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Cole Turner adds another dimension to Commanders' TE room

It isn't hard for Cole Turner to stand out among the rest of the Washington Commanders' draft class with his long, curly locks or the fact that he towers over people with his 6-foot-6 frame.

It also doesn't help that the offensive coaches keep gushing over how much he's going to bring to the offense.

"Cole Turner is gonna 'wow' a lot of guys just because of his athleticism," Ron Rivera said during rookie minicamp.

It's similar to how most have spoken about the former Nevada tight end, who was a strong red zone target for the Wolfpack with 19 touchdowns in his final two seasons. Turner credits that success to his background as a receiver, and it's what has Scott Turner so excited about what he can bring to the position.

"He's a guy that can get down the field, and he's a big target," Scott told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson.

For someone who became so important to Nevada's offense -- the Wolfpack has boasted a Top 3 unit in the Mountain West for the last two seasons -- it's surprising that Turner has only been a tight end for two seasons. He wrapped up his high school career by leading the state of Oregon with 76 receptions for 1,325 yards.

After quiet freshman and sophomore seasons with Nevada, Turner made the switch to tight end and saw his production explode. In his first two seasons, Turner had six catches for 88 yards; once he made the transition, he accounted for a combined 1,283 yards in 2020 and 2021.

"This is a dynamic pass catcher," Rivera said. "He's played in a spread style offense. 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."

The experience Turner gained as a receiver helps in that area. "I've been catching balls ever since I first stepped on a football field," Turner said during rookie minicamp, so working in space and using his size to his advantage has always been second nature to him.

"I think it helps just being able to see coverage," Turner said of his receiver background. "It's something that I've always seen. Winning one-on-one matchups, it's easier to beat linebackers and safeties one-on-one…instead of playing corners, where that's their main job."

It also helps against footwork. Turner was normally matched up against defenders who were smaller and quicker than him, so he had to match that speed.

"I think I kept that same mindset moving to tight end," he said.

Clearly, a lot of the traits Turner used as a receiver translated to tight end, and the Commanders' coaches got to see that first hand in a private workout. The biggest area that stood out, though, was his immense catch radius.

"He can adjust, he can go get the ball up over his head," Scott Turner said. "He can lay out for it and adjust behind him. He just has a feel for running routes, because that's what he did."

That's exactly why Rivera named Turner as the most intriguing member of the Commanders' eight-player class.

"You saw this trim in his catch radius from a tight end," Rivera said. "And so that's what's very intriguing about this and 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."

With Turner, the Commanders have a versatile group of tight ends who can fill any role, although Logan Thomas’ return from injury is still undetermined. If he's not ready for a Week 1 debut, that could mean Turner will need to use that ability as a pass-catcher more often than expected.

Turner won't be shying away from that possibility, either.

"When you need a catch…in a contested situation, you come to me," Turner said. "So I love that part of my game."

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