The Cowboys’ Most Underrated Players
At BR, I examined the four most underrated players on the Cowboys. Here’s a peek:
WR Dez Bryant
Everyone knows wide receiver Dez Bryant is a great wide receiver, yet there’s still talk about whether or not he’s elite. Further, Bryant was ranked just 25th on the NFL’s Top 100 List, behind Antonio Brown. Antonio Brown!
People don’t realize how effective Bryant has been during his NFL career, and you could make an argument he’s already the second-best wide receiver in the NFL. Here’s a look at quarterback Tony Romo’s passer rating when targeting Bryant during their four seasons together, along with Bryant’s rank among all receivers.
The fact that the number decreased in 2013 isn’t really cause for concern since Bryant saw all kinds of defensive attention. Actually, the fact that Romo’s passer rating when throwing to Bryant was still 104.9 (according to Pro Football Focus) despite so much double-coverage is pretty scary.
Bryant’s biggest plus is his ability to score touchdowns.
Simply put, he’s the game’s top red zone receiver—better than Megatron, better than Demaryius Thomas, better than everyone.
DE/DT Tyrone Crawford
The reason defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford is underrated is that we just don’t know very much about him right now. Crawford didn’t play in 2013 and received just 303 total snaps in his rookie year of 2012.
What we do know is that Crawford is big and long with 33.75-inch arms, according to NFL.com—long for his size. He was also productive at Boise State with 27 tackles-for-loss in two seasons. We normally wouldn’t weight college stats so heavily for a third-year player, but it’s suitable in the case of Crawford since we haven’t seen him play much in the pros.
And in his rookie year when we saw glimpses of his potential, Crawford was highly effective. He recorded a tackle on 6.3 percent of his snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). That same year, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher checked in at 4.6 percent and DeMarcus Ware at 3.3 percent.
TE James Hanna
We know that weight matters a lot for receivers. We know that speed is perhaps overrated for receivers, but still important.
So what if I told you the Cowboys could get a 6’4”, 252-pound receiver with 4.49 speed—one of the greatest weight/speed combination players ever? Gotta give him a shot, right? Well, they already have that player in James Hanna, who plays tight end, and they don’t use him.
Is there more that goes into being a tight end than being big and fast? Obviously. But we really don’t know if Hanna has what it takes to translate his athleticism into production because he doesn’t get the opportunities to do it.
You could argue that Hanna doesn’t play because he hasn’t “flashed” in practice, but I’d counter that NFL teams make humongous assessment errors all the time. That’s why we see a player like Tavon Austin drafted in the top 10; he looks awesome in practice and on film—better than, say, Alshon Jeffery, who appears kind of sluggish due to his size—but who would you rather have on your team? It doesn’t seem like all that much of a stretch to assume that the Cowboys are underrating Hanna’s ability to play at a high level without, you know, ever giving him a chance to do it.
And then there’s the fact that he can’t block well. Well, let’s think of Hanna as a wide receiver who can be lined up in the slot or out wide instead of as an in-line tight end. If our perception of his position changes his apparent worth, maybe it’s time to stop artificially limiting what he can do with a label.