The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Grading the ‘Boys in 2010, Part VIII: Wide Receivers

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Jonathan Bales

Already graded: Defensive lineinside linebackersoutside linebackerssafetiescornerbacks, tight ends, and offensive line.

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The 2009 season saw the simultaneous emergence of one star–Miles Austin–and the decline of another–Roy Williams.  2010 was similar in that the Cowboys discovered rookie Dez Bryant is the real deal, while Austin (many claim) plummeted in terms of efficiency.  Let’s examine.

My 2010 wide receiver rankings are based less on totals and more on efficiency.  A team’s No. 1 wide receiver will get more opportunities than the No. 2, who will get more than the No. 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.

Notes

  • 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.
  • Some of the stats are courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com.
  • The final grade is weighted 4:1 in terms of receiving versus run blocking.

Grades

  • Roy Williams

Receiving:  C

Snap Counts: Williams-690, Austin-1019, Bryant-431, Hurd-214

Although Williams’ reception total decreased in 2010, he was much more efficient.  Williams was targeted only 59 times but recorded superior stats (as compared to 2009) in yards-per-attempt, touchdown rate, drop percentage, and YAC-per-reception.  There’s something to be said for a player who puts the ball in the end zone, and Williams’ touchdown rate of 13.5 percent is outstanding.

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

Receiving: B

Although others are claiming Austin was horrible this season, that wasn’t the case.  Austin certainly took a step back, as he was targeted 23 fewer times and caught 23 less balls as compared to 2009.  Austin’s efficiency stats decreased as well, but not as greatly as some might assume (YPA down 1.3 yards, YAC/rec down 0.9 yards).

The real reason people are so down on Austin is his drops.  After dropping only three balls in 2009, Austin mishandled 11 this past season.  Even worse, they generally came at inopportune times.

Many of you know, however, that I consider drops to be a poor barometer of a receiver’s worth.  Not only are they not as costly as some people assume, but they’re also a fluky stat.  Austin doesn’t have the league’s best hands, but he certainly doesn’t have awful hands either.  My guess is that Austin dropped a few passes early and it got into his head.  Expect him to rebound in that department next season.

Run Blocking: C+

Austin has a good attitude when it comes to blocking, but for whatever reason he appeared to regress in 2010.  He missed a couple “easy” blocks and just didn’t seem to put himself in proper position at times.

  • Dez Bryant

Receiving:  B

Bryant is a future All-Pro who showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie, but there are still plenty of things he needs to work on.  First, he needs to get upfield immediately.  On certain passes, particularly quick screens, he tends to dance around too much, expecting to overpower defenders without first building momentum.  He possesses dynamite after-the-catch ability, but he needs to realize he’s not at Oklahoma State anymore.

Bryant did prove that his hands are as good as billed.  He led the receivers (in a good way) with a 4.2 percent drop rate.  Don’t worry about his yards-per-attempt and YAC-per-reception numbers–those stats will improve when Jason Garrett learns how generally ineffective quick screens are.

Run Blocking: B-

Bryant will need to work on this aspect of his game.  It isn’t that he’s not a willing blocker, but rather he needs to learn technique.  He too often goes for kill shots when, as a receiver, he really only needs to “get in the way.”

  • Sam Hurd

Receiving:  C-

We don’t have an amazing sample size here, but I think we’re all starting to realize that Hurd is a great special teams player and a good teammate, but an average (at best) wide receiver.  He doesn’t have great hands and doesn’t seem to ever create tremendous separation.

Run Blocking: B+

Hurd is the best blocking receiver on the team.  This is evidenced by the fact that he is the “closer” at receiver for Dallas.  In the few games that Dallas had a late lead, Hurd was the only receiver on the field in single-receiver personnel groupings because of his blocking ability.

2010 Cowboys Wide Receiver Grades

1. Dez Bryant: B (84.6)

2. Miles Austin: B- (83.4)

3. Roy Williams: C+ (77.0)

4. Sam Hurd: C (75.8)

Wide receiver is one of the few positions that isn’t a big concern for Dallas.  I personally think they could benefit from a small, quick slot receiver, but that need isn’t pressing.

Of course, that could all change in a hurry.  The futures of every receiver other than Austin and Bryant are cloudy.  Williams rebounded pretty well in 2010, but it wasn’t like he was incredible.  Rather, low expectations made people believe he played better than what was the case.  The Cowboys could go either way with him right now (and no, a trade is not possible due to his contract).

The same is true of Hurd, Kevin Ogletree, Jesse Holley, and Manuel Johnson.  Of those players, I believe Holley deserves a roster spot the most.  He possesses some upside as a receiver and his special teams play is great.  Ogletree has potential, of course, but he seems to have a poor attitude and doesn’t fight on special teams.  For a No. 4 or 5 receiver, that isn’t going to cut it.

Don’t rule out the possibility of the Cowboys selecting a receiver in the late rounds of the draft.  Although the ‘Boys generally favor big, strong pass-catchers, a small burner could really benefit the offense and return game (so Bryant doesn’t have to risk injury).  Kentucky’s Randal Cobb, USC’s Ronald Johnson, TCU’s Jeremy Kerley, and San Diego State’s Vincent Brown could all be possibilities.

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13 Responses to Grading the ‘Boys in 2010, Part VIII: Wide Receivers

  1. Vince_Grey says:

    JB, I’m a little strapped for time right this second, and I intend to delve further into your ratings, but I did have one quick question: In your grades, how much, if any, did you factor in Romo’s absence for much of the season?

  2. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Good assessment of the “rest” of the WR crop in the Boys’ stable. Depending on what happens w/ the new CBA, there may be some concessions or relief for owner who want to rid themselves of large contract players (R Williams) or at least restructure to a more cap friendly position. If not, Roy will be a Cowboy next year.

