The Washington Commanders added to their tight end room in Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft by taking Nevada's Cole Turner. Here are five things you need to know about the former member of the Wolfpack, presented by Grubhub.
1. He ended his high school career as the best receiver in Oregon.
Turner didn't start out as a tight end. He started his playing career as a receiver for Clackamas High School in Clackamas, Oregon, where he also played basketball.
But he wasn't just a talented two-sport athlete; he was the best receiver in the state.
Turner put a bow on his time in high school with 76 receptions totaling 1,325 yards and 20 touchdowns, which led the entire state of Oregon in 2017. That led to a plethora of accolades, including all-lead and all-state honors that season.
Turner also helped his team claim a state title, which went along with three conference titles. He remained at receiver for his first two seasons at Nevada before switching to tight end, but he still relied on those skills. That leads us to the next point…
2. He feasts on red zone targets.
Turner was a problem for defenses, particularly in the red zone. Once he switched to tight end, he racked up 19 touchdowns, 10 of which came during the 2021 season.
Most of those scores came when the Wolfpack needed to finish drives with points on the board.
"The field gets shorter, and you've got to be able to win one-on-one and catch the ball in tight situations," Turner said. "And I feel like those are two things that I do best."
And there were few tight ends in college football who were better at scoring in the red zone than Turner. In 2020, he and Kyle Pitts tied for second with eight red zone scores, and in 2021, six of his touchdowns were from 17 yards or fewer.
The Commanders ranked 26th in scoring red zone touchdowns last year. Having Turner part of the offense should allow them to bump those numbers up.
3. He's been praised for his catch radius.
There's a lot to like about Turner, from his ability to track deep balls to his athleticism. That trait that attracted the Commanders' coaches the most, though, is his catch radius.
"He's a guy that's a big target, he's got a tremendous catch radius, runs good routes and knows how to separate at the right time," said Ron Rivera.
That started sticking out to the coaches while watching film on the Wolfpack's quarterback, Carson Strong. Strong was initially on the Commanders' radar, but as they continued to watch him, they noticed that Turner kept standing out.
And there were some flashes of another tight end Rivera has coached before.
"I'm not saying he is, but he reminded me of [Former Carolina Panthers Tight End] Greg Olson when the ball was in his area and he was covered," Rivera said. "He had the ability to separate using his body, keeping himself between the defender and the ball."
4. He was inspired to play football by his father.
Turner has always wanted to be where he's at now, which is making a name for himself at the NFL level. It's a dream he's had for his entire life, going all the way to his childhood, when he looked up to his father, Kelly Turner.
"Football's been running in my family for a long time," Turner told Nevada Sports Net. "My dad and my uncle were always on me growing up. They helped me out so much. Just the knowledge of the game and understanding situations and just little tips. I talk to them before and after every single game. So having a dad that did it and my uncle and some people around me that I've always done it."
Kelly, who played at Purdue in the late 1980s, was hesitant to let Cole play football until the sixth grade, but it was clear that he couldn't wait that long.
"He begged me to let him play in fifth grade," Kelly told Clackamas News. "That's when I knew that he really wanted to do it."
Turner obviously went on to have a successful career at Nevada before being taken by the Commanders. He's already surpassed what Kelly was able to accomplish with his career, but based on how he responded when Turner signed with the Wolfpack, he doesn't have a problem with it at all.
"It really takes my breath away. You can show kids what's available to them if they really want it, but it's up to them to really chase their dreams."
5. He's ready to contribute immediately.
Rivera believes Turner gives the Commanders a more complete tight end room, but there's a chance he'll have to contribute sooner with Logan Thomas’ timetable still undetermined.
If Turner is presented with that opportunity, he wouldn't have a problem with it.
"I think I'm a guy who can come in immediately and help out in the pass game, in the red zone," Turner said. "Come help move the chains on third down. I kind of think that's where my skills are. That's where I kind of excel."
It would certainly give Carson Wentz another target on top of Jahan Dotson, Terry McLaurin and the rest of the Commanders' pass-catchers. Wentz is known to work well with bigger receivers, and with his 6-foot-6, 242-pound frame, he fits that description.
Turner should at least get more snaps while Thomas continues to heal. It'll be a chance to show just how much he can add to the Commanders' offense.
"It's gonna be very intriguing as we watch the development and growth of these players from this point until we get into the season," Rivera said.