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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Why is Cole Beasley constantly overlooked & undervalued

Written by Greg Boucher

Cole Beasley has been overlooked most of his football life, starting out as a 5’8 155lbs dual threat high school QB in Little Elm, Texas where he posted 1,184 yards on the ground and 1,570 through the air for a combined 24 touchdowns on his way to being named the district Co-MVP his senior year. Despite his success and his production leaving high school Beasley was only considered a 2-star recruit by most of the services and garnered very little if any attention from the top programs in his home state, in fact he only according to Rivals he only received two D-1 offers, choosing SMU over Air Force.

Cole Beasley was a standout receiver at SMU.(Matt Strasen)

After making the quick conversion to WR Beasley went on to have a solid four-year career for the Mustangs finishing with 255 receptions, 2,959 yards and 15 touchdowns. In 2012, with all the stigma against him: his size, his speed, his pedigree Beasley would go over looked once again being passed up 253 times going undrafted in fact 30 receivers were taken over him.

Eventually the Dallas Cowboys gave the hometown product a chance to prove himself and that is exactly what Beasley did during his first NFL camp, it seemed every opportunity the undersized WR was given he made the most of it but despite his success in camp Beasley unexpectedly left the team sighting “personal reasons” but later returned in time to make the 53-man roster and compete for the 5th WR spot. Beasley appeared in 10 games as a rookie but made minimal impact, only hauling in 15 receptions being buried behind better targets in Dez Bryant, Jason Whitten and Miles Austin. Beasley’s future in Dallas was not immediately certain, a fringe player fighting for every rep he would have to battle again to make the team the following year as the Cowboys drafted Baylor product WR Terrance Williams in the 3rd round. Beasley would make the team however, and in fact he would take on a larger role in the offense grabbing 39 balls for 368 yards and scoring his first 2 NFL TDs. Beasley would go on to earn a second contract from the Cowboys as he developed into a solid slot WR, signing a 4 year $13.6M deal in which he more than lived up to recording 228 receptions, 2,355 yards and 17 touchdowns over that period.

Despite proving himself as a reliable slot receiver, an excellent route runner with moxy and grit over the middle, a player who was coming off one of his best NFL seasons, the then 29-year-old Beasley entered free agency uncertain about his return to Dallas. Beasley was vocal about his disappointment in the system, not being utilized or targeted enough and it seemed he would not be long for the lone star state. In retrospect, Beasley certainly did not receive the sort of courting he should have on the open market, outside of Dallas, only Buffalo and New England were high on his services, Beasley eventually accepted the Bills offer of 4-years $29M becoming one of the most vital cogs in the new look Buffalo offense. Beasley quickly proved his worth to the organization and the league, becoming a favorite of the Bills Mafia and a favorite target of QB Josh Allen who trusted him as the safety valve underneath, relying on him to make the tough catches in the crucial moments throughout their playoff run. In the process Beasley came close to topping his career best in 2019 marking 67 receptions 778 yards and 6 touchdowns while sharing the receiving load with the fellow newbie John Brown.

With the addition of super star wide receiver Stephon Diggs in 2020 Beasley would find himself in a familiar situation in the onset of the season, contending for opportunities. Diggs certainly figured to get the lion’s share of targets, leaving Brown and Beasley to fight over the scraps. As it happens Beasley did more than fight for the scraps in what turned out to be an historic year for the Bills and this passing offense. Beasley set new career highs in yards (967) receptions (82) first down receptions (53) yards per reception (11.8) yards after catch (355) in what was arguably his best season as a pro. Numbers however do not tell the full story of a Beasley’s value, he continued to come up big, in the game’s biggest moments helping this team convert in the clutch and win the close games. In week 2 vs Miami, he made a difficult 26-yard grab to move the chains on a long 3rd & 24 that led to the go-ahead touchdown. On the game winning drive-in week 3 against the Rams Beasley was always open, even when he was covered making three clutch grabs for 59 yards on what turned out to be the game winning drive. In week 8 vs the Cardinals on a must have 3rd down conversion Beasley made an insane 1 handed grab while dragging his toes to stay in bounds to move the chains, in fact he moved the chains on three separate plays on that drive to keep the comeback going. It seemed whenever Allen was in trouble, when he needed help, he was able find the 5’8-175lbs. Cole Beasley to keep the drive alive.

Throughout 2020 Beasley showcased his route running ability from the slot, his ability to uncover off the snap, his crisp breaks, his acceleration into the route have all helped him to become one of the games most difficult assignments. During an interview conducted in the first few weeks of the season Safety Jordan Poyer described Beasley to Bills beat writer Sal Capaccio in one word. “Unguardable.” going on to say “His quickness and his being able to get in and out of breaks, and a lot of people don’t know how smart he is on the football field. His ability to read leverages, to read coverages, his ability to find the soft spot in zones, the ability to catch the ball and not take explosive hits. I just say I’m happy as hell he’s on our team.” Beasley didn’t just prove to be a clutch playmaker and an uncoverable slot WR in 2020 at 5’8-175lbs he proved to be one of the toughest players in the league. After suffering what was first labeled as a “knee injury” in the week 16 match up vs New England and later was diagnosed as a broken fibula Cole Beasley had this to say about his injury in an interview with Bryan DeArdo of CBS. “I broke my fibula… It’s not a full break. It was bad the first game I played, but after that, you take a few meds and suck it up.” While he was clearly not his best self, Beasley went on to have a productive post season despite the hampering injury, earning the respect of teammates and fans. The respect however seemed to end there, Beasley was not mentioned for any post season awards, he was not named to any teams, he was even left off of PFF’s top 25 WR’s of the 2020 season, taking a back seat to New England’s Jakobi Myers whom he out preformed and produced in every statistical category. While many of the off-season ratings and rankings mean little to the players teammate Stephon Diggs took issue with a recent NFL on CBS Twitter pole asking which team had “The Best Receiver Tandem in the NFL.” after Diggs and Beasley were left entirely off their list despite combining for 209 receptions 2,502 and 12 TDs in 2020 leading the NFL’s #2 rated offense. This seems to be a pattern going on outside of Buffalo, NY: the lack of respect being placed on Cole Beasley and what he means to this team. While many analysts around the league are predicting a plateau for the Bills and their offense in 2021, due to the improvements made around the AFC this off-season those closest to the Bills feel they were only scratching the surface last year. Josh Allen finally took command of the offense and became the super star Beane and McDermott had envisioned him being. With a season under their belt and an off-season to spend together cultivating their chemistry this offense is ripe for another historic run and Cole Beasley figures to be a major part of it, whether the rest of the league takes the time to appreciate his game is irrelevant.

The lack of respect is nothing new for Beasley, who after overcoming every obstacle put in front of him, from being a tiny unknown QB from Little Elm, Texas, to going undrafted, to becoming one of the game’s best slot WRs. It is clear Beasley does not do what he does for the accolades, he does what he does because he is passionate about this game and he loves his teammates and his organization, and he may go down as one of Brandon Beane’s best Free Agent signings ever, despite being one of the most underrated players in the NFL.

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