Predicting what the Dallas Cowboys will do in the NFL Draft is always difficult when you throw in the “wheelin’ and dealin'” of owner Jerry Jones. The only thing that is predictable is that Jones will probably be unpredictable. But the calming influence of new Head Coach Jason Garrett had more predictable effect on last year’s draft. With only one exception: DeMarco Murray. The drafting of a running back in the third round raised some eyebrows in Cowboy Nation. Could the duo of Jones and Garrett be looking to make a similar splash this year? And at that very same position perhaps?
It appears that an abundant crop of talented and underrated running backs will be available in the 2012 draft. With names like Alabama’s Trent Richardson, Miami’s Lamar Miller, Washington’s Chris Polk, Virgina Tech’s David Wilson, and Oregon’s LaMichael James all topping the list.
Dallas’ drafting of Murray last year was more about value than need. Garrett was downright “giddy” that Murray fell to them in the third round after the Cowboys evaluated and graded him as a first round talent. With the success of the 2011 draft class, I expect the Cowboys to have a similar philosophy going into this year’s draft. That could mean another running back in mix with Murray, Felix Jones, Phillip Tanner and Chauncey Washington, all of whom are on the current roster for 2012. Here’s another reason why the Cowboys might draft a running back this year: Jones will be an unrestricted free agent in 2013.
The Cowboys also have a need for a proper kick returner. Last year Kevin Ogletree, Felix Jones and Dwayne Harris handled most of those duties. That bodes well for some of the projected later round running backs. Players like Florida’s Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps could both fit that mold. Dallas also likes to pick players out of it’s own backyard. Running backs like Texas A&M’s Cyrus Gray or North Texas’ Lance Dunbar could also be on their radar.
Obviously, team workouts and the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine will go a long way in determining a player’s draft value. But if the Cowboys are on the clock and they think an undervalued quality player is on the board, regardless of position, it seems Dallas is not afraid pull the trigger. And with the current group of running backs available, Murray and Jones just might find the backfield a little more cramped than usual next season.