Why The Dallas Cowboys Will Pass On A First Round Running Back


When you think about the biggest difference between the Dallas Cowboys’ three straight seasons of 8-8 and missing the playoffs versus finishing 12-4, winning the division, a playoff game and almost making it to the NFC Championship game, the answer is pretty obvious.

It was the commitment to the running game.

Last season, running back DeMarco Murray not only led the league, he set a franchise record for both carries (392) and yards (1,845).

Next season, he’ll be attempting to do that in a Philadelphia Eagles uniform.

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Next season, as it stands right now, those near 400 carries are set to be divided up between running backs Darren McFadden, Joseph RandleLance Dunbar and possibly Ryan Williams.  None of those guys have proven they can handle anything close to that kind of a load.

McFadden has only eclipsed 200 carries twice in his seven year career, each time missing at least three games in the process.  His next highest total is 155.

Randle has 105 carries total in his brief career which may very well soon be at a pause with off the field behavior such as this in the crosshairs of a suddenly image conscious commissioner.  Dunbar and Williams will likely be more concerned with just trying to make the roster, let alone tote the rock.

So, it would stand to reason that the Dallas Cowboys will be looking hard at picking up a running back with the 27th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft three weeks from now.

That would be a mistake.

This is not a knock on the talent level that guys such as Georgia’s Todd Gurley or Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon bring to the table.  I am sure they will each be fine running backs in the league.

The Cowboys just need to let them be that for some other team.

See, you can’t have it both ways.  If you were in the “let DeMarco go because the offensive line made him” camp or the “don’t overvalue the running back position” camp, then you can’t be begging for the Cowboys to use a first round pick on a running back either.

For all of those who kept banging the drum earlier this offseason about what “good teams do” when it comes to roster management and how they spend their money, don’t forget this one either.

Good teams do not miss on their first round picks.

Unfortunately, those that have taken a running back in the first round have largely done just that.  Since 2008, fifteen running backs have been chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft…

  • Five of those backs are now out of football completely, including a guy many of you know very well.  Former Cowboy Felix Jones was selected 22nd overall in 2008.
  • Another two are currently free agents who will be fortunate to even get a camp invite somewhere.
  • Six of those backs have already played for two or more teams.  That includes three who have only been in the league for four years or less.  Talk about buyer’s remorse.
  • Six of those backs have started less than half the games they have played in.
  • Only two have averaged over 200+ carries per year, one is retired and the other is a free agent.

Out of fifteen guys, only Chris Johnson, formerly of the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets could be considered worthy of the draft spot he was selected at.  He is the only one of the entire group to have over 5,000 career rushing yards, over 40 touchdowns or ever be named an All-Pro.

The rest barely can contend with whoever else is on their teams to be the starter.

It’s no shock that teams have stopped utilizing first round picks on the position.  There has not been a running back taken in the first round in two straight drafts.

Of the top fifteen leading rushers last season, only two were drafted in round one.  Five were chosen in round two, another three were chosen in round three and two went completely undrafted.

Beyond the failures of past picks, this year’s draft class is loaded at the running back position.  Guys like Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Boise State’s Jay Ajayi, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon or Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah could all still be available when Dallas picks 60th in round two.

There is also that persistent rumor that still has legs to it that a certain guy who wears a purple uniform and plays in a cold weather city may be trying to get himself back “home” to Texas.

Lastly, Gurley and Gordon may not even last all the way to the 27th pick given that there are other teams with running back needs picking higher than the Cowboys.  Trading up for either of those two would be a complete failure as there are many needs still to be filled on this team besides just running back.

It all points to the Cowboys continuing the theme of patience and intelligent maneuvers as it pertains to building this roster for the future.  Address the needs on defense, get your back in round two or three, depending on how the draft is playing out and maintain the process.

It is exactly what “good teams” would do.

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