With Blake Jarwin gone and Dalton Schultz playing on a one-year deal by way of franchise tag, the Dallas Cowboys are thin and unsettled at the tight end position. Assuming nothing long-term is in the works for Schultz, Dallas desperately needs to add a tight end in this year’s draft. For the sake of the future.
As luck would have it, the 2022 NFL Draft offers some of the best mid-round depth we’ve seen in a while. What this draft lacks in top-end talent it makes up for in rounds three and four. And since TE is one of the slowest-to-develop positions in the NFL, making a pick this year in order to contribute next year is a must.
But not just any tight end will do. The Dallas Cowboys need a tight end that can do all the tight end things. They don’t need to be a finished product now, but they must show the ability to be a well-rounded player who can contribute in multiple ways.
The Dallas Cowboys don’t need a pure pass-catcher at TE but someone who can develop in all phases.
Looking around at NFL trends and it’s becoming clear “power slot” is becoming the new F TE. Power slot (aka big slot) has been slowly replacing 12 personnel over the years and it’s even taken it’s pound of flesh from regular 1-TE sets.
A big and physical slot receiver can do everything a pass-catching TE can do – and do it better.
Think about it: Unless it’s an elite pass-catching TE prospect we’re talking about, a low level WR can probably outperform him catching the ball downfield. So if that TE doesn’t offer better pass protection/run blocking than his power slot alternative, there’s little reason for him to ever be on the field.
This is especially true on the Dallas Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys quietly re-signed Noah Brown this offseason to serve as their power slot option. Even though he’s WR4 at best, Brown is an elite blocker at the WR position. To put in perspective, he’s a better blocker than roughly half of those mid-round TE prospects we’re all looking at in the draft.
While Brown is hardly a pass-catching dynamo, he’s pretty darn good when compared to what TEs tend to offer downfield. If he’s also a better blocker than half of the prospects under consideration, then what’s the point of adding a one-dimensional TE at all?
The Dallas Cowboys can show 11 personnel with Dalton Schultz and Noah Brown, and be able to pivot between a traditional looking 2-TE set (with Brown serving as TE2) or flexing Brown out to play in the slot or even out wide.
Flying under the radar last season was Brown’s usage flexed out wide. Previous seasons he’d been used primarily inside as a a blocker, but last year he took 255 snaps wide (compared to just 57 in the slot). He gives the Dallas Cowboys more flexibility and more deception than a normal TE2 with one-dimensional skills because he can be used in more ways and he can be more effective in those ways.
Clearly, this is about development and if said prospect has the ability to develop into a well-rounded player at TE, then by all means draft him. The investment will pay off. But there’s no reason for the Dallas Cowboys to target a TE that doesn’t forecast to ever be a blocker. He probably won’t be a better pass –catcher than Brown (or any other reserve WR) so there’s no point putting him on the field if Brown is already a better run blocker.
Such is the growing trend in the NFL. WRs are coming in with a better aptitude for blocking at the same time TEs are entering the league more one-dimensional than ever. Teams are seeing the value of power slot and moving away from from the ways of old.
This is about the scouting department and the caching staff working together. It’s not about the TE position but rather the skills and tasks TEs traditionally execute. There’s no sense in picking (or playing) a TE if the Dallas Cowboys have a WR who’s better than him in every way.
- Published on 04/19/2022 at 11:01 AM
- Last updated at 04/18/2022 at 12:49 PM