Can Danny Coale play right away?

May, 1, 2012
5/01/12
6:15
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Of the Dallas Cowboys' late-round draft picks, the one that seems to be drawing the most attention right now is Virginia Tech wide receiver Danny Coale. I think it's because people have heard of him and because he plays a position at which the Cowboys have an opening. Laurent Robinson, the out-of-nowhere No. 3 wide receiver who caught 11 touchdown passes for the Cowboys in 2011, has moved on to Jacksonville, and the competition he left behind for that spot is somewhat uninspiring, which is why -- as Calvin Watkins writes -- the team's fifth-round draft pick may have a shot:
As it stands, Coale will battle Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris and Raymond Radway for the two open receiver spots. The Cowboys could use five receivers in 2012 if needed. (We don't believe Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are in danger of not making the roster).

What I'm told about Coale by scouts (who like him a great deal) is that he knows how to get open, knows how to find the ball in traffic and has excellent hands. These would all seem to be great assets, but those same scouts caution that Coale is a bit undersized (6-feet, 200 pounds) and may struggle against the bigger, more physical defenders he's going to face as he adjusts to the NFL level. That's why I caution against expecting too much out of Coale too soon. He's a fifth-round pick, after all, and if he does make an impact as a rookie that'd be one heck of a story.

Some people have suggested to me on Twitter that Coale compares to Wes Welker. I think this is a lazy (and somewhat insulting) comparison to make, and I think it's made because Coale is white and not very big. Coale actually lists as three inches taller and 15 pounds heavier than Welker, who by the way is one of the best players in the entire league. If Coale does turn out to be even half as good as Welker, the Cowboys will have grabbed a huge steal in the fifth round. I doubt that even their most optimistic forecasts imagine that.

If we can put both feet on the ground about this for a moment, the odds are that Coale helps on special teams in 2012 and finds his way into the receiver mix here and there as he learns the pro game and adjusts to a new level of difficulty. If he makes good progress, you could be looking at a guy who becomes a reliable receiver for the Cowboys in 2013 or 2014, and that'd be excellent. If you find a starter in Round Five at any position, you've done something really impressive. But look, for example, at Bryant, a former first-r0under who's as skilled and physically dominant as any receiver in the league. He's still developing after two seasons as a starter. It takes time at that position.

My bet is still that the Cowboys add a veteran receiver to this mix before or during camp as the market begins to flood with them. The Redskins released Jabar Gaffney on Tuesday, and a short time later the Texans released Jacoby Jones. I don't know if either of those guys makes sense to or for the Cowboys, but the point is that there will be options, and opportunities to find the next Robinson if he doesn't turn out to currently live on the Cowboys' roster. As for Danny Coale, there's real potential there, but I think the best thing the Cowboys and their fans can do is to be patient and see what comes of it.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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