His second-year leap cemented him as one of the best number two wide receivers in the NFL and helped elevate his team to a top-five offense. But there was a lot of change within the Cowboys during the offseason, and there is a lot of speculation about Gallup’s projected role in the new offense.
Let’s debunk some of the most common myths surrounding Gallup’s place on the team in 2020. I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t fade Gallup, but instead target him in all your drafts. If you’re wondering about the picture below – Gallup caught the ball.
Myth #1: Michael Gallup will be the third option in the Dallas passing attack
This argument most often used to support this idea is that CeeDee Lamb, Dallas’ first round pick this year, will step into the number two receiver spot and relegate Gallup to the third option. This argument relies on two points: first, that CeeDee Lamb will immediately have the second largest role in the Cowboys’ offense, and second, that Michael Gallup was the second option in 2019. However, neither are true.
As much as Cowboys fans would love to see CeeDee dominate from day one, the odds of that are fairly low. In the last 10 years, only seven rookie wide receivers have had over 1000 receiving yards. Three of those came in the 2014 season alone (Odell Beckham Jr, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans).
And remember, Randall Cobb had over 800 receiving yards last year and Gallup was still WR22 overall in fantasy. Lamb would need to hit the 1000 yard mark to make a significant impact on Gallup’s production in 2020.
It’s even more unlikely this occurs due to the circumstances surrounding this season. The wide receiver position is one that is notoriously difficult to transition to coming out of college. Rookies often need time to learn all the route combinations and become familiar with their role, especially someone like Lamb who can play all over the field.
However, as you’ll be aware of by now, the NFL recently announced that there would be no preseason games played this year in accordance with the NFLPA agreement. That means there will be an even steeper learning curve for first year receivers in 2020 and even less time to adapt, making it unlikely Lamb usurps Gallup until at least late into the season, if at all.
Who are you calling a second option?
To the second point. Michael Gallup wasn’t the second option to Amari Cooper. The two receivers were eerily similar in usage. Gallup received 113 targets to Amari Cooper’s 119. However, Gallup played in 14 games as opposed to Cooper’s 15 (excluding the Jets game in which he was injured after a few plays).
On a targets per game basis, Gallup actually slightly edges out Cooper by a margin of 8.07 to 7.93 targets per game. In PPR, Gallup only trailed Cooper on a points per game basis by 0.2 points; in standard scoring, Gallup actually outpaced Cooper in this category. Gallup also played 61 snaps per game as opposed to Cooper’s 53, meaning Gallup was actually on the field more than Cooper last year.
Their overall stats are very similar to each other as well. Cooper had 1189 yards, just above Gallup’s 1107 mark, and eight touchdowns compared to Gallup’s six. The main difference between the two receivers was their consistency. Cooper was the boom or bust receiver with the higher ceiling, while Gallup was more consistent with a higher floor.
Gallup saw more consistent usage game-to-game, getting at least six targets in 12 of his 14 games. Amari Cooper got at least six targets in only 10 of his 15 games. Rather than being a 1/2 receiver scenario, Cooper and Gallup were more like a 1a/1b duo. This bodes extremely well for Gallup to keep a significant role in the 2020 offense.
Myth #2: Michael Gallup will have to fight for targets in a run-first offense
Like the myth before it, neither of these statements are true. The run-first assumptions seem to come from a combination of Ezekiel Elliot’s reputation as a fantasy stud and the ghost of Jason Garret’s coaching scheme haunting public perception of the Cowboys.
While Ezekiel Elliot will certainly have another great fantasy season, that doesn’t preclude the receivers from having equally fantastic seasons. The Cowboys comfortably had a WR1 and WR2 even with Elliot getting 1800 total yards and 12 TD’s. Also, the presence of Elliot does not guarantee that the offense will be run-first. In fact, it’s likely to be less running-focused than any time in the past 10 years.
To read more about Ezekiel Elliot’s fantasy projections, click here.
The McCarthy factor
McCarthy passed the ball at a 66.2% rate from 2014-2018, which was the most in the league. He passed the ball on first down twice as often as he ran the ball.
He really likes Dak Prescott and has stated that his system will center on him. All of these facts indicate that the passing game will be more prominent than ever before in Dallas. Dak Prescott had 596 passing attempts last season, and should approach that number again in 2020.
Along with a high number of pass attempts will come a high number of passing targets for Gallup. He will not have to “fight” anyone on the team for targets: he’s already earned his share. He was just as effective as Cooper last year on similar amounts of targets per game and Mike McCarthy will be thrilled to have a receiver with the route running, physicality and ball skills that Gallup posses. Gallup has a robust share of passing targets waiting for him, and will have over 100 again in 2020.
In fact, Gallup could see even more targets this year than last, despite the addition of CeeDee Lamb. The Cowboys vacated 190 targets this offseason, the second most in the league. Jason Witten alone accounts for 83 of those. If we assume Blake Jarwin, who got 41 targets last year, steps into that role and gets 90 targets, that will take 49 of the 190 vacated targets. That leaves 141 targets to spread among CeeDee Lamb and the other receivers.
Unless CeeDee Lamb immediately commands the most targets of anyone on the team, there will be a decent chunk left over to give to the rest of the offense, including Gallup.
Myth #3: There are players around Michael Gallup’s ADP in better situations
Despite Michael Gallup’s WR22 finish, he is being drafted as the WR34 right now in PPR leagues. This drop in perceived value is mainly a reaction to the addition of CeeDee Lamb, which we’ve already shown to be overblown. But what about the receivers going around him?
A.J Green is aging, hasn’t been fully healthy since 2017, and is playing with a rookie quarterback. If he plays well he’s a great value, but he’s much riskier than Gallup. Marquise Brown played well last year, but nothing the Ravens did this offseason suggests anything but a continued emphasis on the run game, which caps Brown’s upside. They might not pass enough to sustain more than one or two fantasy-relevant receivers, and tight-end Mark Andrews is the first option going into the season.
There are very real concerns with Diggs as well. Number one wide receivers tend to struggle when they transition to a new team and almost always finish lower in fantasy. Diggs finished one spot ahead of Gallup in PPR leagues last year as the number one option in Minnesota. Now, he goes to a less effective offense, with a worse quarterback, on an actual rush-first team, and history says that he will probably put up lower numbers than last year. Yet, he is still being drafted a full round or two before Gallup, who was his equal last year but whose situation largely remained the same, if not got better.
Gallup is as sure a bet as any to outperform his ADP this year. He’s super talented on a high scoring offense that’s going to produce. Even if CeeDee Lamb takes a significant role, there’s room enough for three receivers on the Cowboys to perform well.
Mike McCarthy primarily draws offensive inspiration from the West Coast offensive model. This prioritizes short passes that have a high success rate, combined with occasional shots down the field. Gallup’s yards per catch will probably shrink slightly, but he should see an uptick in catches due to the higher number of quick, high-percentage passes.
115 targets, 75 catches, 1000 yards, 7 TD’s. 217 PPR points, and a strong WR2 that can be had as late as the seventh round.
These projections mesh well with our own TimeSkew rankings, which put Gallup over 1000 yards and around six/seven TD’s and finishing as the WR36 in redraft.
There we have it. Three myths busted. Go get Gallup!