—A true dual-threat tight end who balanced the job of being a lead blocker and a receiver.
—Plays with a mean streak and looks for work as a blocker. Won’t shy away from defenders no matter his assignment.
—Has a lean, athletic frame and can shake defenders with the ball in his hands.
—Uses his hands well as a blocker and will lock on and drive defenders off the edge. Was almost an extra lineman at Stanford.
—Explosive short-area athlete who can create space for himself as a route-runner.
—Oddly built at 6’5 ⅜” and 244 pounds, but with 31 ¼” arms and a wingspan of only 75 ⅜”.
—Not used much as a receiver (55 career catches).
—Only managed 15 reps on the bench at the combine.
—Looks like he could add weight to his frame and improve poor strength.
—Not a vertical threat at tight end; won’t run away from coverage
Schultz is the best blocking tight end in the 2018 class. Coming out of Stanford, he understands pro-style offenses, blocking schemes and route trees. While he was limited in his pass-catching production, he has the traits to post better numbers in the pros than he did in college.
When Dalton Schultz was drafted in the fourth round this offseason, it was an attempt to replace at least a little of the production of Jason Witten who had surprised everyone with his decision to retire during the draft. Schultz was coming out of Stanford and had primarily been used as a blocking tight end for Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love, and rarely saw time as a pass catcher.
The Cowboys had passed on other tight ends during the draft, some who were more accomplished pass catchers. Through most of the year, Dallas struggled to find any production out of any of their tight ends. Blake Jarwin had a troubling case of the drops, Rico Gathers and Schultz just never really made any impact, and Geoff Swaim finally started to emerge as a tight end weapon only to go down with an injury.
In Swaim’s absence, someone needed to step up as Swaim had become an integral part of the offense. Schultz is battling Jarwin to be the guy.
Jarwin and Schultz have become the two tight ends that Dallas has used the most since Swaim went down, but the rookie is starting to impress for a first-year guy taken late in the draft. Schultz has started each of the last four games for the Cowboys, and he’s caught eight of the ten passes thrown his way in that time span. His targets have been gradually increasing.
Schultz’s ability as a receiver has really started to show the last two games. Against Philadelphia, he caught all three passes thrown his way and turned it into 37 yards – 12.33 yards per reception. Against Indianapolis this past week, Schultz was one of the very few bright spots in the offense’s zero-point performance; the tight end caught three of four passes that came his way for 23 yards.
Now, neither of these stat lines are particularly eye-popping, but they showcase a skill of Schultz’s that was thought to be his biggest weakness upon his being selected by the Cowboys. Initially, Schultz wasn’t given a heavy workload to start the season. This was both because he was a rookie and because he needed more time to develop his pass catching skills. The coaches have had to give him more snaps than they anticipated due to Swaim’s injury, but Schultz has responded in an impressive way. And this development in the receiving game isn’t his only strength.
Schultz has been impactful as a blocking tight end and has improved each week as well. Originally billed as an offensive lineman in a tight end’s body, Schultz struggled the first few weeks as he adjusted to the sheer strength of NFL defenses, but he’s come on strong in the last two months. Look no further than Schultz’s play against the Colts to see evidence of what he adds to the running game.
Again, Schultz was one of the very bright spots on the offensive side of things this past week. In these two examples, you’d be forgiven for thinking that was an offensive lineman making those blocks because they’re so solid and technically sound. His awareness to push on to the second level is making him an asset in the rushing attack.
Schultz may not be a skilled enough pass catcher to earn the term “safety blanket” yet, but the progress he’s made since being given a larger share of snaps has been promising. If this development continues, Schultz could blossom into a legitimate do-it-all tight end who can block in the running game and make catches to move the chains. I thought he might have this kind of development curve back in June.
And the fact that Schultz is starting to hit on that potential has to be a great sign for the Cowboys. Perhaps it’s not enough to say that the Cowboys are set at the position (which they aren’t), but at the very least they look to have a young tight end with a lot of versatility and a lot of potential. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys manage Schultz’s snaps if/when Swaim returns, but for now let’s just keep watching this rookie’s development.
The Dallas Cowboys have plenty of tight ends with limited experience in 2018. After the surprise retirements of Jason Witten and James Hanna (good gried, Charlie Brown!), two big holes emerged at the top of the depth chart for the position. With very little experience in the group behind them and no veteran signings since the point, Dallas seems comfortable letting the young players duel it out.
Joining Geoff Swaim (nine career receptions), Blake Jarwin (one game played) and Rico Gathers (no appearances) is former Stanford tight end Dalton Schultz. Schultz spent his time in a run-heavy offense for the Cardinal, a bit similar to the expected philosophy of a team that lost Witten and No. 1 wideout Dez Bryant this offseason. If the team is to rely on Ezekiel Elliott for everything, the blocking tight end must be special. Dallas spent a fourth-round pick thinking Schultz might be the guy.
Catching all 22 of his catchable targets in 2017, Schultz is a sure-handed, rarely utilized pass-catcher who could help move chains as a late-progression weapon.
Here’s a look at various scouting reports on Schultz.
A two-year starter at Stanford, Schultz lined up inline, wing and in the slot and was groomed in David Shaw’s pro-style offense – since Shaw took over as head coach, Stanford has produced four tight ends drafted in the first four rounds (Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo, Austin Hooper).
Before moving to tight end in high school, Schultz was raised as an offensive lineman and that competitive mentality is evident, but his limited inline power and hip snap hurt his sustain skills. Although he was underutilized as a pass-catcher in the Cardinal run-first attack (never finished better than fifth on the team in catches in a season), he has dependable ball skills to finish in a crowd.
In the mold of several Stanford tight ends before him, Schultz lacks a true distinguishing trait with ordinary athleticism and strength, but he is assignment sound, tough and can be an asset for a NFL offense.
One-Year Projection: He should contribute as a second/third tight end that cycles in as a receiver, and can be a consistent option in the passing game and on special teams. He was not asked to work a diverse route tree in the deep part of the field, but he projects well as a deep threat with the traits he showed in the pass game at other levels of the field.
Three-Year Projection: By year three Schultz should be a solid starter if he can improve his hand placement and timing, along with his body/hip positioning on pins/reach blocks. He doesn’t have noticeable physical limitations to his run blocking, just technical areas to refine. His athleticism and toughness should also allow for strong special team production.
Schultz would fit best in a Gap or Inside Zone based run scheme where he would not need to consistently utilize reach blocks or work blocks using excessive lateral agility, as his hip and hand placement really suffered in these instances. In the pass game he fits best on a team that works him to all levels of the field to maximize his athletic ability and route running, but he did not show the mental processing to consistently work option routes and defeat zone coverage.
In this series, Cowboys Wire will be counting down the days until the regular season opener against the Carolina Panthers with a profile of the player whose jersey number matches the days remaining. On June 16, 86 days remain. Next up, No. 85 Noah Brown.