An Ideal Late Round Draft Target
Michael Gallup is an ideal late-round draft target. Myopic fantasy owners see last year’s 14th-ranked offense as the new status quo when the team was a top-5 offense the season before. With the offensive line reinforced, no drama from Ezekiel Elliott, and a more favorable schedule, it would be surprising if Dallas didn’t rebound offensively, at least back into the Top 10. Gallup has the opportunity to make the same kind of rookie impact Elliott and Dak Prescott did two years ago.
- He dominated at Colorado State (176 receptions, 2,690 yards, 21 touchdowns in two seasons)
- Dallas must replace 52% of last year’s targets
- The incumbent receivers are limited, at best
- Only Gallup is a pure outside route runner among the new trio of Gallup, Allen Hurns, and Tavon Austin
- Gallup’s average draft position completely de-risks investing in the upside breakout
From Colorado State to America’s Team
Michael Gallup is just what Scott Linehan needs to reignite Dak Prescott's career trajectory. The 6'1", 205-pound rookie was selected in the 3rd round after dominating the Mountain West for two years at Colorado State. A JUCO transfer, Gallup caught 76 receptions for 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. As a senior, he only scored seven times but raised his catch (100) and yardage (1,418) totals in spite of frequent double coverage. Gallup landed in a perfect situation as Dallas is desperate for new playmakers, particularly on the outside.
A Target Vacuum
Dallas’ passing game fell short of expectations last year, ranking 29th in attempts (493) and 26th in yards (3,141). Dak Prescott, who looked like an MVP as a rookie starter, fell back to Earth and was equal parts ineffective and uninspired. While some of the blame falls on Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension drama, it doesn’t explain the Cowboys passing ineptitude entirely. Much of the blame falls on the personnel department and an inability to build a deep receiving corps. Dez Bryant was the #1 receiver, by default, but was ill-suited to the role as injuries and age caught up. Dallas smartly released Bryant this offseason but lost future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten to the broadcast booth a month later. In all, Dallas has to find a way to replace 52% of last year’s targets:
- Dez Bryant (released) – 132 targets in 2017
- Jason Witten (retired) – 87 targets
- Brice Butler (free agent, signed with Arizona) – 23 targets
- Alfred Morris (free agent) – 9 targets
- Ryan Switzer (traded) – 7 targets
- TOTAL – 258 targets
The Rook, The Free Agent, and the Trade
Jason Witten won’t be replaced effectively this year unless you expect Blake Jarwin or Rico Gathers to step into the void. Dallas will cobble together production from the tight ends in a committee approach. At wide receiver, they have to find playmakers. Terrance Williams remains, but we’ve seen enough of him to know he’s nothing more than a league-average tertiary option. Cole Beasley has always been an effective red zone threat, but fell off last year and is limited to slot duties. That leaves a Gallup (the rookie), Allen Hurns (the free agent), and Tavon Austin (the trade).
- The Trade, aka Tavon Austin – Stephen Jones called Austin a “web back” and wants to see the veteran get “a dozen to two dozen” touches per game. Good luck with that. In five seasons with the Rams, Austin caught 194 receptions for 1,689 yards (8.7 per reception) and twelve touchdowns. Last year, when the Rams finally fielded a great offense, Austin was relegated to 13 receptions for 47 yards. Expecting him to meet Jones’ goals is akin to betting on double zero in roulette and expecting frequent payouts.
- The Free Agent, aka Allen Hurns – Hurns is a talented receiver. It’s not a leap to say he’s an upgrade from Terrance Williams when healthy. In four seasons in Jacksonville, Hurns caught 189 receptions for 2,669 yards (14.1 per reception) and 21 touchdowns. The Cowboys signed Hurns to a 2-year, $12mm contract and will give him the opportunity to start immediately. The only fly in Hurns’ ointment is his injury history. After a breakout season in 2015 (64 receptions for 1,031 yards and ten touchdowns), he’s only started 19 of 32 games.
