Dallas Cowboys: Being a number one receiver about opportunity

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Wide receivers Cole Beasley
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Wide receivers Cole Beasley /

When throwing around the term “number one receiver”, especially when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, it’s more about opportunity than perception.

One of the biggest storylines circling the Dallas Cowboys like a vulture is the notion the team is tired of superstar wide receiver Dez Bryant. Tired of his sideline antics, lack of production and bloated contract.

It’s pretty clear the Cowboys want Bryant to take a pay cut in order to remain in Dallas this offseason. Unfortunately, the team doesn’t have a lot of leverage. Number one wide receivers simply don’t fall off trees. Or do they?

At one point, not that long ago, Bryant was posting 1,000+ yards season and double digit touchdowns. So if Dez refuses to take a pay cut this summer, and they cut him, can the Cowboys really replace him?

I believe so. And here’s why. I think the notion of a “number one receiver” is a bit of a misnomer. When the term is used, it seems to refer to an elite receiver who makes clutch plays and catches something close to 100 balls a season.

But using Bryant as an example, I believe several NFL players can become a “number one receiver” for a franchise given the opportunity. For me, it’s more about targets (opportunity) than the label. Dez was targeted 132 times in 2017. He caught 69 of those passes for a catch rate of 52.3%.

Now, let’s take a look at Terrance Williams. Last season, T-Will racked up 53 receptions on 78 targets. That’s 54 targets less than Bryant. Williams had a catch rate of 67.9%.

If Williams received Bryant’s 132 targets, and maintained the same catch rate (67.9%), Terrence instead of Dez would be considered the Cowboys’ “number one receiver”. And maybe he should be.

Given those extra targets, the numbers say Williams would have posted 90 receptions for 963 yards last season. That’s nearly 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards from a player who tends to often disappear during games.

Now, let’s give Terrance Williams the looks Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins got last season. The Texans’ number one receiver got an incredible 176 targets in 2017. He ended the year with 96 catches for 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Again, if Williams maintained his catch rate and had received Hopkins’ targets, he would have recorded a Pro Bowl-worthy 120 receptions for 1,284 yards.

Is Terrance Williams as talented as Dez Bryant? No. And we are not considering how much defensive attention Bryant might receive as the team’s perceived “number one receiver” and how his presence opens up things for a guy like Williams.

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But if the Dallas Cowboys decide to move on from Dez Bryant, someone is going to be the beneficiary of all those targets. Whether it’s Williams, tight end Jason Witten, slot receiver Cole Beasley or some high-touted rookie – A number one wide receiver will emerge, if given enough opportunities. The NFL is full of the most talented athletes in the world. Many of them just dying for an opportunity to shine.