Who is Cole Beasley?

Jaron Foster


Over the past few months, this series has primarily featured rookies and lesser-known second year players. However, with several recent requests for a spotlight on third-year Dallas wide receiver Cole Beasley, this week’s column will focus on the restricted free agent. Between his emergence with a prominent role in the offense by the end of the season and some unknowns in the Cowboys’ receiving corps, the question for dynasty owners is whether he is a potential buy-low candidate.

The soon-to-be 26 year old Beasley entered college at Southern Methodist University (SMU) as a quarterback in 2008 but switched to wide receiver from the start. In eleven games as a freshman, he caught 42 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. While he only averaged 8.7 yards per reception, he moved to his new position seamlessly. As a sophomore, Beasley caught 40 passes for 493 yards and three touchdowns, increasing his yards per reception by over 40%.

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It was as a junior in 2010 that Beasley truly emerged as an offensive weapon, catching 87 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns, statistically surpassing his previous two seasons combined and earning All-Conference USA honors. Though his touchdown totals decreased as a senior, he caught 86 passes for 1,040 yards to mark his third season in a row with at least twelve yards per reception. Though not flashy, he was the model of consistency.

Beasley didn’t receive an invitation to the 2012 NFL Combine, so we need to go with SMU’s Pro Day results to get his metrics. At just under 5’8” and 175 pounds, Beasley ran a 4.49 40-yard dash that would have ranked him fifteenth among wide receivers at the Combine. He also recorded a 38” vertical jump, which would have placed him in a tie for ninth, and would have tied for fourth with his 10’6” broad jump. On the downside, given his size and skill set he ran a disappointing a 7.16-second 3-cone drill.

Unsurprisingly, Beasley (who is from Houston) went undrafted before signing with Dallas as a free agent. Though he missed time at training camp for personal reasons, he ultimately made the 53-man roster. Playing primarily on special teams as a rookie, Beasley totaled 15 receptions for 128 yards in his first year as a pro. He also returned ten punts and one kickoff, but has been used exclusively in the offense since the beginning of the 2013 season.

In his sophomore campaign, Beasley caught 39 of his 55 targets (71%) for 368 yards and two touchdowns and finished the season with the highest completion percentage of any NFL wide receiver with more than ten targets. In October, head coach Jason Garrett said of Beasley “we have thrown the ball to him, and he consistently makes plays. He wins his matchups, and he gives the quarterback a place to throw. Again, he is quarterback-friendly. He’s done a nice job in scramble-type situations finding a place to throw the football for the quarterback.”

Beasley’s rapport with quarterback Tony Romo continued into 2014, particularly when it mattered most for fantasy football purposes. Though he saw a slight reduction in targets and receptions in the regular season (49 and 37, respectively), his efficiency rate increased to 75%, yards per reception increased from 9.4 to 11.4 and he doubled his touchdown total from the previous season. Most importantly for his value going forward, Beasley was targeted eleven times in Dallas’ two playoff games, hauling in seven receptions for 101 yards.

Beasley’s playoff performance represents not only an increase in production but also an expanded role in the offense. Through his first two-and-a-half seasons in the league, he was primarily used to move the chains on third downs. Starting in week eleven against the Giants, Beasley had at least one 13-yard reception in every game throughout the rest of the season (inclusive of playoff games), including three of 24 yards or more after his previous career-high was 23 yards.

With Beasley expanding his route tree, increasingly playing on the outside as well as in the slot, his opportunities on the field are likely to increase as he provides a reliable and steady presence to the offense. It is widely accepted Beasley will remain with the Cowboys as he is currently a restricted free agent, an assumption verified by Dallas management following last week’s loss to Green Bay. Given his reputation and the role he is carving with the offense, this is the best scenario for his future value.

The rest of Dallas’ 2015 receiving corps is expected to largely remain intact, with Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, Terrance Williams and Devin Street all signed through at least 2016. The notable exceptions are unrestricted free agents Dez Bryant and, given his significant role as a receiver out of the backfield, DeMarco Murray. Though targets would increase across the board should one or both of these stars depart, it is reasonable to expect Jerry Jones would look to acquire talented replacements via the draft and/or free agency. In addition to the largely differing skill sets between Beasley and either free agent, the impact of decisions on Bryant and Murray is likely negligible for Beasley’s value.

The expected departure of unrestricted free agent Dwayne Harris, a player comparable in skill set and size (though a couple inches taller than Beasley), would only benefit him as well. Harris’ snaps on offense declined as Beasley’s increased, and by the end of the regular season his play was exclusively limited to special teams. Additionally, though Witten remains a security blanket for Romo, his targets have declined each of the last three seasons and he will be 33 years old when the 2015 season begins. Escobar is an intriguing prospect as a receiver, and may eventually be Witten’s replacement, but it was Beasley who saw his targets increase in the slot in 2014.

All signs point toward Beasley receiving more opportunities next year, though extrapolating the final few games of the season puts him around 55 receptions for 700 yards and a handful of touchdowns. This would translate to being a high-floor, low-ceiling flex play with ten to twelve points per game. If he continues his upward trend and is used as more than a move-the-chains third down receiver, he could be in the discussion as a low-end WR3 or WR4, but you will get from him exactly what the Cowboys are – consistent, if unspectacular, production.


jaron foster
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