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.
- 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.
- Roy Williams
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
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
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
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.