With the 81st pick in the 2018 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys selected wide receiver, Michael Gallup, and thus a fantasy sleeper was born. After cutting three-time Pro Bowl receiver, Dez Bryant, prior to the draft, many speculated that “America’s Team” would use their first pick on a pass-catcher. Surprisingly, Dallas held off until the third round to address the position, leaving the battle for targets wide open.
Between the release of Bryant and the retirement of tight end, Jason Witten, there are 220 targets from last season that are now up for grabs. The duo drew in roughly half of Dak Prescott’s passes, combining for a target share of nearly 45% in 2017. What’s most encouraging is the role Bryant leaves behind. The veteran finished twelfth in total targets (133) last year, including the ninth-most redzone targets (20) and the fifth-most targets inside the 10 yard-line (10). Though one player is unlikely to replicate Bryant’s usage, someone will serve as the lead-receiver for an offense that figures to be decent at worst. The Cowboys have averaged over 26 points per contest in the 25 games that Ezekiel Elliott has played.
Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams are the only returning receivers who played more than 160 snaps for the Cowboys last season. Beasley, who has proven his effectiveness from the slot, should feel confident in his role moving forward. Williams, who has spent his five-year career as Bryant’s compliment on the perimeter, will have to compete to retain his status after a down year in 2017. Last season Williams posted career-lows in receiving yards (568), yards per catch (10.7) and touchdowns (0). Williams’ future is clouded further by a public intoxication arrest and offseason foot surgery that is expected to hold him out of OTAs. With Williams sidelined, someone else will have the opportunity to take reps with the first unit.
Gallup was far from the only receiver Dallas added this offseason. The team signed former Jaguar, Allen Hurns, former Bear and Bill, Deonte Thompson, and used the 208th pick on Boise State receiver, Cedric Wilson. Thompson, who has started 16 games in his eight-year career, and Wilson, who didn’t hear his name called until the sixth-round, are consider long-shots to become starters. Instead, Gallup’s most fierce competition for the number-one receiver role comes from Hurns, whose season best was back in 2015 when he recorded 64 catches, 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, the 26 year-old has accumulated just 74 catches, 961 yards and five touchdowns in 21 games since his breakout season. Hurns has missed 11 games over the past two years due to injury.
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I first wrote about Gallup in March, identifying him as a mid-round prospect who could make an impact as a rookie should he land in a favorable situation. Academics forced Gallup to begin his collegiate career at Butler Community College, where he spent two years before transferring to Colorado State. Once with the Rams, Gallup dominated, racking up 176 receptions, 2,690 yards and 21 touchdowns in 25 games. His 1,413 yards in 2017 placed second in single-season school history. What’s more impressive is nearly half of that yardage came after the catch. Gallup finished third amongst draft eligible receivers in yards after catch last season (657), forcing 20 miss-tackles along the way, which ranks first in his draft class, according to Pro Football Focus. The 22 year-old is also a valuable asset in the redzone, as he was the only draft eligible receiver not to drop a pass inside the 20 over the past two years (PFF). His performance was so impressive that PFF gave Gallup the highest overall grade (92) of any receiver in the 2018 draft class.
Gallup is a name to keep an eye on heading into the summer. His opportunity, competition and talent imply he’s worthy of a late-round flyer in fantasy drafts. Around here we call that penny stock. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what his head coach, Jason Garrett, told the team’s official website about his new weapon,
“He can get vertical down the field. He’s got stature to him. He’s a good run after the catch guy and the competitiveness, and the fight he displays is evident all throughout the tape. He leaps off the screen at you. Great reports from the school. The scouts did a great job doing the due diligence on him, and we feel like he has a really good upside, too.”