As football fans, we all love a good debate. The unique circumstances of this offseason in particular have given us plenty of time to discuss and debate a number of NFL topics. One of the most fascinating, and fervent, has been a comparison of two young NFC East wide receivers — Terry McLaurin vs. Michael Gallup.
McLaurin burst onto the scene in 2019 with a stellar rookie performance. Despite the Washington offense being the worst passing attack in the league, McLaurin was able to put up solid production. He heads into his second year as the clear-cut number one option in Washington, in an offense that’s sure to improve upon its 2019 status.
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It’s been somewhat of a different story in Dallas for Gallup. Gallup came into the league a year prior to McLaurin and struggled somewhat in his rookie campaign. Gallup put up impressive numbers in year two, but has done so in relative obscurity. Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott, and Amari Cooper steal the spotlight, leaving few headlines and little media coverage left for the burgeoning receiver.
Who comes out on top in the McLaurin vs. Gallup comparison? Just how close is the comparison? Let’s see if we can find some answers.[sv slug=mocksim]
Who wins the RAS breakdown?
The first step in determining who takes the cake in our McLaurin vs. Gallup comparison is to look at the athletic testing, and what that might tell us. Both receivers are young — each heading into their third year or less — and have remained relatively healthy, so the athletic testing is still pretty relevant. Let’s look at the numbers!
Gallup came into the league in 2018 as a third-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys out of Colorado State University. He tested as a “good” athlete at the 2018 NFL Combine, with “good” marks in the size and explosion categories, an “okay” grade for his speed, and a “poor” agility score. His overall score came in at 5.89.
McLaurin has a very similar story. He came into the league in 2019, also as a third-round pick, to the Cowboy’s long-time division rival, Washington. McLaurin and Gallup have very similar statures and tested similarly. McLaurin, however, has the edge in every category comprising a RAS grade. McLaurin achieved an “elite” overall grade with his 9.58, achieving “great” marks in both speed and explosion, with a “good” grade in both size and agility.
The differences in the numbers for Gallup and McLaurin are slight, but those slight differences can turn into major advantages on the field. Have they in this instance? Does McLaurin testing as the better athlete translate to bringing more value to his offense?
Who brings more value to their offense?
The next thing we need to do in our McLaurin vs. Gallup comparison is to look at their production and what they bring to their respective offenses. There are a couple of different ways we can do this. First is to take a look at the box score and see the raw stats.
Over the 2019 season, both McLaurin and Gallup played in 14 games. Gallup takes the edge in both receptions and yards, with 66 receptions for 1,107 yards to McLaurin’s 58 receptions for 919 yards. McLaurin edges out Gallup in touchdown receptions 7 to 6. A pretty close comparison, but one that favors Gallup.
But raw stats don’t tell the whole story. Both players play in different offenses with different responsibilities. Just how valuable is each player’s skill set to their offense? For the answer to that question, we turn to PFN’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM). OSM isn’t a metric intended to compare players to each other directly. Rather, it tells us the value each player brings to the unique set of circumstances placed before them within an offense.
The two receivers were nearly identical in their overall OSM grades in the 2019 season. McLaurin finished with the slight edge over Gallup, finishing with a 30.45 grade to Gallup’s 30.31. Both grades fall in the “very good” category, and from this, we can conclude that both receivers bring tremendous value to the offenses they are in.
This one really is a coin flip, with an ever-so-slight edge to Gallup.
Who is in a better situation?
We’ve put our McLaurin vs. Gallup comparison through the athletic testing. We’ve examined their stats and what each brings to their offense. We’ve more or less come away with a dead heat. The last part of our comparison is to look at the situation each receiver finds himself in.
McLaurin finds himself sitting atop the depth chart in Washington. He’s the clear-cut number one option for his team. He has a talented but raw quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, who took his fair share of bumps and bruises in his rookie season. McLaurin also finds himself in an offense that, while sure to improve upon last season’s anemic stats, could still be one of the bottom-tier passing attacks in the league.
The weapons around McLaurin have improved, at least in theory. Washington brought in a couple of prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft they hope can blossom into dynamic playmakers in Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden. Haskins is likely to take steps in his development in year two. McLaurin is going to command most of the targets in the passing attack, but there is an awful lot of projection going on here, which is a scary proposition.
Gallup, on the other hand, has a more complicated situation with the Cowboys. There’s no question that Gallup has more talent around him in Dallas. Cooper is the best receiver in the division. Prescott is arguably the best quarterback in the division, and Elliott is not only the best running back in the division, but he’s also one of the best running backs in the league.
However, all that talent means potentially less opportunity for Gallup. There are only so many touches to go around. That’s to say nothing of the fact the team also brought in former Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver CeeDee Lamb as a first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Gallup and Lamb will likely battle it out all season as the Cowboys’ second option in the passing attack — an attack that should be comfortably better than Washington.
Who comes out on top?
We’ve looked at the stats. We’ve compared the athletic testing. Their on-field contributions have been analyzed. So it’s time to answer the question: Which wide receiver deserves to be ranked higher, Terry McLaurin or Michael Gallup? Who wins the head-to-head comparison?
Ultimately, the two wide receivers are very close — closer than one might assume judging by the amount of media coverage each got last season. McLaurin was the hotter name throughout the 2019 season, but Gallup fared better statistically.
At the end of the day, the data seems to suggest that, while the two are neck-and-neck in most respects, the slight edge goes to the second-year receiver out of Ohio State, Terry McLaurin.