- The Rookie, aka Gallup – That leaves Gallup with a wide-open opportunity at immediate playing time. No one on the roster is good enough to keep Gallup off the field if he’s special. We can’t know if he’s special yet, but his upside is disproportionately higher than his downside. Head coach Jason Garrett isn’t afraid to rely on rookies, as we saw two seasons ago when Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott took control of the offense.
In Linehan We Trust
Scott Linehan has a long history of getting the best from wide receivers. In Minnesota, he had the luxury of Randy Moss in his prime. While it’s easy to dismiss Linehan’s role in Moss’ achievements, consider what Linehan did in his lone season as the offensive coordinator in Miami. Chris Chambers, who failed to break 1,000 yards receiving in his first four seasons, caught 82 receptions for 1,118 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2005. That would be Chambers’ only 1,000-yard season. Linehan had Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt in St. Louis, and then Calvin Johnson in Detroit. All these receivers were productive before or after Linehan’s tenure with them, save for Chambers, but nevertheless, it’s notable Linehan has fielded elite fantasy receivers in all of his coaching stops.
Obstacles to Overcome
There’s a reason the rookie receiver class isn’t creating a fantasy stir. No rookie receiver is being drafted among the Top 50 at the position, with Gallup coming off the board 58th, 2nd among rookies after Calvin Ridley. Gallup, while enticing, must disprove two criticisms: 1) he’s not an effective run blocker, and the Cowboys offense will be run-heavy, and 2) he has to learn how to win contested balls in traffic. His film showed a player that feared oncoming defenders over the middle. If preseason reports indicate the coaches are pleased with Gallup’s blocking efforts, he becomes a priority target in the later rounds of August drafts.
Michael Gallup is one of the top rookie receiver prospects in the rookie class. He dominated at Colorado State in spite of frequent double-coverage, and subpar quarterbacking. The Cowboys are in desperate need of new playmakers thanks to the Dez Bryant's release and Jason Witten's retirement. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has to find a way to re-invigorate Dak Prescott after a disappointing sophomore season, and Gallup is the team's best chance to turn the passing game around. Although Dallas acquired Tavon Austin in a trade, he's never been more than a gimmick player with the Rams and was completely marginalized by Sean McVay's staff. Free agent Allen Hurns has the talent to be the Cowboys new No. 1, but his injury history is maddening. Gallup isn't a finished product, and if he can't overcome the tendency to pull up when faced with oncoming defenders, he'll never reach his potential. But at his current draft price, you're getting all of Gallup's upside with no risk. He's exactly the kind of late-round target savvy fantasy owners make to win their league.
Thoughts from the Footballguys Message Boards
"If Allen Hurns stays healthy, he's the Cowboys #1 by a wide margin in my opinion. That said, he's always had trouble staying healthy. I thought Gallup was the best WR in this draft class, but hated his landing spot, as Prescott doesn't seem like the type of QB he'd flourish with.
I'm expecting the Dallas passing game to be a jumbled clustered mess after Hurns, but if anyone else emerges, it should be Gallup. He's not a guy I'd draft, but he's a guy I'd keep an eye on waivers.
He's my #4 redraft rookie WR after Ridley, Kirk, and Miller."
"I currently have Gallup as the #3 Cowboys WR in targets. It’s a pretty difficult projection and the team as a whole I already see changing with Jarwin looking like he’s going to walk into OTAs as the starter. Gallup has a lot of opportunity with the loss of Dez and Witten. I’m not sure what the hell Dallas is doing though. Gallup is the only thing they’ve done that makes sense on offense this offseason."
"Allen Hurns hasn't played a full season since 2014. He is the definition of what I would call injury prone. There are a lot of targets up for grabs with Witten and Dez gone, and I think Gallup is a good candidate to get a large chunk of those. While everyone is focusing on the hype behind Kirk in AZ, Gallup has an even better opportunity. I think he may very well surprise. I have him targeted in all drafts, rookie and redraft."