Former NFL superstar’s comments are painful reminder of Cowboys’ 2008 draft
By Jerry Trotta
Remember the good old days when NFL teams wouldn’t think twice about drafting a running back in the first round? Gone are the days of teams like the Dallas Cowboys taking a surefire superstar like Ezekiel Elliott No. 4 overall, and the Giants making Saquon Barkley the second pick.
In 2022, not a single RB went in the first round. That could happen again this year, though Texas phenom Bijan Robinson — whose college film has been likened to Elliott, Barkley and Todd Gurley — could break the trend come April.
In 2021, only Najee Harris and Travis Etienne were off the board in the first 32 picks. In 2020, the Chiefs made Clyde Edwards-Helaire the only first-round running back. It’s no longer a premium position given its shortened shelf life, and the fact you can get an impact back at any point in the draft.
Back in 2008, though, RBs flew off the board in the first round. Darren McFadden famously went fourth overall, and the Panthers took Jonathan Stewart at No. 13 overall. The Cowboys made Arkansas’ Felix Jones the third RB with the No. 21 pick; a mere two spots before Tennessee drafted Chris Johnson.
Suffice it to say Dallas played their cards wrong with that pick, and Johnson’s comments about wanting to be a Cowboy only punctuate the pain.
Try watching this clip without getting angry.
Former NFL superstar Chris Johnson wanted to go to the Cowboys in the 2008 draft.
That hurts … a lot.
Jones never became a workhorse back with the Cowboys. His best season came in 2010 when he started seven games. That year, he racked up 800 rushing yards on 4.3 yards per attempt, and 450 receiving yards on 48 catches. Aside from that, he never finished a season with more than 700 rushing yards. He was ultimately recognized as the change-of-pace back behind the late Marion Barber.
Jones played out his rookie contract with the Cowboys, and signed with the Steelers before the 2013 season, which was his last in the NFL.
Johnson, on the other hand, was an instant superstar. He rushed for 1,228 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie. He was named to the Pro Bowl, finished second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, and incredibly finished seventh on the MVP ballot.
Johnson’s 2009 season was one of the best the NFL has seen from a running back. He compiled 2,006 yards on the ground to go with 14 touchdowns (both led the league). He logged the most carries and still finished tops with 5.6 yards per attempt. He was fittingly named Offensive Player of the Year.
Johnson never quite reached those heights again, but he eclipsed 1,000 yards at an efficient clip for the next four seasons before his decline.
It’s easy to say in hindsight, but just imagine those Cowboys teams with Johnson in the backfield. How about the 2009 team that finished 11-5 only to get steamrolled by the Vikings in the Divisional Round?
No sense crying over spilled milk, but man, would it have been fun if Dallas drafted Johnson over Jones. The fact the former All-Pro wanted to become a Cowboy out of college makes it that much more painful.