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The Tape Tells All - Breaking Down Cole Beasley's Week 6 Performance

Cole Beasley is a rapper. I know this because I live in the Dallas area and back in May strongly considered going to his album release party when it popped up on my Facebook feed. I ultimately decided I had better things to do that night -- I think there was an NBA playoff game on -- but the idea that I could go see Beasley rapping was...interesting.

Beasley didn't really re-enter my consciousness again until Sunday, when he caught a pair of touchdowns against the Jaguars. Beasley's performance comes as a major surprise for two reasons. First, the Cowboys were playing one of the NFL's top defenses, Jacksonville, and absolutely demolished them, but the more surprising thing is the team that did that demolishing, as Dallas has scored 20 or fewer points in four of their first five games.

Let's check out the game tape on Beasley, as well as some background information and analytics to support what the tape is showing.

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Cole Beasley: The Tape Tells All

Background Information

Cole Beasley is in his seventh NFL season, a fact that's almost beyond comprehension because he's lingered in Dez Bryant's shadow for so long. But the former undrafted free agent out of SMU has carved out a role for the Cowboys in the slot, where he played 52.9 percent of the time last year.

Things have changed this year, as Beasley has been in the slot just nine percent of the time as Dallas searches for a functioning wide receiver. He has the ninth-highest catch rate among wide receivers this season, but Dak Prescott's struggles haven't allowed Beasley to do much of anything up to now. Against Houston in Week 5, Beasley put up an embarrassing performance, catching just one pass for eight yards.

But when the team's other wide receivers are headlined by Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup, there's a lot of potential for a guy with Beasley's ability to make an impact. Was Sunday just an illusion, though? Or does it represent a step forward for Beasley?


Cole Beasley's Game Tape

Sunday was different. Beasley was targeted a season-high 11 times, pulling down nine of those for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Here's Beasley's route tree from the Jaguars game:

My key takeaway from this is huh, what? The Cowboys lined Beasley up all over the field, and his routes all have him moving in different paths. This is one where the tape itself is really going to come in handy to figure out how Beasley was making these plays.

I'm interested in the various places that Dallas lines Beasley up and how that changes the kinds of plays that he can make. On this place, he starts as the inside guy in a trips right formation and runs a pretty basic crossing route. He's off balance when the ball gets to him and goes down almost immediately. It's a catch, but not an altogether impressive one.

Here's another one where Beasley is the inside receiver. He's able to find a soft spot in the coverage down the right sideline, but he has to come back a little to grab the pass from Prescott, which slows the play down just enough that Beasley is doomed to go down almost immediately after making the catch. (As a non-intelligent observation: Cole Beasley literally always looks like he's about to fall down when he's running with a football.)

Remember when I mentioned earlier that the Cowboys were using Beasley in the slot less and spending more time with him out wide? So far, the tape from this game is suggesting that he's still at his best when starting near the hash marks.

On this play, Beasley finds some open space in the middle of the field, turns toward the end zone, and just kind of glides into it. Once again, he looks in danger of falling down at every second he's moving, but here that comes in handy as he falls from around the three-yard line into the end zone for the touchdown. Beasley is also pretty squirrely as a runner as you can see by scrolling up and looking at his route tree. He's all over the place once the ball is in his hands.

(Also, let's note that the coverage on that play was really, really bad. No one is around him!)

If I'm going to buy into any possible Cole Beasley hype, I need to see him doing more than just catching passes in open space. I need to see...

Okay, yeah. Coverage is draped all over Beasley, Prescott's throw isn't great, and he still makes a good play here to get Dallas the first down. He's also starting out much wider on this play. I'm impressed, especially with a guy who's just 5'8'' to make a pretty good jump on this one.

Alright, one more play.

Here's Beasley's other touchdown of the game. A good cut in the end zone to create some space -- before the cut, there are about three defenders in the area, making it impossible for Prescott to even think of targeting him, but he's able to get a little farther outside and create a decent bubble around him, leading to the touchdown grab.

A lot of the other Beasley catches were on the same variety of that one but for less yards and in far less important situations. A good cut outside to get more open before Prescott hits him with the ball.


The Fantasy Impact

Ultimately, no matter how impressive Beasley looked on Sunday, it all comes down to how you feel about the Dallas Cowboys offense this year. They've been on a pretty consistent streak of fairing poorly on the road and decently at home, but Beasley's own production hasn't matched that streak, with his best performance before this week coming in a road loss to the Panthers to open the season. So even if the Cowboys themselves keep that up, it doesn't look like Beasley is following that trend.

Beasley's snap share hasn't gone above 71.2 percent this year, which came against Seattle in Week 3. He's been under 60 percent the past three weeks. To me, that screams it's going to be a long and inconsistent year for Cole Beasley, but it's also worth remembering how uninspiring this whole receiver corp is. A lower snap share doesn't spell doom for Beasley's fantasy options as much as it would on other teams as long as he's targeted when he's on the field. That's obviously been...hard to judge so far in terms of what it means for him on a week-to-week basis.

Ultimately, I'd steer clear of Beasley in shallower leagues, but in a 12-team or deeper PPR league he comes with enough upside to make me like him as a potential flex play during the bye weeks. Of course, this all depends on the Cowboys team that destroyed one of the NFL's top defenses playing improved football the rest of the way, but when Beasley has proven to be the best receiving option on this team at this point, it stands to reason that the team would be smart to keep him heavily involved.

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