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Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU

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Jonathan Bales

While the Cowboys are pretty set at receiver in 2011, they could surely benefit from acquiring a talented slot receiver for the future.  Roy Williams, Miles Austin, and Dez Bryant are all suited to play outside, and when defenses take away Jason Witten over the middle, the ‘Boys are frequently left without a reliable Wes Welker-esque target on 3rd and short to medium.

Further, coach Jason Garrett seems to want to install a sideline-to-sideline type of spread offense similar to that in New England.  The Pats’ offense flourishes because of Welker, and the Cowboys don’t have a player with that sort of skill set on their current roster.

With so much money tied up in the receivers already, however, the Cowboys won’t place a high priority on securing another playmaker at the position during the draft.  The possibility becomes more likely, though, if that receiver is 1) a late-round prospect and 2) is an outstanding return man.  Despite the NFL’s decision to move kickoffs up five yards to the 30-yard line, the impact of game-breaking return men will still be high.

TCU’s Jeremy Kerley might be the perfect fit for the ‘Boys.

Scouting Report

Kerley reminds me a lot of a young Steve Smith (the Carolina version).  He’s incredibly agile and electric with the ball in his hands, whether it is on a return or after the catch.  Kerley’s quickness and lateral mobility are top-notch, making him one of the most dangerous return men in this class (his return at the 40-second mark of the highlight video below is insane).  The only issue he has on returns is failing to fair catch punts (I didn’t see a single one in all of the games I watched).  He’ll have to change that in the NFL.

With the sort of spread offense Garrett appears intent in implementing, Kerley could become Dallas’ Wes Welker.  Like Welker, Kerley doesn’t possess game-breaking speed (which is the only reason he isn’t a total Steve Smith clone).  Kerley won’t make a lot of plays down the field, which, in combination with his small stature (5’10”, 192 pounds), will scare some teams away.  He isn’t a fit for every offense.

Kerley’s potential to be a dynamite slot receiver, though, is unquestionable.  His suddenness (check out the 3:03 mark against San Diego State) is elite.  Playing the slot is all about quickness and the ability to change direction in a hurry, and Kerley has mastered both.  He gets to top speed as fast as anyone.  He also possesses superb hands.

One major knock on Kerley is his route-running.  At TCU, he was never asked to run anything that remotely resembles an NFL route tree.  The majority of his receptions came on bubble screens and similar plays.  There are two reasons I don’t think this will be a major problem, however.  First, Kerley will play the slot in the NFL, meaning his routes are going to be limited anyway.  Second, he possesses all of the necessary attributes to become a tremendous route-runner: quickness, balance, short strides.

Kerley isn’t exactly Percy Harvin or Dexter McCluster, but like them, he is a threat to run the football.  His vision is superb and, while he can’t run between the tackles, he could receive an end-around or two per game.  Plus, Kerley can throw the football, and he can throw it well.  Garrett doesn’t run a ton of “trick” plays, but Kerley’s arm could be useful.

Despite playing in a prolific offense, Kerley never amassed many yards.  His highest season total was just 575, but he did haul in 10 receiving touchdowns in 2010.  Many of these came near the goal line, as Kerley isn’t a particularly big threat to get deep.  He has poor ability on jump balls and, like I said, doesn’t possess incredible speed.

Kerley is also a poor blocker.  He doesn’t seem willing to get in front of defenders and that could hurt Dallas’ ability to run the ball from passing formations.

Overall, Kerley reminds me a lot of Troy’s Jerrel Jernigan.  Both players have weaknesses, but could become very valuable if placed in the right situation.  Actually, I have Kerley rated just ahead of Jernigan on my latest Big Board.

Projection

If the Cowboys view Kerley’s upside as high as me, then he will be a legitimate option in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft.  With many teams transitioning to spread offenses, I think Kerley’s stock is being undersold by the media.  Most project him to go anywhere from the fourth to seventh round, but I think he’s a real threat to get selected as early as the late-third.  I know he’s small and “slow,” but teams are beginning to value quickness over long speed at the wide receiver position, particularly when assessing slot receivers (who, in many offenses, are now starters).

If the Cowboys had fewer holes, I’d gamble on Kerley in the fourth round.  I think he has that sort of potential impact.  From reading your comments, I know many of you agree.  Unfortunately, the ‘Boys aren’t in a position to take a receiver that high unless he possesses incredible value.  Kerley is an interesting prospect, but his weaknesses may be too many for Dallas to burn a fourth-rounder on him.

If Kerley falls into the fifth or sixth round, however, I would be all over it.  He’d immediately upgrade the return game and, once Roy Williams is gone, he’d possibly become the Cowboys’ slot receiver of the future.

Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Nevada

Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas

JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

William Rackley, OT, Lehigh

Allen Bailey, DE, Miami

Akeem Ayers, ILB/OLB, UCLA

Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

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12 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU

  1. Rick says:

    Hey Jonathan, I’ve gotten the impression that you’re a proponent of Dallas either trading up for Peterson/Dareus or trading down for a prospect (probably OL or DL) that would be a reach at 9. I was just wondering if you could post an article explaining your ideal trades? Trading up with Cleveland (if Peterson falls to 6) or down with St. Louis (assuming Julio falls to 9) seem like the most realistic possibilities to me.

