“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it.”
These are the words used recently by Cowboys Executive VP Stephen Jones when describing the team’s unique collection of offensive weaponry.
It really is a magnificent group. Dallas returns a pair of 1,100 yard wide receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, and the arrow is likely pointing up on both players. Cooper posted his still very strong numbers whilst limping around most of the season with various injuries. A healthy zeroed in Amari Cooper is as good of a wideout as the league has to offer. With improved health, Cooper could set the NFL ablaze. Michael Gallup just really found his footing in 2019. It’s reasonable to opine that his best football is ahead of him, still being such a young player still sprinkling those herbs and spices on his game.
The Cowboys addressed the loss of slot receiver Randall Cobb (Texans) by drafting arguably the best wide receiver in the draft with the 17th overall selection. CeeDee Lamb is a true all-purpose wideout. His game really has no weakness that can’t be strengthened by coaching and experience. He figures to play mostly from the slot, but only due to the personnel already in place. CeeDee can feast inside or out, underneath or over the top, horizontal or vertical. As technically a WR3, CeeDee Lamb will be the things nightmares are made of for teams attempting to cover him as such.
The forgotten man in the pass-catching corps is Blake Jarwin. Even with Jason Witten playing the ultimate progress stopper last season, Blake Jarwin showed you why you should be excited about him. Jarwin is just different than what Cowboys fans are used to seeing. Blake Jarwin is long and athletic with plus speed. He is rangy and has an outstanding catch radius. Playing just 38% of the team’s offensive snaps last season, his opportunities should nearly double. Blake Jarwin is about to absolutely explode.
Is this the best group of pass-catchers in the league? How many teams are even going to roll out anything comparable to this?
Let’s take a look at the other teams who should be in that conversation.
The Eagles’ weapon shed is set up in a unique manner. Their strength is actually at tight end, where they present the leagues best duo in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. It’s not conventional, but the Eagles rode that group right over our Cowboys and into the playoffs last season.
This is a slept on wide receiver group, and I expect them to be very good. This is a position group with speed to burn. We don’t know if a healthy Desean Jackson is even a thing anymore, but if it is, we know what type of damage he can do. First-round draft pick Jalen Reagor ran a ‘slow’ 4.47 forty at the combine, which looks to be the result of maybe some ill-advised bulking and improper training. Reagor played as fast as any player in college football last season and should be a terror. The Eagles doubled down on the speed with the 6th round selection of Southern Mississippi wideout Quez Watkins. The gangly Watkins is a 4.35 guy, and a player I personally coveted throughout the draft process for the Cowboys.
Olympian Marquise Goodwin, who has tragically experienced the loss of a premature son, and unborn twin boys in recent years has very understandably opted out of the 2020 season. With him as the cherry on top, this would have been an extremely frightening group.
This group was supposed to pop last year but was derailed by poor QB play, and an overall decaying environment. It’s the same guys, with the addition of TE Austin Hooper.
When Odell Beckham Jr. is healthy and has his brain in the right place, he is as good as anyone. His best bud Jarvis Landry isn’t the athlete that OBJ is, and is a bit limited in the deep game, but is as fine of an underneath and intermediate player as we have in the league. Donovan Peoples-Jones is an outstanding athlete and may have a chance to factor into the offense in his rookie season.
We are still waiting for TE David Njoku to bust loose, but the athleticism will always make us believe he can. A mentioned previously, former Falcon TE Austin Hooper now joins this group. This is a pretty formidable bunch.
A healthy Ben Roethlisberger changes everything, and I personally have the Steelers as the forgotten team who can win the whole AFC if #7 is himself. Last season, however, even with subpar QB play, the Steelers’ offensive playmaking group showed some promise.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is a known commodity, a bonafide NFL wideout who is still getting better. The up and comer of this unit is James Washington, who got to pair up with his college QB Mason Rudolph for the better part of the season, to the tune of 44 receptions for 735 yards and 3 TD. Ryan Switzer is still on the roster and would be the perfect complement to the aforementioned pair if he ever becomes the player we are all waiting for him to be.
At TE, the team added veteran Eric Ebron. Ebron seems to be an ideal complement to Vance McDonald, who is probably stiff-arming someone into the shadow realm as we speak.
The Vikings traded WR Stephon Diggs to Buffalo and still look to have a filthy posse of pass catchers. The excellent Adam Theilen returns as WR1. First-round selection Justin Jefferson will flank him, and Titans WR Tajae Sharp comes aboard as WR3. Sharpe has always shown promise, but the production has just never matched up. After playing in a run-heavy offense point guarded by Marcus Mariota, and then Ryan Tannehill, Sharpe will now have the benefit of improved QB play and a more WR friendly system.
