Jacob Cowing Could Be the Tank Dell Of The 2024 Draft

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As the Minnesota Vikings enter the offseason, several critical needs dominate the discourse. News and rumors are swirling about Kirk Cousins’ pending free agency, Justin Jefferson’s extension progress, and Danielle Hunter’s imminent contract expiration. These issues are among some of the high-priority equations the team must solve. However, one position is going overlooked by fans and pundits amid the competitive rebuild that the team is undertaking.

The Vikings need another wide receiver.

Why do the Vikings need to invest further resources into a position in which they currently hold megastar Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, their first-round pick in ‘23, who had an exceptional rookie season, both under contract?

Due to expiring contracts, the team is currently slated to lose their fourth-, fifth-, and ninth-most targeted players.

K.J. Osborn is an unrestricted free agent, and the Vikings will have to make several decisions at more pressing positions of need before determining whether they can sate Osborn’s contract desires with an offer that also works for the team.

The University of Arizona’s Jacob Cowing would be ideally suited as Minnesota’s immediate WR4, replacing Osborn’s fellow free agent Brandon Powell if the team opts not to resign the scrappy receiver. However, under the tutelage of the NFL’s WR1 and highly regarded wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell, Cowing can develop his potential into a high-end shifty slot threat as Jordan Addison acclimates to playing on the outside.

Cowing is the 106th-ranked player on PFF’s draft board. But after further evaluation, his ceiling and talent could warrant a trade-up. If he is available when the Vikings select at 109, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Co. should rush to the podium.

Cowing was a five-year player in the NCAA, transferring from UTEP to the University of Arizona after posting his most prolific statistical year in the ‘21 season. Cowing accumulated 1,902 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns throughout his tenure in Arizona.

A particular skill Cowing specializes in is lateral movement, and his talent is exemplary, displaying shiftiness and yards-after-catch ability that the Vikings could use.

Houston Texans standout Tank Dell is a similar prospect in the last draft who received ROTY consideration.

Cowing and Dell are eerily similar as prospects. Cowing measured in at 5’8”, 165 lbs. in the Senior Bowl. Dell was clocked at the same in his pre-draft process. Cowing is expected to run a ~4.4 40-yard dash, 1/10th of a second faster than Dell, a large margin by the NFL standard. Both players finished their respective collegiate careers with a YPRR of 2.5-plus, average depth of target beyond 10 yards, and over six yards per reception (6.0 to 6.3 in favor of Cowing).

Dell’s spider chart from MockDraftables shows the size (or lack thereof) profile. Dell’s 10-yard split was freakish, a trait Adofo-Mensah covets. If Cowing’s athletic testing is similar in addition to an expectedly quicker 40 time, he will draw significant attention.

In college, Cowing fell into a similar EPA/Play tier as several formerly coveted prospects such as Drake London and Henry Ruggs. He is not far behind consensus top-two receiver Malik Nabers in the same metric. Cowing also sustained that level of play with 200 more plays than Brian Thomas, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Jameson Williams.

Cowing was the second-leading receiver despite having the lowest average depth of target (ADOT) of any receiver with more than 50 targets. A full 42% of Cowing’s targets came between zero and nine yards from the line of scrimmage; he was primarily as an underneath weapon in his final collegiate season compared to the deep-threat role he used to play. Cowing ran 70% of his routes from the slot, amassing a 115.3 passer rating when targeted.

Concerns have typically arisen about smaller prospects due to the drastic difference between the aggressiveness between the college landscape and the NFL. Dell landed in the first percentile, and weighing the same, Cowing will also (barring a drastic shakeup). Cowing does well dispelling concerns about his playstyle and performance on the field, and with Dell’s success in his rookie campaign, all cynical notions should be dismissed.

Suppose Addison is better able to acclimate to the outside. Then O’Connell can give Cowing the same schemed free releases that Addison thrived on in his first season, allowing him to avoid the press contact that sometimes derailed Addison. The Vikings will also then have an additional explosive weapon to add to their already fierce receiving corps and a yards-after-catch weapon they don’t currently have.

Cowing should be Minnesota’s target if it takes a shot at a mid-round receiver. They may have to move up for him. But an opportunity for a dynamic, speedy, and shifty threat with amazing separation ability is tantalizing.

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