Rookie Edition: Turner is a Red Zone Dynamo | Washington Commanders
By Adam Aniba
Heading into the NFL Draft, tight end was position that lacked much star power. In fact, the first TE wasn't drafted until the 2nd round (55 overall) when the Cardinals selected Colorado State's Trey McBride.
Washington has been in the market for tight end depth, after Logan Thomas went down with an ACL injury after only 6 games in '21. Last year's 4th round selection (124th overall) John Bates, has a ton of upside as a traditional tight end, but Ron Rivera decided to invest in the position again in this year's draft.
With pick #149 in the 5th round, Washington selected Nevada tight end Cole Turner. The University of Nevada pass catcher finished the '21 season with 10 TDs (tied for #1 in the nation at the position)
6'6" 246 lbs | TE | Nevada
Career (26 games) 117 rec for 1,370 yds & 20 tds with a 9.3 per rec avg
2021 (11 games) 62 rec for 667 yds & 5 tds with a 8.6 yds per rec avg
Turner attended Clackamas HS in Oregon where he starred as a dual-sport athlete in basketball and football. During his senior season, Turner was the most talked about receiver prospect in the state of Oregon in '17. Turner led all other receivers in the state with 76 receptions for 1,325 yards and 20 TDs.
Turner helped guide his team to three strait conference titles and a State Championship. The Clackamas senior received 1st-Team All-State honors, along with multiple selections to the 1st Team All-League in football & basketball. Turner, received offers from Oregon State and Nevada, ultimately choosing to ;eave home and play for the Wolf Pack.
Turner ultimately switched to tight end at Nevada, but only recorded 6 total receptions (1 TD) during the course of his freshman and sophomore seasons. In '20, Turner's role expanded and he became a chain mover on 3rd and long situations. He emerged as QB Carson Strong's top red zone option, connecting on 9 TDs in '20 and 10 more TDs in '21.
Big bodied target that utilizes every bit of his 6"6 frame when boxing out defenders
Feasted on 3rd down passing situations and was a the go-too jump ball target in many goal line situations
Strong hands with ability to make acrobatic adjustments for the reception
Although not a burner, as a longstrider can get
Displayed the ability to break off routes, gibing his QB a saferty blanket when plays broke down
Although not a good pass blocker, excels in pass pro
Less than ideal speed, issues gaining separation at times allowing DB's/LB's to mirror him too often (4.76 sec forty time)
Limited overall production (only active in 6 games as a freshman & sophomore)
Needs to fight through coverage better, tendency to get knocked off his route
Issues as a run blocker, needs to work on leverage
Although effective in the red zone, needs to get stronger
Limited route tree experience
Washington could very well have had, one of the best 5th round nights of any team in this draft. First UNC QB Sam Howell fell to them and then Turner after that, which represented tremendous value at that point in the draft.
Turner has a wide catch radius and strong hands to bring down, tough contested 50/50 balls receptions. He also displays impressive situational field awareness, when coming down with his feet in bounds with back of the end zone catches in particular.
During the post draft presser with the local media, Ron Rivera had the following to say, when asked his thoughts on the selection of the Nevada tight end.
"Cole Turner, I think, is going to wow a lot of guys"
Turner won't have the pressure to produce immediately. Thomas is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab and coaches are encouraged by John Bates progression as a pass catcher. Fans should expect a more balanced offensive attack in '22, with more weapons added to aid new QB Carson Wentz.
The former Wolf Pack tight end, will likely gradually be eased into red zone passing situations. His ability in pass pro, could lead to more early season snaps, sooner rather than later. It's undeniable that Turner has a knack for making big time catches, in big time moments.
In previous seasons, Washington has been predicable with the usage of their tight ends. It was obvious to most fans, based on personnel, what was going to happen in run/pass situations. With a 3-headed monster at tight end featuring Thomas, Bates and Turner, this offense now has the size to impose their will in the red zone.
*Games Watched- 9/4/21 vs Cal, 9/11 Idaho St, 9/18 vs KSU, 10/2 vs BSU, 10/9 vs NMS, 10/16 vs HU, 10/23 vs FSU, 10/29 vs UNLV, 11/6 vs San Jose St, 11/13 vs SD State, 11/19 vs Air Force & 11/27 vs CSU
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