Cowboys Could Add 2-Time Champion in ‘Curveball’ Move: Insider

Cowboys potential draftee Ladd McConkey

Getty Cowboys potential draftee Ladd McConkey

The presumption is, of course, that the Cowboys will use their next first-round pick on an offensive lineman. There are plenty in this draft, giving Dallas the opportunity to fill a need with both quantity and quality on hand. Cowboys potential first rounders, according to a long line of mock drafts, include the likes of Amarius Mims, Jordan Morgan, Tyler Guyton or Troy Fautanu.

Ah but what if, wonders team insider Michael Gehlken, the Cowboys pulled a surprise in the first round and waited until Day 2 to address the need for an offensive lineman? The depth at the position means that a quality blocker will still be on the table at Pick No. 56, and probably another at No. 87, where they will pick in the third round.

Maybe then the Cowboys could pluck one of the top-tier wide receivers in this draft to address what is also, increasingly, a position of need with Michael Gallup gone and Brandin Cooks aging. Gehlken sees the Cowboys targeting Georgia star Ladd McConkey with the 24th overall pick.

Cowboys Need a Quality Slot Receiver

McConkey is a 6-foot, 185-pounder who starred for three seasons at Georgia, and helped the Bulldogs to two consecutive national championships. He had one of the best games of his career in the 2022 national championship against TCU, catching two touchdowns to help fuel a blowout win.

He struggled last year with a recurring ankle injury, but has established himself as enough of a prospect to warrant consideration in the late first round or early second.

Gehlken wrote of McConkey: “The Cowboys would have to say in the first round, “To heck with offensive line,” and throw a 12-6 curveball by taking the draft’s best route runner. The argument: He fits their versatility profile, gets open early enough to make the offensive line’s job easier, and the high-percentage throws can function as an extension of the run game.”

Because of his lack of size and strength, McConkey figures to fit into a slot role rather than a wideout role, but he has earned a reputation for being as efficient a route-runner and pass-catcher as there is in this draft. His 4.39 40-yard dash time ranked No. 6 among wide receivers, and helped his case as a first-round pick.

Ladd McConkey a Stretch at 24?

Still, picking him 24th in a draft that is loaded with potential star receivers and play-now offensive linemen might be a stretch for the Cowboys. They could use an underneath target with some speed, no doubt, but they do have capable tight ends and are lacking on a second outside threat to go with CeeDee Lamb.

At Pro Football Focus, McConkey is rated the No. 6 overall wide receiver.

As wrote in its scouting report: “If pass rushers have rush plans, McConkey has route plans that allow him to uncover on all three levels. His pace and rhythm make cornerbacks more reactive than proactive. He has the footwork and body control to snap off crisp breaks and open windows for his quarterback. He can manipulate coverage with an advanced feel for leverage and has enough top-end speed to get past cornerbacks who are non-believers.

“(McConkey) might not be sudden enough to beat press and will need to prove he has enough play strength to finish contested catches against tight man. McConkey’s 2023 injuries might have slowed the draft conversation about him, but his route polish, athleticism and ability to uncover over the first two levels could make him a productive slot receiver as a Day 2 pickup.”



Read More