  2. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    JB,

    I have to disagree w/ you in that Dez is sutied as an outside WR primarily. I like him better in the slot than I do outside due to his quickness and his willingness to catch passes across/over the middle. I’m not a fan of Roy Williams but the one thing that can be said about him is that he is ONLY an outside WR. Having all three of them on the field at one time (Dez in the slot) would turn out to be the best trio of receivers in the league if used correctly.

    Thus, Kerley, while being a good player, isn’t realistic as a prospect IMO, given that he’ll be gone by the time Dallas will be interested in a WR (which should be 5th rd and beyond).

    Rick, I like the thought of trading up to 6 w/ Cleveland. Only problem is that Cleveland will probably be looking at DT and trading down to 9 w/ Dallas may mean the difference between getting Fairley (at 6) or getting someone else of substantially lower rating as Tennessee is DEFINITELY be looking DT at 8 and would take Fairley if he’s there. I actually think Dallas will have to move up to 4 and trade w/ Cincy given that the Bengals are looking for a WR and can probably get either AJ Green or Julio Jones at 9 (only other team looking for a WR that early is Washington and they pick at 10).

  3. Greg Kemp says:

    Exactly!
    Dallas is anemic in short area quickness and needs a player who can explode off of, or within, the first 7 yards of the LOS. I had hope with Amendola because of his quickness in space from his soccer experience (similar to Welker). I had hope with Ogletree because he had such a fast shuttle at the Combine (faster than Felix) and in the Eagle game in his first year, he ran well in the bubble screens. I had hope with Crayton because he had some good footwork in space ONCE he was into the route. But he was not initially explosive and I worried about him fumbling every time he had the ball. As fast as Dez, Roy, and especially, Austin are, they are all long striders who take some time to get into their speed. I like speed and those players are, and will be, dominant but short, fast quickness needs to offset their one-dimensional aspects of acceleration. I also thought that John Phillips would be an answer to the short area because his Combine 20 yard shuttle was very good and at least in his senior year in college he excelled in 5-7 yard catches.
    Because Garrett does not use trick plays (because why wouldn’t HIS plays work every time if executed correctly?!?!), and generally does not emphasize slants, there are not a lot of elements to the offense that can be a DANGEROUS short area safety valve or even a psychological threat to otherwise blitzing LBs or DBs.
    One dumb Garrett tendency is he believes that all of his “route trees” will be given enough time to develop successfully on every pass play; it is if he forgets about that constant strange and annoying presence on every play called “the opposing team”.

    By the way, Garrett’s screens are not what I am talking about; he designs his screens like kickoff returns (replete with an obvious receiver, overt blocking scheme and a hope that somehow a defender will slip and allow the runner through). Not the same. Leon Lett could be the recipient of a Garrett-designed screens and chances are, the average YAC per season would not change all that much.
    I know that Garrett likes to disguise a pass-play from a run-look (thus trying to keep multi-functional players in all plays), but looking at the way the passes to RBs and short dump-offs are used now, I just think that the athletes don’t fit the intention. Felix is not that explosive (meaning very quick-twitch footwork) initially (off the LOS) and generally he has a few members of the defense already assigned and flying at him. It was tough to watch Barber, Choice and Felix take a screen or a dump off and then turn to face the force of on-coming defenders with all of the rotational dexterity of a Tolkienian Ent.

    I just feel like its the right play but the wrong players, like when Garrett would send Crayton on a fly route. Yes, it was unexpected but it was also unexpected for the reason of being improbable as an actual scoring threat.

    Kerley not only has good short area quickness and a twitchy feel for space, he also uses his body well to shield “shoulder” passes from defenders (check the video above). Elusiveness is much more of a body type and a mentality, than a 40 time (which I think has been a constant erroneous expectation of Felix).

    The Cowboys offense expects great things from great speed but Garrett seems to find very little need and opportunity from quickness.

  4. Rick says:

    Tyrone- You make good points, but I don’t know how safe it is to say that Cleveland will target a DT. They definitely could, and if they want Fairley they should probably stay at 6, but they could just as easily be targeting Julio Jones or Robert Quinn. If so, moving down may be ideal for them.

  5. Rick–Well, those are my top-rated players. I would trade up for PP for sure (No. 7 would be ideal), but I’m not sure I’d give up much to get Dareus. I still think the Cowboys will be in a bit of a hole if they skip an OT in the first round because the second round quality at the position is bare. I’m also not TOTALLY against drafting Tyron Smith at No. 9–you’re right that I prefer a trade down, but I think Smith is the best OT in this draft and worth that pick.

    I was planning on posting an entire draft plan as the draft approaches, but I just realized it is going to be here in a hurry. A full draft plan with trade ideas is coming soon for sure.

