The Dolphins continued adding weapons by signing former Cowboys wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. at the onset of free agency. Here are five things to know about the Dolphins' newest playmaker.
1. The Best Yet to Come
Earning playing time in a loaded Cowboys offense, the 26-year-old wide receiver enjoyed a career season in 2021 by making the most of his opportunities. Wilson caught 45 passes for 602 yards and six touchdowns last season, but it's the efficiency that jumps of the page.
Wilson finished ninth in the NFL in receiving yards from the slot (574) and tied for fourth in touchdowns (six) from that position, per Pro Football Focus. He caught 73.8 percent of the targets thrown his way and had 9.9 yards per target, both of which were also ranked ninth across the league. He was joined in the top 10 yards per target category by the likes of Deebo Samuel, Ja'Marr Chase and Cooper Kupp.
Wilson is primarily known for his separation. His average distance created between he and the nearest defender was 3.5 yards a clip last season, tied for 13th among wide receivers. For comparison, Kupp and Tyreek Hill finished just ahead of Wilson in this category at 3.6 average yards of separation.
Wilson is also sure-handed. He has just five career drops (6.5 percent drop rate) which helped him achieve a passer-rating-when-targeted of 116.2 last season.
2. Unsung Hero, Beloved by Teammates
Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup missed eight games in 2021, elevating Wilson to 41.4 snaps per game in those eight contests. Wilson delivered with 21 grabs for 375 yards and four touchdowns. His ability to step up for Dallas, including in their lone playoff game, caught the attention of his Dallas teammates.
"The biggest reason why this team is good is because of the depth we have and Ced is an example of that," said Cooper. "Somebody goes down…Ced can just step in and get the job done."
Wilson earned the respect of everyone on the Cowboys team, even the guy he replaced.
"Watching him play his game and letting him get his shine, he deserves it," said Gallup. "He worked so hard for it. So that was a definitely a player that I enjoyed watching."
An affinity from those inside the building is not new for Wilson. Here is what an AFC team area scout told NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in 2018 when Wilson was in the pre-draft process:
"They like him inside his building. He's a worker and he doesn't take anything for granted because he had to work his way into this position. He's self-made. I go to bat for those guys because they never let you down due to football character."
3. Going Deep and Rackin' Up YAC
The statistics piled up for Wilson primarily on two occasions -- after the catch and running deep. His average of 6.2 yards after the catch tied for 10th among NFL receivers in 2021 and his +1.2 yards after the catch over expected was 18th-best among his contemporaries. The separation metrics help, but so does slipping four tackles on 45 catches, one every 11 receptions.
Wilson finished fifth in the NFL among qualifying receivers with 18.4 yards per target on passes thrown 20-or-more yards. Those numbers for Wilson -- seven catches on 14 targets for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilson was even better in the intermediate. He caught 12-of-18 passes in the 10-19 air-yard-range for 176 yards and three touchdowns. His +18.6 catch rate over expected on targets of 10-plus yards was third-best in the NFL.
4. Tale of the Tape
Wilson's Pro Day and Combine workouts showcased exactly what we see on tape as a pro. He leaped 37 and 121 inches in the vertical and broad jumps, respectively. He blazed a 6.89 three-cone time to display the lower-body explosion and quickness. He pairs those traits with nuance and an understanding of how to attack leverage and coverage to create separation.
Every route Wilson runs looks the same. He can alter his speeds and explode out of breaks to put defensive backs in peril.
Where Wilson really stands out is deep ball tracking. He's sensational in that regard and has been since college when he saw 26 percent of his 139 receptions go for 25-plus yards. Wilson builds speed and has that extra gear when the football is in the air.
5. Former Quarterback and All-Academic Team
Wilson's prolific college career was matched by his work in the classroom. He was named to the Academic All-Mountain West team in 2016, his first year on campus in Boise. Before earning All-American honors in junior college, Wilson was a quarterback of a 6A high school team who made it to the Tennessee state semifinals during Wilson's senior season.
That makes it no surprise that Wilson has completed all five of his professional passing attempts for 111 yards, a touchdown and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
For more analysis, and to hear Wilson talking ball and his new South Florida home, subscribe to the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield.
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