Kyle Rudolph is still a top TE. Good squad, but question marks all over.
Nobody is talking about this team’s weapons, because they chose a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who isn’t likely to get the best out of them. Nonetheless, this is a sneaky good arsenal.
Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore are both ascending players and are a very nice one-two punch at WR. Former Jet speedster Robby Anderson joins the corps to make this a very frightening WR room from a speed standpoint.
The only thing holding this unit back from being complete is the big, glowing, flashing question mark at TE. Ian Thomas? Chris Mahertz? Temmarick Hemmingway? Who even are these dudes? Maybe someone emerges. If not, Carolina is still a cut below the elite weapon collectors.
New Orleans Saints
Okay, these dudes are scary. Michael Thomas just set the single-season receptions record. What else needs to be said? Emmanuel Sanders comes aboard as one of the best, low key transactions of the offseason. The Saints can lie to us about Taysom Hill being a quarterback all they like. He will still be running around, catching passes and taking end-around. He will never be a full-time QB, but as a gadget guy, the dude is pretty valuable. Tre’Quan Smith still factors in as well.
Our old friend Jared Cook returns at TE, alongside the very large and fluid rookie Adam Trautman.
With Thomas, a pair of 6’5″+ tight ends, Sean Payton on the controls and Drew Brees on the gun, this should be an excellent red-zone team.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chris Godwin and Mike Evans were 3rd and 13th in the NFL in receiving yardage last season. Both are young dogs who are still improving and excited to play with Tom Brady. WR depth behind that dangerous duo is unproven though.
Rob Gronkowski comes out of retirement to Tampa to reunite with his quarterback, but what “Gronk” are we getting? The man retired for a reason. He was battered, and weary, and was a limited player when we saw him last. Will he still be showing his mileage, or has the time off rejuvenated him?
This group of tight ends is a uniquely good one. Behind Gronk, the Bucs roll out the very reliable Cameron Brate, who hasn’t had a great season since, 2016, but is still a quality player. We are still waiting for O.J. Howard to reach his full potential, but my goodness is he talented.
The only thing that stands in the way of Tampa torching the NFL is the marriage of QB and coach. Bruce Arians if a practitioner of 5-7 step drops, and slow-developing deep routes. His receivers are accustomed to playing Y.O.L.O. ball with Jameis Winston. Tom Brady is 43, his arm strength and mobility are declining, and his bread and butter has always been the precise short game. A compromise would serve Tampa best.
I don’t care who the tight ends are, and it’s a good thing because they don’t have any worth mentioning. The Arizona Cardinals can walk out a trio of Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, and DeAndre Hopkins. Behind them is the immensely talented Hakeem Butler, whom we didn’t see in his inaugural 2019 season due to a hand injury. If you want to go deeper, the team still has the very talented but unproven Andy Isabella, and 2nd-year player KeeSean Johnson.
When head coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired, I predicted that he would start the trend of retaining 7 wide receivers on the roster. It didn’t happen last year, but I think he still may. The Cardinals and Kyler Murray are going to toss it all over the playground next season and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Arizona is a sleeper cell.
Lots to be proven here, but man is this a promising crew. WR Courtland Sutton is already a legit WR1. The guy had the quietest 1,100 yards in the league last year, with shaky QB play. Everything behind him on the depth chart is unproven, but man if it pans out, this is going to be a nasty, nasty offense.
Denver was the second team to select a wideout in this year’s draft, snagging route running demon Jerry Jeudy with the 15th overall selection. The entire AFC West seemed to load up for an arms race with champion Kansas City, and the Broncos were no exception as they doubled down out wide, with the selection of burner K.J. Hamler in the 2nd round. Desean Hamilton, the best route runner of the 2018 WR class is also in the fold. If everyone pans out, this is possibly the league’s best group.
The cherry on top here is TE Noah Fant. 40 catches, 562 yards, and 3 TD is a very nice start for a rookie playing with a mashup at quarterback. Better things to come.
If QB Drew Lock proves to be the real deal, Denver is going to erupt.
Kansas City Chiefs
The evil empire. They didn’t add anything significant on the perimeter, but this is a beastly squad.
No one seems to like to credit anyone other than the very excellent QB, but this is a really good collection of weapons. Tyreek Hill is one of the NFL’s best out wide. Mecole Hardman, despite catching only 26 passes in 2019, is still a dangerous weapon who must be accounted for at all times. Sammy Watkins is the ‘slow’ guy in this WR corps. That is unfair.
Travis Kelce is a top 3 TE, placement depending only on the flavor you prefer. With Andy Reid ordering the hits, and Patrick Mahomes executing them, this offense is always going to be dangerous.
So, after a quick spin around the league, how do you think the Dallas pass catchers stack up?
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