With the breaking news on Wednesday that Dallas Cowboys’ third-year running back Joseph Randle was arrested for the second time in four months, fans and pundits alike have been wondering if the Cowboys’ offensive backfield could look very different in 2015.
With starting running back, and the NFL’s leading rusher in 2014, DeMarco Murray‘s future in Dallas currently in limbo due to free agency, and Randle’s latest run-in with the law, remaining on the depth chart are a restricted free agent in Lance Dunbar and a practice squad player in Ryan Williams.
Although the immediate future of the offense’s backfield is unknown, an area where the Cowboys could certainly look to sure up their running back position is in the upcoming NFL Draft. And according to ESPN Draft Analyst Todd McShay, that’s exactly what he predicts the Cowboys will do with their first round pick in his latest mock draft.
With the 27th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select…
Jan 1, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon (25) stiff arms Auburn Tigers defensive back Johnathan Ford (23) during the first half in the 2015 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin
Here is McShay’s explanation of the selection by the Cowboys:
"“Re-signing both WR Dez Bryant and RB DeMarco Murray is going to be awfully difficult for Dallas this offseason, and if the Cowboys need to let one go, it’s likelier to be the running back turning 27 years old who has an injury history. Murray has been great, but it’s easier to find effective running backs (especially behind Dallas’ offensive line) than it is to find elite receivers like Bryant. Gordon’s running style is very similar to Murray’s; he runs hard, is a work horse, gets from 0 to 60 in a flash and shows great vision and patience as a runner. He isn’t great in pass protection or as a receiver, but he’s getting better. The other positions Dallas needs to address this offseason are cornerback, D-line, tight end and receiver (depending upon how Bryant’s situation works out).”"
Looking at Gordon’s numbers at Wisconsin last year, it’s shocking. He recorded an amazing 2,587 rushing yards on 7.5 yards per carry and 29 touchdowns in 14 games. That’s a mind-boggling 185 rushing yards per game average.
Obviously, the Cowboys have bigger issues on the defensive side of the ball. But if both Murray and Randle are allowed or forced to leave this offseason, the running back position certainly rockets itself to the top of Dallas’ needs list.
Still, I think a better option for the Cowboys to address this void is in free agency or via a trade. Veterans backs like Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram have both been rumored as possible targets this offseason.
Although I do believe Gordon is the best running back in this draft class, the Cowboys have had recent success finding gems in the later rounds. Murray was selected in the third round out of Oklahoma in 2011. While Randle was selected in the fifth out of Oklahoma State. And Dunbar was a undrafted free agent out of North Texas.
My point being: spending a first round pick on the running back position is too high a price to pay, even for a player like Gordon. Those top picks should be reserved for the Cowboys’ defense this year, who currently succeed through collective effort more than pure talent. That scale needs to balance out more if the Cowboys’ are going to have a deep playoff run in 2015.