This Cowboys pass-catcher's fast rise could make him Dallas' next big thing

As momentum builds, the outlook for the 2023 season continues to brighten due to the young core of stars soaring above the competition.
Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys
Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages
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In Texas, everything is BIGGER, and my experiences and travels across the state consistently showcase its magnificence. From massive auto dealerships to the iconic AT&T Stadium, home to the colossal 20,000 sq. ft. video scoreboard, the Lone Star State certainly lives up to its reputation. The same applies to the Dallas Cowboys, where legendary names like Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach, and Jason Witten have left their imprint in the hearts and minds of fans alike.

In today’s NFL, the tight end position has grown in prominence due to its evolution. This progression, supported by NFL Next Gen statistics, can be attributed to numerous factors. Through week 14 in the NFL season, tight ends occupy the top three positions, and six out of the top 10 spots, in catch percentage (CTCH %) among players with at least 35 targets. Specifically, the CTCH % leader is rookie Dalton Kincaid, tight end for the Buffalo Bills, with an impressive 84.7%, securing 61 out of 72 targets.

The Cowboys boast three top-performing pass-catchers of their own. The Cowboys’ top performers – CeeDee Lamb (73.3%), Jake Ferguson (68.9%) and Brandin Cooks (68.4%), all highlight the team's reliance on their efficiency in crucial game moments. All three fall within the top 50 for CTCH %.

The versatility of a tight end enables them to function as a Swiss-army knife type player, skilled at serving as a blocker and creating mismatches that make it impossible for opposing defenses to scheme against. That’s not to say that the tight end position hasn’t always been important, as exemplified by players like Jason Witten and Jay Novacek, both coveted heroes from the past, but it appears to be a unique role in that the current tight end and their typical frame is too imposing for a defensive back to cover, yet too fast for a linebacker to defend. Simply put, they are DYNAMIC.

Red zone efficiency has become paramount in today’s game, with tight ends capitalizing on their size in condensed spaces. Influenced by factors like changes in body mass, improved conditioning, and advanced analytics, the evolution of the game emphasizes the strategic use of tight ends in spread formations as a key differentiator. The narrowest of margins exists between teams, so even the slightest edge can make all the difference between winning and losing, especially as competition stiffens. At the conclusion of week 14, the Cowboys lead the NFL with 4.4red zone attempts per game.

However, their touchdown conversion rate, once in the red zone, ranks 15th overall with a 56.14 % result. Their recent stretch of games has shown improvement as they’ve converted at a 71.43% rate over their past three games. This an area that will require continued focus in order to make a deep postseason run.

Super Bowl contenders, including the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, and San Francisco 49ers, highlight the significance of a strong tight end presence with the likes of Kelce, Andrews, and Kittle leading the charge. Also noteworthy is Jake Ferguson, the second-year tight end for the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, Jake Ferguson!