By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Transaction: The Dallas Cowboys sign WR Allen Hurns to a 2-year deal
2018 Fantasy Outlook: As long as Dez Bryant is in a Cowboys uniform, no other wide receiver on the roster will make a significant impact for fantasy owners. Of course, with rumors swirling that Bryant will either take a pay cut or be released, Hurns could team with the other Cowboys receivers to drive fantasy owners nuts.
Here’s the thing to know about Hurns: he’s talented. How he went undrafted in 2014 is still a mystery to me. He showed the kind of talent he has by compiling 115 total receptions in this first two years, including surpassing 1,000 receiving yards in 2015. That led the Jaguars to sign him to a 4-year extension. Injuries derailed his 2016 and 2017 seasons and saw the Jaguars move on from their former number two receiver and go with the likes of Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, and Dede Westbrook while building their offense around RB Leonard Fournette. What is one team’s “trash” is another team’s “treasure,” right? Hurns needs to prove he can remain healthy to make this deal a success for the Cowboys.
Hurns lands in Dallas on a two-year deal just a year after the Cowboys gave Terrance Williams a four-year deal when they had minimal cap space. I don’t have to tell you how much cap flexibility means to a team but this deal tells me either Williams or Bryant aren’t long for this team. Bryant’s production has tailed off since his 2014 peak. Over the last three seasons, he’s missed ten games to an assortment of injuries. He hasn’t had a single season over 840 yards, and has averaged less than 6 TDs a season. Many Cowboys fans I know blame Dak Prescott for Bryant’s lack of production, but I think that’s only part of the problem. When the Cowboys drafted Ezekiel Elliott, they shifted their offensive mindset back to running the football. They had great success with this with DeMarco Murray and former QB Tony Romo was adept at finding Bryant down the field to keep defenses honest. Prescott isn’t Romo and doesn’t have the same awareness on downfield throws.
This is where I think Hurns can help the Cowboys, especially if they decide to move on from Bryant via a post-June 1 release. Hurns does his best work underneath coverages. The Cowboys decided against bringing back Brice Butler, someone with the downfield speed to blow past defenses and keep eight defenders out of the box. But they have receivers such as KD Cannon — one of my favorite deep ball threats in the 2017 draft — and newly signed Deonte Thompson — who had himself a few memorable games with the Buffalo Bills a season ago — who can help stretch the field. When you build your offense around the running game, you don’t need a dominant number one option such as 2013 Bryant. You need sure-handed receivers that can keep the chains moving and keep defenses honest. This is what I see Dallas moving towards as extensions for Zeke and Dak approach.
In the event Bryant sticks around, Hurns is nothing better than a top 50 option at WR, likely no more than 45 catches for 600 yards and 3 TDs, which is right around an average season for Terrance Williams in the number two role opposite Dez. If Dez is released, I think that bumps up to 65 to 70 catches for 850 yards and 5 TDs, putting him more in the WR3 range. Also pay attention to the draft. There are a lot of WRs in this year’s draft that with proper seasoning, have the chance to blossom into a Dez-Bryant-in-his-prime type stud. One of them, Courtland Sutton, played in Dallas’ backyard at SMU. But Hurns should be drafted as a likely useful option for Prescott in the Cowboys’ passing game.