Cowboys Urged to Bump Up Pro Bowl Return Star on WR Depth Chart

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy (left) and KeVontae Turpin

Getty Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy (left) and KeVontae Turpin

The Cowboys enter 2024 with one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, star CeeDee Lamb. They will also have on quality veteran No. 2 receiver, Brandin Cooks. But once we get beyond those two, well, the receiver depth chart gets shaky.

Michael Gallup was a major disappointment, and was cut this offseason. A meeting with free-agent Zay Jones did not yield a contract—he signed with the Cardinals. Remaining free-agent receivers are all dented cans, like the Saints’ Michael Thomas or the Chiefs’ Mecole Hardman.

Lamb is No. 1, and despite his contract stalemate with the team (he is due an extension), he will be back in Dallas next year and will be among the best receivers in the game.

Cooks is No. 2, but will be 31 and is entering the final year of his contract, and possibly his final year in Dallas. This year’s No. 3 is up in the air. While there has been speculation that the Cowboys will see if 2022 third-round pick Jalen Tolbert is up to the job, the Cowboys analysis site Inside the Star says another candidate is being overlooked: KaVontae Turpin.

KeVontae Turpin Was a Pro Bowl Returner in 2022

Turpin is an excellent kick returner who was signed by the Cowboys after he was the MVP of the USFL in 2022. His average of 29.2 yards per return was the most by any player in 2023, with at least 10 returns. He recorded a 63-yard kick return against the Rams in Week 7 that set up a two-play touchdown drive from the 13-yard line.

Turpin was a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie because of his return prowess.

But the Cowboys could call on Turpin as a No. 3 option in the receiving game, working out of the slot and using his speed (Turpin runs a 4.3-second 40-yard dash) to create mismatches. Analyst Mario Herrera of Inside the Star writes that Turpin’s success as a return man has overshadowed the possible impact he could have in the offense:

“Everyone is excited to see him impact on returns, forgetting he can contribute to the offense. I’m here to tell you he shouldn’t be overlooked. Turpin saw an increased role in the offense in 2023 after playing primarily special teams in his rookie season.

“I believe a more increased role in Mike McCarthy’s offense in year three shouldn’t be ruled out. The opportunity is there, and the Cowboys appeared to trust him more towards the end of the season.”

Cowboys Short on WR Depth

Of course, there are problems with having Turpin working consistently out of the slot. For one thing, he is 5-foot-9 and weighs a very slight 153 pounds. While he should be able to find holes in opposing defenses and make teams pay for covering him with a linebacker, it’s tough to ask a player his size to go over the middle a whole lot.

And the Cowboys did not exactly trust him more as the season progressed. Turpin had two targets and one catch for four years in the Cowboys’ final five games. He played a total of 32 snaps in those games. Tolbert was well ahead of him on the depth chart throughout the season.

But as of now, with the Cowboys having made zero additions to the receiver room in free agency, and adding only sixth-round pick Ryan Flournoy in the draft, Turpin must be considered an option for the Cowboys’ No. 3 role.

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