Cowboys Meet Potential Amari Cooper Replacement at NFL Scouting Combine

Michael Pittman Jr.

Getty Michael Pittman Jr.

With three wide receivers careening toward free agency, including leading receiver Amari Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys have started their homework on the 2020 NFL draft class.

According to reports, the Cowboys informally interviewed USC WR Michael Pittman Jr. at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and will host the 6-foot-4 pass-catcher on an official top-30 visit this offseason.

A four-year contributor (2016-19) for the Trojans and the son of former Super Bowl champion Michael Pittman, Jr. exploded onto the national scene last season by catching 101 passes for 1,275 yards, and 11 touchdowns, earning first-team All-Pac-12 and second-team All-American honors.

He finished his collegiate career with 171 receptions for 2,519 yards and 19 TDs.

Despite fair name recognition, Pittman enters the pre-draft as a needle in a haystack compromised of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Reagor, Laviska Shenault, and … you get the point. It’s an extraordinarily deep crop of wideouts.

“This is a starting point. None of it really affects where I end up,” Pittman said about the Combine, where he officially measured in at 6-4 and 223 pounds, with 32.5-inch arms and 9.25-inch hands.

NFL.com draft guru Lance Zierlein compared Pittman to Broncos WR Courtland Sutton, projecting him to start within his first two professional seasons.

Big, smart and reliable, Pittman falls into the “possession receiver” bin, but has top-notch ball skills that allow him to bully and best cornerbacks down the field. Improving release quickness against press will be an early focal point in an NFL camp, but his frame and physicality should create work space underneath even with close coverage. He lacks the speed and separation quickness teams covet from WR1 candidates, but he comes from NFL bloodlines and plays with a pro demeanor. He should be a productive plug-and-play talent at WR2 early in his career.

Pittman could be taken as early as the second round in April’s draft. The Cowboys currently hold the No. 51 overall selection, and should be on the lookout for receiving help with Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Tavon Austin scheduled to hit the open market on March 18.

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Cowboys Interview Two Other WRs

Regardless of whether they bring back Cooper, and no matter who’s quarterbacking the club, Dallas is making it clear they’re likely to add to their war chest this spring, supplementing 2019 breakout performer Michael Gallup with building-block field stretchers.

WFAA’s Mark Lane reports the Cowboys interviewed Baylor’s Denzel Mims — a fringe first-round talent — at the Combine, while The Athletic’s Jon Machota reports Ohio State’s K.J. Hill held a meeting with the team’s brass in Indy.

“We mainly talked about football,” Hill said, per Machota. “They were like, ‘Arkansas kid, I know you liked the Cowboys.’ I’m like, ‘Definitely did like the Cowboys growing up.’ That’s all we knew. Jerry Jones is an Arkansas guy. It went well.”

That the Cowboys are aiming to draft a receiver is wholly unsurprising given the new makeup of the coaching staff, a group spearheaded by offensive-minded HC Mike McCarthy and his hand-picked WRs coach Adam Henry, who replaced Jason Garrett holdover Sanjay Lal.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL