NFL

Scouting the NFL Draft: Fits at Pass Catcher

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With names like Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley, it's easy to think that the team should avoid drafting pass catchers in favor of more immediate needs.

Adding a wide receiver or Flex tight end on Day 2 or 3 could make the Cowboys offense much more prolific and dynamic:

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Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio St.
Ht. 6'3", Wt. 212, Arm: 32 ⅛", Hand: 10 ½", Bench: 18
40 yd: 4.57, 10 yd.: 1.56, 3 Cone: 6.80, Vertical: 35", Broad: 10'6"

Despite being the nephew of former USC WR Keyshawn Johnson, Michael Thomas didn't receive offers from the top Los Angeles programs. He instead went to Ohio State where — after struggling with grades — he led the Buckeyes in receiving for two years (1,580 yards and 18 TDs).

• Pros: Size, hands, physical, run after catch, separates, savvy route runner
• Cons: Long speed, catch point, press, body catcher, blocking

Thomas isn't yet the sum of his parts, but his parts add up to a starting NFL wide receiver. If he can play with more confidence, he has the athleticism and run-after-catch ability to be an effective X receiver.

Verdict: Round 2

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Ht. 5'10", Wt. 194, Arm: 30 ⅜", Hand: 9 ¾", Bench: 20
40 yd: 4.48, 10 yd.: 1.55, 3 Cone: 7.00, Vertical: 41", Broad: 10'3"

Shepard followed in the footsteps of his late father, Derrick Shepard, wearing No. 3 and playing wide receiver for the Sooners. During his career, he caught 223 passes for more than 3,400 yards and 26 TDs and was a semifinalist for the Biletknikoff Award as a senior.

• Pros: Athleticism, burst, body control, hands, quickness, tracks ball, character
• Cons: Size, length,  bounces at line of scrimmage, strength

Watching Shepard is like watching Seahawks' wide receiver Tyler Lockett, though Shepard is more complete. He's an ideal slot receiver in the NFL, but he has the physicality and savvy to play outside.

Verdict: Round 2

Thomas Duarte, TE, UCLA
Ht. 6'2", Wt. 231, Arm: 33", Hand: 10", Bench: 12
40 yd: 4.75, 10 yd.: 1.62, 3 Cone: 6.97, Vertical: 33.5", Broad: 9'10"

Duarte made the jump from four-star prospect at his Orange County high school to wide receiver for the Bruins with relative ease. The versatile pass catcher earned all-conference honors twice in his three years, amassing 1,626 receiving yards and 17 TDs on 97 catches.

• Pros: Hands, zone beater, burst, route runner
• Cons: Long speed, heavy feet, blocking

Duarte played all over at UCLA, but he's the classic wide receiver-tight end 'tweener that can find a home as a Flex tight end in the NFL. He's a slightly less-athletic Jordan Reed that has a chance to be a dangerous complement to an inline tight end in heavy sets.

Verdict: Round 4

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