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Draft Breakdown: Depth Still Issue Behind Dez, Austin
(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on April 25-27, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, the Cowboys' needs at each, which players might be targeted for their six picks and some interesting draft nuggets. Part 4 features the wide receiver position.)
This has been a tricky spot to evaluate for the Cowboys, who have a pair of superstar players in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. There always seems to be question marks at the position. Austin has been injury-prone lately, including in-game injuries during both Washington contest last year that prevented him from finishing. He was on the verge of a 1,000-yard campaign before an ankle injury cut his season-finale with the Redskins short. Bryant had a coming-out party in the second half of the schedule and looked like a Pro Bowl player. But a back injury in the final game kept him from finishing as well. Dwayne Harris showed some promise at receiver and special teams, while Cole Beasley could contend for a spot. The third-down receiver position should be up for grabs with the departure of Kevin Ogletree, who signed with the Buccaneers.
At this point, signing a veteran receiver – or any position in free agency, for that matter – is rather unlikely because we’re now two weeks away from the NFL Draft.
That doesn’t mean the Cowboys have no need for a receiver, but they’ll probably wait to see what occurs with one of their six selections.
But if they get out of the draft and still want a veteran presence, the most intriguing name is Laurent Robinson, who was released by the Jaguars in the offseason. He had multiple concussions last year but has been cleared to play. Of course, Robinson had his best season of his career in 2011 with Dallas, where he caught 11 touchdowns.
Other notable free agents at receiver include Brandon Lloyd, Titus Young and Joshua Cribbs. With Harris’ return ability, which includes a 16.1-yard punt return average, the Cowboys probably don’t have a strong need to pay for a returner like Cribbs.
You don’t have to go too far back to find a memorable moment at receiver. In 2010, the Cowboys took a chance that most teams in the first round wouldn’t do – and that’s draft Dez Bryant. In fact, the Cowboys were so antsy about taking Bryant, they moved from 27 to 24 to get him. Bryant was always one of the more talented players in the draft, but his off-the-field baggage, which included a suspension from the NCAA for most of his junior season of 2009, scared off the others. The Cowboys obviously were comfortable in taking him at that spot in the first round, and three years later, it’s safe to say that everything they
thought about Bryant has played out correctly. He has had his off-the-field issues but has backed it up with stellar play, especially last season when he scored 12 touchdowns and had 1,382 receiving yards.
At first, it appeared this was shaping up to be a weak receiver class, and there still probably won’t be a receiver go in the Top 10. But a few are now creeping their way into first-round mock drafts. A guy who is darting up the boards is West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, a smaller, yet inanely quick player who is arguably the most dynamic athlete in this draft. Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson is a big-body speedster who is still raw, but loaded with talent. Also, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, USC’s Robert Woods and DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson are all players on the verge of being late first- and early second-round guys. Bryan Broaddus has more on a few wide receiver prospects that will likely make it past the first round.