The Cowboys backed themselves in a corner when they decided to part ways with wide receiver Amari Cooper. This made the position of high importance in the NFL draft, and the Cowboys took Jalen Tolbert with the 88th pick in the third round.
Any draft pick that is selected on the first two days is expected to contribute rather quickly. For Tolbert, there’s added pressure being the replacement for the aforementioned Cooper, a four-time Pro Bowler.
One CBS Sports analyst believes Tolbert’s impact with the Cowboys will be instant, naming him as a possible key contributor in his first season.
“Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are, of course, back in Dallas. Amari Cooper is not. There are 205 targets available from last year’s Cowboys offense, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore — noted smart football mind — will likely dedicate a sizable portion of those targets to Tolbert — noted downfield specialist.
“Gallup and Lamb are more move-the-chain types, underneath and intermediate level security options for Dak Prescott, and the same is true for emerging tight end Dalton Schultz. It felt like any South Alabama game I flipped on over the past two years, Tolbert was generating a splash play downfield thanks to either his deceptive speed, tremendous ball-tracking capabilities, or a combination of both. Prescott finished 10th in adjusted completion percentage on long balls in 2021, so there’ll be plenty of opportunities for the rookie to showcase his unique skills.”
Tolbert will certainly get plenty of opportunities to carve out an important role during his rookie campaign early. Gallup is rehabbing his torn ACL that suffered in Week 18 and is expected to likely miss the first month of the season. This puts Tolbert in the WR2 spot for the Cowboys behind Lamb, so his progression will have to be swift.
One of the attributes that make Tolbert such an intriguing prospect is his versatility. Last season at South Alabama, Tolbert lined up at every wide receiver spot. He’ll likely take most of his snaps on the outside with the Cowboys, but with Lamb and James Washington having experience playing inside and outside also, it gives Moore a plethora of options to attack from.
Tolbert and Prescott began building a bond even before the draft. Prescott placed a call to Tolbert, and the Mobile, Alabama native mentioned how well the experience went after his initial shock.
“I answered and he was like, ‘Jalen,’ and I was like, ‘What’s up?’ And he’s like, ‘This is Dak Prescott. How are you doing?’” said Tolbert. “For a minute it was like a surreal moment because I never knew quarterbacks would call prospects, but it was an awesome, great experience.”
The conversation between the future teammates was a long one, but they covered quite a bit.
“We talked about my previous relationships with my quarterbacks,” Tolbert said. “We talked about my strengths on and off the field, what challenges I had to overcome. Also what I could bring to the table. Dak was asking me if he could put me at X by myself in a three-by-one or if I could go to the slot between CeeDee Lamb or Michael Gallup. All of it, we just talked.”
Prescott told Tolbert that he could contact him if he needed anything. Now that they’ll both be responsible for keeping the Cowboys offense as one of the NFL’s best, Tolbert will need Prescott to detail the intricacies of Moore’s philosophy so that he can produce at a high level out of the gate.
Feature image via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports