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Wide Receiver Depth Chart Primer: How To Use All Those Stars



After looking at the rest of the skill positions on offense, let’s look at the Cowboys’ richest overall team position today.

Wide Receiver

X – James Washington – Sr. | Chris Lacy – Sr.
Z – Marcell Ateman – RS Sr. | Tyron Johnson – RS So.
Slot A – Jalen McCleskey – Jr. | Tylan Wallace – Fr.
WR4 – Dillon Stoner – RS Fr. | Tyrell Alexander – RS Fr.

I’m not going to go into as much detail here given the fact that this group has been talked about at length. James Washington is really good, we all know that. Read my breakdown of him here.

I will say one thing that jumps off the page when you watch film is how good Chris Lacy is.

I know this sounds crazy, but when you consider route running, hands and blocking, he might be the most complete WR on the team. I’m a huge fan, and he should play a huge role this season even if he doesn’t show up on the starting lineup. If I need a first down against tough coverage, I’m throwing to Chris Lacy no doubt.

One thing to watch with this group is how Mike Yurcich adjusts his route tree on the inside receivers. In the past we have seen traditional slot receivers line up inside for OSU, mainly leveraging them for finding space in the middle of the field at the short to intermediate levels.

There were a few opportunities where McCleskey ran vertical routes from the slot, even Washington ran a few as well. McCleskey has some vertical ability and is a tremendous route runner.

Washington in the slot was a great way to use his speed and athleticism to try to get around bracket coverage, something he sees regularly on the outside.

This year, Yurcich has the luxury of almost no athleticism drop off with Stoner and Wallace almost certainly working in the slot. Before he was on campus, I was extremely impressed with Stoner’s athleticism. Don’t get caught in the trap of seeing a smallish white receiver and stereotyping him as a guy who is quick but not fast. Stoner has ability to blow past people. Wallace is no different, we’ve heard Gundy say several times he is like Josh Stewart but faster.

This is critical, when you can stretch the field vertically in the middle field the way you do it down the sidelines, it is a game changer. It’s really hard to defend a true elite X WR and a slot WR who can stretch the field …. on the same side of the field! When you’re able to drive the right side of the defense vertical, not only do you stretch zone defenses, but you also open up the underneath game for crossing routes and RB dump offs.

Obviously everyone is really excited to see what Tyron Johnson can do in the passing game. He provides another level of excitement in the open field that we haven’t really had here in a long time. His explosiveness matched with size/speed combo is elite. His versatility of being able to stretch the field but also ability to make a play at/around the line of scrimmage is a huge asset for Yurcich. He will be slotted for outside WR, but I would expect him to line up all over the field, and for Yurcich to find ways to get him the ball in a variety of different ways.

Bottom line, he needs the ball in his hands.

Getting Marcell Ateman is big for many reasons, but one that really sticks out for me is red zone success. A guy like Ateman who is huge, uses his size really well to his advantage. His ability to box out defenders in jump ball situations is a huge red zone asset. The defense will need to account for that now, after having a year in 2016 where OSU didn’t really have a big body WR for red zone plays. (Although Washington and Lacy are more than capable of winning a jump ball situation)

That leaves a pretty good mix at WR. Washington/Lacy at X, Ateman/Johnson at Z and then Wallace, Stoner, Alexander, and McCleskey rotating at inside WR.

Yurcich will really earn his stripes this year if he can adapt from almost exclusively an 11 personnel (1 RB/1 TE) to a 10 personnel (1 RB/ 0 TE).  He has to find a way to get the best players on the field.

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