Cowboys wisely avoid RB bait and take Caelen Carson: Instant grade and analysis

Wake Forest v Louisville
Wake Forest v Louisville / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys had a really strong day one and two of the NFL Draft. The board fell kindly to them in both instances, but day three has been a different story. By the time the Cowboys were up at pick No. 174, they glossed over a running back again and selected Wake Forest cornerback Caelen Carson.

In desperate need of a running back after glossing over the position with their first four picks, the Cowboys watched a plethora of backs come off the board early in round four. The trend continued in round five and by the time pick No. 174 rolled around, Dallas decided to bolster their cornerback room.

Per ESPN's Todd Archer, the Cowboys considered Carson when they seelcted Cooper Beebe with the No. 73 overall pick. Carson was a third-round prospect in the eyes of many draft analysts so it seems Dallas once again nabbed great value with their pick.

Cowboys NFL Draft grade for Caelen Carson: B-

Let's face facts: cornerback was a need for the Cowboys. Their rotation consists of Trevon Diggs, who's coming off a torn ACL, DaRon Bland and Jourdan Lewis. 2023 sixth-round pick Eric Scott Jr. is on the roster, but he wasn't active for a single game as a rookie. Meanwhile, Nahshon Wright played just 50 defensive snaps last year in 12 games. He was reduced to a special teams role.

Carson doesn't boast great long speed, but he has great closing speed when helping defend the running game and he's a strong tackler. It's no secret that Mike Zimmer loves cornerbacks who pack a punch against the run and Carson checks that box with room to spare.

It's worth noting that Carson was the No. 110 player on Pro Football Focus' big board. That doesn't make him a great pick, but it does lend some insight into the value the Cowboys got in the former Demon Deacon.

Carson loves to play physical during routes and he uses his length to disrupt passes at the point of attack. He can get handsy with receivers on deep routes, so he'll struggle when isolated in coverage against speedy wideouts. Zimmer will know where and where not to play him, however.

Zimmer might only have a one-year contract, but the Cowboys sure are going out of their way to select players who fit his mold. Carson is the latest to join the Zimmer party after Dallas drafted Marshawn Kneeland in round two and Marist Liufau in the third round.

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