The Dallas Cowboys should consider drafting a running back with one of their first picks in the 2019 NFL Draft for several reasons.
Although the Dallas Cowboys have had an excellent offseason filling out their roster, there is still one glaring need at backup running back. Last season, starting running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 1,434 yards. As a team, the Cowboys accumulated a total of 1,963 yards, meaning Elliott produced over 73 percent of all yards on the ground.
The backup running back for Dallas last season was Rod Smith, who had 44 carries for 127 yards. Smith is now a free agent, meaning someone needs to replace him.
Not only is it important to draft a solid running back to play behind Ezekiel Elliott this season, but also as an insurance policy in case of injury, or if Elliott is not re-signed after his rookie contract is up. The upcoming 2019 season is the last on his current contract, although there is an option that can be picked up for one additional season.
The Cowboys still need to negotiate new, long-term contracts with quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, cornerback Byron Jones, offensive tackle La’el Collins, and linebacker Jaylon Smith in the near future as well. Will there be enough money to pay all of these players along with Elliott? Although he is arguably the most important player on the currently constructed roster, he also may be the easiest to replace.
Running backs drafted in the mid-rounds of the NFL draft have proven to be extremely productive at the NFL level. For example, in the 2017 NFL draft, the second round produced picks like Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon. In the third round of that same draft, New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, and Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner were selected.
To be clear, it would be ideal to sign Ezekiel Elliott to a long-term deal and continue to run the offense through him for years to come, but an insurance policy in the case that does not happen would be extremely beneficial to Dallas. We all saw what happened with contract negotiations between the Pittsburgh Steelers and their former running back Le’Veon Bell. With the Steelers having a solid backup running back in James Connor, they were able to still have a great offense all season and move forward without one of their best players in Bell.
Considering how often running backs in the NFL get hurt, a reliable backup would prove beneficial if Elliott were to have injuries in the upcoming season, big or small.
If the Dallas Cowboys are able to draft a solid running back with their first or second pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft, that player would double as a reliable backup now as well as an insurance policy for the future. With the Cowboys signing key free agents to bolster their roster in all other positions of need outside running back, they have primed themselves to use an early pick at this position.