  6. Tyrone–We do disagree there. I see Dez as an X receiver all the way. His talent on jump balls is too great to “waste” in the slot too often. That isn’t to say he can never line up there, but I think it should be sparingly. To me, of the top three guys, Austin is by far the best-suited for the slot. He has some quickness to his game–far more than Roy at least. But I do think you’re right that Kerley will be gone. The only hope is that his small size/lack of elite speed combo will cause a fall. The 5th is unrealistic, though.

  7. Greg–Sure would be nice to still have Amendola. I don’t think Phillips is the answer because he’s only quick for a TE…he wouldn’t be very effective in the slot, IMO. I understand he can cause matchup problems, but his quickness compared to a guy like Amendola isn’t even close.

    Love your comment about Garrett and trick plays…you’re EXACTLY right. He refuses to run things he believes are “gimmicks” because he has such confidence in his play-calls, and you can see that same attitude affect the predictability in other areas (Double Tight Strong, playaction passes, etc). It’s great to have confidence, but “trick” plays are what football is all about. The entire goal on offense is to deceive the defense…playaction, counters, screens…they all implement deception. Garrett seems to often incorrectly utilize ‘deception’ in his play-calling, and I think that’s his largest weakness.

    And I HATE the Eagles as much as anyone, but their playbook is the best in the league, IMO. Incredibly innovative plays that use deception, and lots of “trick” plays. I think there is a misconception that trick plays need to be dangerous or risky. They are professional athletes…there is nothing particularly risky about running a play like a reverse or even a Statue of Liberty. I’m not expecting these things on every drive, but there is certainly a lack of creativity in Garrett’s playbook.

    And you’re dead on about Garrett’s screens. They are horrible. The Eagles are perhaps the best screen team in the league, BTW. It’s a major reason I love their playbook.

    Lastly, you’re comment on Felix is also completely correct. He is a fast guy who can make things happen and is a threat to take any play to the house, but he is NOT a quick player. He isn’t a Reggie Bush/Percy Harvin/Dexter McCluster-type player who can line up in the slot and consistently beat a defender with quickness.

  8. Mark Sands says:

    There is a rumor going around of Dallas trading Roy Williams and a 7# pick, to San Diego for Patrick Crayton—HeHe—-JB– you might want to check out Chris Culliver (FS) (S Car)–ran a 4.36 at combine with good times in the 10,20, and cones. Vertical 38 1/2 !!!!-was hurt last year,so he might not be on anyones hit list. Expected to go around 6th round.

  9. john coleman says:

    I like the Kerley kid, but we have other needs pressing that would make a WR pick insane before the 5th. Even in the 5th it might be foolish.

    If I were going to pick a WR, and we needed one then Hankerson would be my guy. Watch and see he will be the best of the bunch.

  10. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Dez Bryant not quick enough for the slot. Really?

    If you look at PRs around the league (not kickoff returners which is something different), most are slot WRs or CBs. Generally, they’re shorter, lighter and quicker than most X wideouts. Devin Hester, Wes Welker, De Sean Jackson and Deion Sanders are/were all shorter and lighter than your typical WR and are/were the definition of football quickness. Guys like Josh Cribbs and Dez Bryant are the exception in that they posses the same quickness (or maybe just a hair less) but are just as fast and shifty but come with the added benefit of strength.

    Roy Williams, Miles Austin and Sam Hurd are all listed at 6-3 and I don’t think any of them have received punts (Miles and Sam were KRs at one point). Dez is 6-2 (which is big for a slot guy or returner but that’s what makes him special). He was quick enough to average 14.3 yards per punt on 15 returns and 2 TDs.

    If the Boys keep Roy Williams, which they probably will, Dez Bryant could be the best slot WR in the league. He’ll be bigger, stronger and faster than just about anyone who lines up against him (the 3rd CB or sometimes even the FS), he won’t be used on every down which will increase his durability and he can still be used for PR w/o the worry of losing a 1st or 2nd WR if he were to get injured.

    This is a no-brainer gentlemen…

  11. Mark…already posted!

  12. JC–I like Hankerson myself..obv no way he ends up in Dallas.

    Tyrone–I still disagree. Dez Bryant excels on punt returns in spite of his elite quickness, IMO. He’s used his vision and speed on his returns thus far, not tremendous agility or lateral quickness. I’m not saying he isn’t quick…clearly he’s incredibly athletic and possesses quickness, but I don’t think he has the ability to quickly break down and change direction like a Welker, Harvin, Bush, McCluster. Now of course we wouldn’t expect that from him, but I actually think Austin is better-suited to get in and out of breaks.

    I think of it like this…who would be a superior RB? I know the ability to maneuver in traffic isn’t totally what being a slot WR is about, but Austin would be far superior in short areas. He can break down faster, IMO, and get to full speed faster (or just as quickly, at least). I really think Bryant’s long strides, excellent size, incredible body control, and elite hands make him best fit outside.

    And for the record…I think Austin is best outside too, but of the three, I think he would find the most success in the slot.

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