The number 88 is sacred for the Dallas Cowboys and its fans.
The number was donned by hall of fame receivers Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin, as well as the franchise leader in receiving touchdowns, Dez Bryant.
Considering rookie receiver Jalen Tolbert was drafted with the 88th pick of round three, that alone could be a sign of great things to come. But is it crazy to think Tolbert could surpass Michael Gallup as Dallas’ WR2 in his rookie season?
Question marks At WR for the Cowboys
Amari Cooper’s trade to the Cleveland Browns will give Michael Gallup the opportunity to slot behind CeeDee Lamb as the second option on the Cowboys’ wide receiver depth chart. But Gallup is recovering from a torn ACL in week 17 last season.
With that injury still lingering, it’s unclear if he’ll be ready for week one. It will also give other receivers the chance to mesh with QB Dak Prescott while Gallup spends time rehabbing his knee injury during training camp.
Receiver James Washington signed with Dallas on a one-year prove-it deal this offseason. In his four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was buried on the depth chart behind studs like Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.
Washington could be a candidate to step up and make up for lost production from Cooper. He’ll certainly get more snaps early on compared to what he saw with the Steelers. From there, he’ll have to stave off the 88th overall draft pick.
Tolbert will have the opportunity to impress in training camp and preseason, which should result in more playing time once the regular season kicks off. The former South Alabama Jaguar, who had the sixth-most receiving yards in NCAA D-1 football last year, made some positive impressions amongst those he met during the pre-draft process.
Jim Nagy, executive director of the Senior Bowl and former NFL scout, can see Tolbert being an immediate difference-maker for the Cowboys. He had the following to say:
“The last year and a half, he’s really prepared like a pro. I think that’s what made him different in this receiver class. I can attest to it. I can feel really good about saying that Jalen is really going to be able to hit the ground running. He really dove into the tape study part of it.”
Now that he’s been drafted by Dallas, Tolbert is impressing his new coaching staff. Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said:
“He’s awesome. I think he works his tail off. I think you can tell how prepared he is and how detailed he wants to be.”
One thing a Tolbert detractor could point to is the lower level of competition the former Jaguar faced in the Sun Belt. But it’s worth noting the Mobile, Alabama native had offers to bring his talents to Michigan State and Vanderbilt. But playing closer to home was a priority.
Look for the 6’3, 190-pound receiver to climb the Cowboys’ depth chart and reach as high as WR2. His stats grew year-by-year in college, with his peak in receiving yards coming last season at 1,474 and eight touchdowns.