 yards in 2016).
Then there are players like Brice Butler. While Butler doesn’t have the most consistent hands, he makes the big plays. In addition, Butler has size and speed. Most importantly size. With a roster that now includes Whitehead, Switzer, and Beasley, size will be at a premium. Butler finished his 2016 campaign with 16 receptions for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns. While those numbers aren’t jaw dropping, I think he took advantage of most opportunities given to him.
Rookie Noah Brown could ultimately be the biggest threat to Butler, the 7th round rookie out of Ohio State has me excited. Although a majority of his highlights come from a single game (see his game against Oklahoma) Brown has shown flashes that indicate a high player-ceiling. Fans who have seen him play are already comparing him to Dez Bryant. While I think that is an exaggeration, the fact that fans have taken the time to notice a 7th round pick shouldn’t be overlooked. The coaching staff is excited about his potential, and are eager to see if it can come to fruition. If Brown becomes the player the Cowboys believe he can, why not retain him and Butler? You really can’t have enough size and speed on your roster. I guess only time will tell.
Although names like Andy Jones refuse to go away, I believe the 2017 roster will consist of long time veterans, and the two rookies Brown and Switzer. I can’t see the Cowboys carrying more than six receivers on the 53 man roster. I simply don’t believe anyone else from the 2016 draft class or from the 2016 free agent signings will make a big enough impact. Lucky Whitehead will most likely be in serious job danger after the 2017 season, however I think he is safe for another year due to familiarity with the offense. So in my opinion, the 2017 depth chart will consist of Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Switzer, Butler, and Brown. With a remodel coming the 2018 season that could realistically include Whitehead, Beasley (if Switzer turns out to be just as productive) and Butler. Stay tuned to see how wrong (or right) I was.
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