If you thought the Dallas Cowboys learned their lesson in drafting high-risk/high-reward players, you better think again because these guys are real options next weekend…
For better or for worse, the Dallas Cowboys have built a bit of a reputation for bringing in high-risk/high-reward players. Whether it’s a free agent like Greg Hardy, an injury risk like Sean Lee or Jaylon Smith, or a draft day gamble like Randy Gregory, the Dallas Cowboys are willing to roll the dice.
Two particularly risky players have caught the Cowboys’ eye this spring: Antonio Callaway and Arden Key. Don’t believe me? NFL teams are limited to just 30 official player visits prior to draft (excluding locals day) and two of those visitors were none other than WR Antonio Callaway and DE Arden Key.
It’s pretty safe to say the Cowboys wouldn’t be kicking the tires if they weren’t interested in the car. They may have kicked and not liked what they saw, but they liked these guys enough to use an official visit on them so the interest is very real, my friends.
Without the off-the-field issues, the 5’11 196lbs receiver out of Florida could have been a Day 1 pick. With speed, quickness, and big play ability he could have easily found himself in the conversation with Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore, and Courtland Sutton.
But they are an issue. They are an unavoidable issue. An issue so big Callaway could easily drop well into Day 3 of the draft since many teams are expected to take him off their board completely.
Involvement in a credit card fraud scheme, admitted use of marijuana, and a domestic violence situation all serve as red flags on his resume. In fact, his off-the-field issues kept him off the field completely in 2017.
Why would the Cowboys be interested?
"“The thing about Callaway is he’s very explosive out of his breaks,” said receiver guru David Robinson. “ I haven’t seen many receivers, especially in college, play really fast coming out of his breaks.”"
For a team like the Cowboys who are starving for a player who can create separation, this is music to their ears. You may also have noticed David Robinson, the man with the glowing review, has worked with Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and most recently, Dez Bryant. He knows his stuff.
Arden Key, the 6’6” 238lbs pass rusher out of LSU has seen his stock free fall the past 12 months. Once considered one of the best pass rushers in college, Key had a disastrous 2017 season that may push him on the fringe of Day 3.
Off-the-field issues led him to quit the team for a period of time last spring. And when he returned he looked distracted, overweight, and unproductive. Injuries played a part as well but it was clear Arden was not in a good place.
But if you look at 2016 you saw one of the most productive pass-rushers in the game. He averaged more than a sack per game and provided 14.5 tackles for loss , 13 hits, 29 hurries, and three forced fumbles.
If Arden Key’s mind is right, his body is right, and his play is very, very right.
But there are issues that scare people and it didn’t help when he provided a lackluster workout at his Pro Day. Instead of being a first rounder like he seemed destined for at this time last year, he’s going to slip to Day 2 (and potentially further).
Weighing risk against reward is something all teams do around the draft. It’s not just about the measurables. If it was we wouldn’t see an NFL executives at the NFL Combine. Teams watch the tape and identify the players that can play, but it’s the man himself that usually matters in these situations. That’s why so many teams were interested in speaking with both Key and Callaway.
More from Dallas Cowboys
- West coast, Texas coast, burnt toast: Cowboys don’t need more runs
- Brandin Cooks will change the way defenses play the Dallas Cowboys
- Why the Dallas Cowboys defensive X-Factor is EDGE Sam Williams
- Dallas Cowboys: 3 head coach options if McCarthy fails in 2023
- Dallas Cowboys: Is CB Jourdan Lewis a tradeable asset?
Both players are undeniably talented but both have issues that get in the way of displaying that talent. See also: Randy Gregory.
Weighing risk is something the Dallas Cowboys are doing by meeting with and appraising these two players. What amount of risk (at what draft spot) is worth it, based on the possible reward (their play on the field) the could see.
I learned something with Randy Gregory and I think the Cowboys did as well. No, it’s not to avoid gambles but rather it’s to avoid gambles at a high cost. And a second round pick is a very high cost.
The Cowboys were likely determining where the tipping point for them is in the draft.
Maybe it’s if Arden Key falls to Day 3 the Cowboys would feel compelled to move up and take a shot at this potential starter.
Maybe it’s if Antonio Callaway falls to the fifth round that they consider his pay-off worth the risk of investment.
One thing is for sure. The Cowboys are still in the business of gambling. But that gambling must come at the right price.
The Cowboys brought in Arden Key and Antonio Callaway because they are interested in them. Whether they still are is unknown but it’s likely Dallas has identified a spot they would be willing to pull the trigger. I’m ok with that…as long as it’s Day 3.