Is Michael Gallup the Cowboys' Receiver to Own in Fantasy Football?
Dez Bryant saw 132 targets last season -- 12th-most among all wide receivers -- as the top option in the passing game for the Dallas Cowboys. Jason Witten ranked second on the team in targets with 87, eighth-most amongst tight ends.
But now, Bryant is a free agent looking for a team, and Witten is a new analyst for Monday Night Football, which leaves the Cowboys searching for options to replace roughly 45 percent of the team's targets from 2017.
Amongst the Cowboys' new-look receiving core are Terrance Williams, entering his sixth season with the team, free-agent signing Allen Hurns, and rookie Michael Gallup, drafted in the third round back in April.
It's not a thrilling depth chart, to say the least, but it's one we need to pay attention to in fantasy because there are gobs of targets up for grabs. Looking at average draft position (ADP) data for best-ball formats and redraft leagues, it's pretty clear the fantasy community isn't excited about this group.
|Receiver||Best-Ball ADP||Positional Rank||Redraft ADP||Positional Rank|
Hurns is being drafted before Gallup and Williams in both formats, although with no Cowboys receiver going in the top-45 at the position, they won't be confused with a hot-ticket item.
This is understandable considering Dallas may be one of the more run-heavy teams in 2018, something they were a year ago as they attempted the fourth-fewest passes (493). But even so, with this many targets unaccounted for, this Cowboys trio has a clearer path to volume than most of the players in their ADP range.
If one of them emerges to claim top-dog status in the passing game, they will likely be a massive steal at their current draft price.
This will be a positional battle to keep tabs on all summer, but let's roll through each wideout and break down what they bring to the table in an effort to forecast which one will be the receiver to own.
Williams is the longest tenured Cowboys wideout, but over his five-year career, the most targets he's seen in a season is 93 (2015) and his career-best for receptions in a season is 53, which he set last year.
Over the past three campaigns, Williams has had opportunities to work as the Cowboys' top receiver with Bryant sidelined due to injury. In 10 games without Bryant -- 7 in 2015 and 3 in 2016 -- Williams saw a nice improvement in his PPR points per game average. With Bryant on the field, Williams averaged 8.45 PPR points, and without Dez, Williams averaged 12.17 PPR points per game.
However, looking closer at these 10 games sans Bryant, Williams performed as a top-30 PPR weekly option only four times. Just once did he crack the top-20 in weekly scoring.
|Game||PPR Fantasy Points||Weekly Rank|
|Week 2 of 2015||18.4||WR23|
|Week 4 of 2015||13.9||WR28|
|Week 17 of 2015||25.3||WR4|
|Week 4 of 2016||16.4||WR23|
Ironically enough, Williams' best performance without Bryant came in a Week 17 game, which probably didn't help many of us since most leagues have their title game in Week 16.
In short, in past opportunities to be the Cowboys' top receiving option, Williams has mostly disappointed.
Hurns signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys in March after he was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Hurns led the Jaguars in routes run from the slot last season, and he brings versatility to the Cowboys in that he can play both in the slot and as an outside receiver.
But injuries have forced Hurns to miss 11 games over the past two seasons. While injuries have plagued Hurns recently, including an ankle ailment that cost him six contests in 2017, he is just two seasons removed from a 1,031-yard, 10-touchdown campaign in 2015, when he finished as the overall WR18 in PPR leagues.
Hurns has been an efficient receiver over his career, ranking as the most efficient Jags wideout last year, per our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which you can read more about in our glossary.
Additionally, Hurns was one of the NFL's best wide receivers in Reception NEP per target during his big 2015 season. Among the 48 receivers with at least 50 receptions that year, Hurns (0.92) had the sixth-best Reception NEP per target.
But while Hurns has been efficient, he has never been a high-volume receiver. He has topped 100 targets just once (105), and his career high in receptions is 64, both of which came during his 2015 breakout.
While Hurns has never had more than 64 receptions in a season -- either in college or the pros -- Gallup, the Cowboys' third-round pick, showed in college that he can be a target monster.
Gallup excelled at Colorado State over two seasons, finishing with 176 receptions, 2,685 yards, and 21 touchdowns in 26 games. Following a senior year in which he had 100 receptions for 1,413 yards and 7 touchdowns, Gallup was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which ultimately went to James Washington.
Like Hurns, Gallup brings versatility to the Cowboys as he can play in the slot and on the outside, and the rookie has shown the ability to be productive on any number of routes.
New Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup won all over the route tree last year #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/5Ummo4t1NM
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 28, 2018
Gallup is far from locked into a starting role for Week 1, even though Jerry Jones said otherwise, but he should be able to push Williams for snaps immediately as Williams is recovering from offseason foot surgery and now faces legal issues following a recent arrest. Even without those additional troubles, Williams doesn't appear to have the kind of on-field track record that would make him a stone-cold lock for a starting spot.
A Training Camp Battle to Watch
Volume is king in fantasy, and it stands to reason that one of these receivers -- at least one -- is going to see a lot of targets in 2018, potentially making them a big-time steal at their current ADP.
Of the three players most likely to lead the Cowboys in receiving in 2018, Williams is the easiest to dismiss, which his current ADP already indicates. He has never finished as a top-40 receiver in any season, and his results without Bryant on the field have been mixed, at best, over the past three years.
But with the opportunity left vacated by Bryant and Witten, Gallup and Hurns are both intriguing options at their current prices.
Hurns emerged for a top-20 season in 2015, but he hasn't come close to replicating that success over the past two years, though injuries have played a part in that. Additionally, Hurns ran about half of his routes from the slot in Jacksonville. If the Cowboys envision Hurns primarily as a slot receiver, he may wind up splitting snaps with Cole Beasley on the inside.
As for Gallup, he may have the highest ceiling of the group. The path to playing time as a rookie couldn't be much cleaner as the Cowboys' receiver depth chart is one of the weaker ones in the league. He was a big-time producer in college, and the Cowboys -- going by Jones' comments -- are pretty high on him.
The opportunity is certainly there for Gallup, and if he lands a starting gig, he could be the top-scoring rookie receiver in 2018 as well as the Cowboys' top receiver.
That role netted Bryant 69 catches for 838 yards and 6 scores last season, good enough for a WR24 finish in PPR leagues. While the upside isn't through the roof, Gallup currently looks like a smashing bargain -- remember: he's WR64 in best-ball leagues. If we keep getting good reports on him from the Cowboys, his draft cost will surely rise as we approach peak draft season for redraft formats, but the bargain is there for the taking right now in best-ball drafts.