Who Will Win Dallas Cowboys 3rd Wide Receiver Battle?
Answer to the headline above: Baylor rookie Terrance Williams.
The Dallas Cowboys, despite not having nearly as many holes as they had a year ago, will have several entertaining position battles heading into training camp. And while safety, linebacker and the offensive line will offer many storylines to absorb during those less-than-thrilling preseason games, I'm not sure that any position will offer a more visible competition than that for the No. 3 wide receiver spot.
In recent years, the Cowboys have had no trouble offering two strong wide receivers for whom opponents had to game plan. The weakness plaguing Dallas for several years has been that third receiver position.
The most recent candidate to man this post was Kevin Ogletree, who was among Dallas' free-agent departures this offseason and for good reason. Ogletree had a great start last year but was hardly seen doing much after the early stages of 2012.
Third-year veteran Dwayne Harris managed to show just enough late last season to now be considered the incumbent third wideout. The humorous idea that Cole Beasley could win the gig has also surfaced—humorous since the guy stands just 5'8'' and weighs under 180.
But remember Tony Romo's interception late in last year's regular season finale at Washington that some feel cost Dallas a playoff birth?
His healthiest receivers on that play were Harris and Beasley.
In other words, it's not like either of those players frightened the Redskins defense; throwing the ball to a back in the flat may have been Romo's best play. This is not to completely excuse Romo for that poor decision, but it's not like the options elsewhere were very enticing.
Heading into 2013, Dallas knew that two wide receivers who have totaled a meager 32 receptions for 350 yards and a single touchdown probably wouldn't cut it for the third wide receiver gig.
Dez Bryant is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver moving forward.
For now, Miles Austin is the No. 2.
But up until Round 3 of the 2013 NFL draft, the Cowboys didn't really have a proven or polished target to fit the bill beneath Bryant and Austin.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones then selected Williams, a unanimous 2012 All-American wide receiver out of W.T. White High School in Dallas.
Williams led the nation in receiving yards last season with 1,832. He tallied 3,334 yards receiving on just 202 receptions during his career at Baylor. He scored 27 touchdowns.
At 6'2'' and just over 200 pounds, Williams is a vast upgrade over the rest of the receivers on the Dallas roster, so it doesn't matter that he's a rookie heading into training camp.
While Harris might have more in the way of experience and actual playing time in the NFL, he'll be very hard pressed to even match the skill set brought forth by Williams.
The reality is that Austin has a history of pulling up lame due to nagging injuries; when he's not slowed by hamstrings, he tends to drop a few more passes than he should.
Are you comfortable with Harris or Beasley lining up at the No. 2 spot opposite Bryant? Or with either of those two young receivers having to share the load with Austin?
Williams has the ability to be a No. 1 receiver in the very near future. I would expect that he could be the clear-cut No. 2 by 2014 unless something awfully amazing happens with Austin and his contract too.
Who will land the third wide receiver job in Dallas?
Jones might be starting to understand that you have to get younger and cheaper in the NFL. Teams that contend year after year understand this, and they put their resources into the draft and limit the money they spend in free agency.
In recent years, the Cowboys haven't operated in this manner, as they've generally picked pretty well early in the draft but then fell completely apart in the middle to later rounds by either overloading at certain positions or choosing projects who failed to pan out for one reason or another.
Williams represents the right kind of draft pick for the Cowboys. There's a pretty solid chance that he could end up being the best player chosen in 2013, even though he wasn't selected until the third round.
Williams could pay huge dividends sooner than later—and it's already gotten Dallas a clear-cut third wideout for the 2013 regular season.
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