Grading the ‘Boys, Part VI: Wide Receivers
The first five parts of our “Grading the ‘Boys” Series saw us analyze the success of the Cowboys’ offensive linemen, running backs, cornerbacks, and safeties in 2009. Today we will delve into the wide receivers.
The 2009 season saw the simultaneous emergence of one star–Miles Austin–and the decline of another–Roy Williams. Williams’ fall has been so dramatic that we seldom hear of a fan who even wants him on the team. However, we think he has a chance to turn it around in 2010.
Our 2009 wide receiver rankings are based less on totals and more on efficiency. A team’s #1 wide receiver will get more opportunities than the #2, who will get more than the #3, and so on. Thus, reception and yardage totals (although very important to a team) are less indicative of a player’s efficiency than yards-per-attempt or reception percentage.
- Chart Key: TA=Thrown at, Yds/Att=Yards-per-attempt, TD and Drop %=Percentage of attempts which resulted in a touchdown or drop, respectively, YAC/Rec=Yards after catch per reception
- The best stats are circled in blue and the worst in red.
- We are not grading Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree due to a very limited sample size (21 combined targets). Their numbers are not circled in either blue or red.
- The final grade is weighted 4:1 in terms of receiving versus run blocking.
- Roy Williams
There’s no way to get around it: Roy Williams was atrocious in 2009. He will be the first to admit it (and has). He dropped 10 balls on the season–more than one per 10 thrown to him. This stat, along with his YAC/Rec, yards-per-attempt, and yards-per-reception were all the worst on the team.
Williams worst statistic, however, was the putrid 46.2% of passes his way that resulted in a completion. Even for an outside receiver, this is unacceptable.
So why not an ‘F’ grade? Well, Williams did score 7 touchdowns, which isn’t too bad for just 43 receptions.
Altogether, Williams’ struggles are due more to a lack of confidence than a lack of talent. We will see if he can find the necessary chemistry with Tony Romo in 2010. If not, it will be his last year in Dallas.
Run Blocking: B
Williams has always been an adequate blocker. He doesn’t possess the ferocity of Hines Ward, but he does do a good job of positioning his body between the ball-carrier and the defender.
- Miles Austin
Austin led Dallas in just about every important receiving category. His 10.4 yards-per-attempt, 8.7 touchdown percentage, 2.2 drop percentage, and 7.2 yards-after-catch/reception are all outstanding.
There is really no apparent weakness in Austin’s game, outside of perhaps a lack of experience. He needs to prove he can sustain his ’09 production over the course of an entire season, but we have no doubts that he will do just that.
Run Blocking: B
Austin is like Williams–not a top-tier “knock your socks off” blocker, but very willing and able. Austin’s attitude is such that we should be able to count on him to give great effort in the run game, regardless of his star status.
- Patrick Crayton
Crayton’s numbers are just about what you might expect: solid, but not outstanding. Crayton is a very reliable player, albeit not a very explosive one. His 5.6 drop percentage is about average, but he has above-average hands. He isn’t outstanding after the catch (his 7.1 yards-after-catch/reception is probably a bit inflated due to where he catches his balls).
We would love to see Crayton score more touchdowns (he caught approximately one per 14.5 attempts). However, there are only so many footballs to go around, and Williams, Austin, Barber, and Witten are probably all better red-zone options.
Run Blocking: B
Crayton’s blocking duties in the slot are a bit different than Williams or Austin outside. He does a decent job of taking on players a lot bigger than him. Again, blocking is all about ‘want-to,’ and Crayton has shown the requisite willingness to get the job done.
Final Wide Receiver Grades
1. Miles Austin: A- (93.0)
2. Patrick Crayton: C+ (77.0)
3. Roy Williams: D+ (67.4)
The Cowboys are obviously not loaded at wide receiver, but it isn’t as big of a weakness as people tend to believe. Despite the lack of experience, Austin is a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver who will be in Dallas for a long time to come. He is a legitimate #1 option and perhaps the Cowboys’ 2009 MVP.
Crayton is what he is–a reliable wide receiver who won’t do anything to kill your team, but also won’t take over games. The spot could certainly be upgraded.
Williams needs to regain his confidence. He will be given every chance to retain the starting ‘Z’ spot opposite Austin, but he may have to compete with Ogletree in camp. That competition could be great for Williams’ psyche.
As far as the draft goes, look for Dallas to target a wide receiver with return abilities in the middle rounds. Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard and Texas’ Jordan Shipley are both legitimate options. Doing so could spell the beginning of the end of Crayton’s tenure in Big D.