    As far as Ogletree, I think he’s someone that just needs a good stern talking to along w/ a coach w/ a strong personality. Someone who will stay after him to the point he’s pissed off and increases his work ethic in an effor to “show the coach up.” Martellus Bennet could benefit from the same type of coaching.

    If that can be accomplished, Olgetree is a good 4th WR. Problem is, what do you do w/ Hurd and his monstrous contract?

  3. craig says:

    Oh please can we get Kerley, this would also fill in a need at return man, if aoa or mcann never pans out.

  4. willis says:

    Mr. Craig is right, Kerley would be awesome. He is a dynamic playmaker who is great on returns.

  5. Vince–To tell you the truth, it was only a minor factor. First, it’s really, really difficult to do. Football has so many moving parts and since I’m already trying to isolate one position, two might be overkill. Plus, Kitna played awesome. The main thing I did was factor in how Romo’s skill set matches up with that of the WR’s, and the same for Kitna. Nothing too drastic though.

    Tyrone–As far as Ogletree goes, his emergence (or lack thereof) is Garrett’s best proof that he made the right decision in letting go of Ray Sherman. I personally didn’t love the move, but it is the coaches’ job to get the players to perform up to their potential.

  6. JJ says:

    Jonathan – can’t argue the grades. I will say that Roy Williams seems like the current version of Keyshawn Johnson. Makes some “wow” catches but rarely gets separation. My concern is that the starting combination of Bryant/Austin is intriguing but who is the third receiver?

    I don’t think that player is on the roster today.

  7. john coleman says:

    Vince- I think you are all over the fact that Roy was better with Romo. I believe that is what you are alluding to. IMO, Roy could have easily had ten more grabs had Romo been healthy. Now that would be his best season in Dallas, but still not worthy of the salary he commands.

    The question that I have is, will any 2nd or 3rd have great seasons in Dallas with the TE being a focal point in the passing game?

    I agree with JB that Roy is at least 50/50 to be back next year. As bad as I hate to say it, at this point he is our 3rd best for sure.

    JB- Can you do a work up on Martez Wilson, I think that’s right? ILB from Illinois. He has great measurables(6-3, 250, 4.59 40) to go along with 110 tackles last year. Based on the times I have seen listed, that’s as fast as any of the ILB prospects. Could he be our first pick? A horse like that inside would surely be a good piece to go with a true NT. I don’t know much about him otherwise and nothing on his coverage ability. Right now he is at the top of the list at cbssports.com for ILB prospects. Still he is a late first or early second.

    Again this is why I continue to advocate trading down. We desperately need at least two picks in the early 2nd.

  8. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    WR is one of those positions where no matter who you have on your roster, you still feel like there’s a guy who can be picked up in the draft that just might be a little better. We’ve got Roy, Dez and Miles as SOLID WRs on the team. Miles is borderline elite (can’t really call him elite w/ 11 drops in a season). Dez is destined to get there and Roy’s year really wasn’t that bad – if you don’t factor in his two costly fumbles – for any #3 receiver around the league.

    The real problem we all seem to have w/ Roy aren’t his #s but the amount of money he makes for those #s. If Roy hadn’t been acquired via a blockbuster trade and was due to make $9+ mil next year, we’d all be agreeing he had a decent year.

    Flat out, the Boys would be fine w/o drafting a single WR next year. Given the other needs on the team, I suggest they don’t….but if they do, I would agree w/ JB that their purpose would be best served by a shifty slot type WR (think Wes Welker or Percy Harvin w/o the headaches) who can return punts and play special teams.

    Anything more than a 5th round pick on that just isn’t justified IMO.

  9. Vince_Grey says:

    Actually, JC, IMO, Romo’s absence affected Austin’s numbers more than Roy’s. When the second team QB comes in, you’ll invariably see a spike in the backup receiver’s numbers, because that’s the guys the second string QB is throwing to in practice all the time, and that’s who they feel the most comfortable with, even though those players aren’t as talented (Supposedly) as the starters.

    I first noticed that way back in the late 70′s when Danny White would come in for Roger. Suddenly, Butch Johnson and Tony Hill (This was before he was a starter) would be getting a lot more passes thrown to them than when Staubach was in there.

    Anyway, when the 2nd teamers are getting more passes thrown to them, that means the starters are getting less, thus I was thinking that Miles’ numbers really weren’t off that much considering that fact. Of course, that had little to do with his drops.

  10. Vince_Grey says:

    Tyrone, I honestly don’t think it’s Roy’s contract that has people as hard on him as what we gave up to get him. I mean, sure, the money’s a factor, but I don’t think it’s the primary factor.

    I know this: Jerry needs to write himself a note in giant bold letters reminding him to not ever, ever, ever trade high draft picks for a receiver ever again. Actually, that’s a great rule to follow for any position. It just so rarely works out when you trade high draft picks for players.

  11. JJ–That’s a fair comparison, although Keyshawn was superior over the middle whereas Roy excels more on back-shoulder throws (not that he’s terrible over the middle).

    John–I was planning on looking at Wilson, but post his name in the page I posted today for prospects you want me to look at. And I REALLY like the idea of two early 2nds…I will probably due an article on trade scenarios at some point.

    Tyrone–No doubt that there’s no reason to spend an early pick on a guy. Drafting someone late might be a necessity, though, if the team plans to get rid of the lower-end guys I mentioned.

  12. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys Times' Final 2010 Player, Position Rankings | Dallas Cowboys Times

  13. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Grades For 2010: Was Jon Kitna Superior to Tony Romo? « Top Sports Hub

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