Could Cowboys' promising UDFA signing close door on Ezekiel Elliott reunion?

North Dakota State   s Hunter Luepke carries the ball on Saturday, September 24, 2022, at the
North Dakota State s Hunter Luepke carries the ball on Saturday, September 24, 2022, at the / Erin Woodiel / Argus Leader / USA TODAY

After the 2023 NFL Draft, Jerry Jones bizarrely stated the ship hasn't sailed on a potential reunion with Ezekiel Elliott.

While that's not an overly outlandish statement given the Dallas Cowboys didn't spend a high draft pick on a running back, they still selected Deuce Vaughn in the sixth round as the highest player on their board. The team clearly values Vaughn and envisions him having a distinct role within the offense.

Of course, the undersized Vaughn doesn't project as a like-for-like Elliott replacement. The Cowboys still lack some thunder in their current backs. Free agent pickup Ronald Jones is arguably the most physical runner on the depth chart.

While Dallas prioritized adding speed, there will come a time during games when smash-mouth football is required to move the chains or bleed out the clock in the fourth quarter. Elliott would be a star in that role.

But what about UDFA signing Hunter Luepke? Could the North Dakota State product's arrival shut the door on Elliott re-signing in Dallas?

Could Hunter Luepke assume an Ezekiel Elliott-like role in the Cowboys offense?

The Cowboys assembled (another) strong UDFA class, and Luepke is arguably the biggest standout of the group. Luepke received $200,000 guaranteed from Dallas, which speaks to how excited they are about him as a prospect.

It's way too early to talk about the 53-man roster, but it wouldn't be shocking if the Cowboys went with Luepke over Malik Davis and Rico Dowdle. Dowdle might make the team for special teams purposes, but Luepke gives them power and a punishing running style they don't have after Elliott's departure.

Though the former Bison could be a menace in short-yardage situations, it'd be foolish to classify him as a one-trick pony. In a testament to his versatility, Luepke rushed for 619 yards and nine touchdowns on 98 carries (6.31 yards per attempt) last year and caught 14 passes for 196 yards and four scores.

Luepke's blocking needs some work, but we don't envision him in the throwback fullback role. Do the names John Kuhn and Mike Alstott ring a bell? We're not saying he'll reach those heights as an NFL player, but in terms of the role he could have in Dallas' offense, Kuhn and Alstott are two names that spring to mind.

Perhaps 49ers' gem Kyle Juszczyk is the better comparison.

Either way, Luepke is a fantastic athlete (he posted a 9.55 relative athletic score) who's comfortable both carrying and catching the ball out of the backfield. He'd bring an added flavor to the offense and could -- emphasis on could -- be the reason the Cowboys stay the course and move forward without Elliott.

Next. Stacked 2023 class proves Dallas owns undrafted free agency. dark