The Cowboys went into the 2022 season assuming that everything would go exactly right at wide receiver.
Their plan hinged on all of the following things actually happening:
1) CeeDee Lamb to be the true WR1 they believed him to be when they traded Amari Cooper away
2) Michael Gallup to return from ACL surgery on the short side of his recovery timetable and at full go
3) James Washington to be a valuable weapon from Day One
4) Jalen Tolbert to make significant contributions as a small-school rookie
Well, at least they got the first one right.
Heading into the 2023 offseason, the team finds itself having to almost start over again behind Lamb. Gallup should be much more like the player he was prior to his injury, but only time will tell. Washington is gone, and Tolbert is still a major unknown. TY Hilton was added late in the season and showed flashes, but whether he figures into the Cowboys’ plans moving forward is anyone’s guess.
All of which explains why the team is spending much of their time at this year’s NFL scouting combine meeting with wide receivers. Just this week, executive vice president Stephen Jones mused that the team needed to “add a little juice” to the offense in the form of a legitimate playmaker.
Each team is allowed 45 “formal” meetings with prospects in Indianapolis. Informal meetings with many more also happen throughout the week. And some players have already chatted with Dallas brass at the Senior Bowl, so hearing a player say they’ve “met” with a team can mean any one of a number of things.
Here are just a few of the big-name wide receiver prospects the Cowboys have confirmed meetings with.
Jordan Addison, USC
Addison spent his first two college seasons as a Pitt Panther. He led the nation in receiving touchdowns as a sophomore in 2021 and won the Biletnikoff Award before transferring to USC. As an 11-game starter for the Trojans (and wearing Carson Palmer’s unretired No. 3 jersey), he had a down year but still caught 59 balls for 875 yards and scored eight times.
He’s projected to be one of the top wide receivers in this year’s draft class by almost every major outlet and will likely be a first-round pick.
Zay Flowers, Boston College
Boston College’s all-time leader in career receptions, career receiving yards, and career receiving touchdowns is electric when he gets into space, but his 5-foot-10-inch, 172-pound size could be a concern for some teams. He logged 78 catches for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games in 2022.
Flowers has a demonstrated passion for the game; he’s the fourth-youngest of 13 siblings who played in full pads in the backyard growing up, and during the pandemic’s first year, he worked out with Antonio Brown and Geno Smith.
Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Hyatt won the Biletnikoff Award in 2022 as the nation’s top receiver and was a unanimous first-team All-American. He ended the season with 67 catches for 1,769 yards and 19 touchdowns.
He has speed and explosive athleticism, and he showed good hands and route-running skills throughout his college career. With a slight build, he probably isn’t going to be a high-volume No. 1 receiver, but his presence on the field will no doubt help a team’s WR1 be even more dangerous.
Rakim Jarrett, Maryland
Jarrett had offers from LSU, Alabama, and Tennessee coming out of high school, but chose to stay close to home to play for his hometown Terrapins. A three-year career at a non-powerhouse like Maryland resulted in modest-looking stats for the 22-year-old.
What he brings, though, is proven versatility whether outside, in the slot, or in motion. And he’s known as a high-IQ player who understands zone coverages and how to beat them. Jarrett is likely to be available after some of the elite prospects have been taken.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Smith-Njigba set the Big Ten receiving record with 1,606 yards for the Buckeyes in 2021 and established a new Rose Bowl mark with 347 receiving yards in the 2022 game. But he was limited by a hamstring injury in his follow-up season, playing in just three games last fall.
He’s a great route-runner with excellent body control and good hands, but is something of a mystery, given his lost final year. The Metroplex native has already gone on the record to say it would be an “awesome opportunity” to come back home to play for the Cowboys.