The Dallas Cowboys draft choices this year comes down to the mindset of the team as they enter the 2016 NFL season. There are two ways of thinking here when it comes to draft picks. The first is that the Cowboys were one tough play away from the NFC Championship two seasons ago, and if not for Tony Romo and Dez Bryant falling to injury in 2015, they might have made it back. The other mode of thinking is that the team needs to look at fixing problems long-term in this year’s draft.
To fix the Cowboys long-term, there are two fantastic defensive players available in the 2016 NFL Draft, and one or both of them will be available to the Cowboys as the fourth pick in the draft. They are Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey. However, if the Cowboys want to patch up one problem area and try to win now, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is the player they have to draft, and the Dallas Morning News reported that Dallas is very high on the talented running back in this year’s draft class.
Dallas Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones said he thought that Elliott was one of the top players in the 2016 NFL Draft. Jones even said that he is someone whom the Cowboys are looking at.
“I think he’s worthy of being in the top 10 for sure. Where we ultimately end up with him is still a work in progress. He’s obviously a very quality type player and seems like he’s pretty much universally looked at as a guy who deserves to be in that category.”
The problem is that many fans and NFL executives have started to dismiss the value of running backs when it comes to the draft. Only six running backs went in the top 10 in the NFL Draft in the last 10 years. Of those, only Adrian Peterson became a true difference maker, although Todd Gurley showed signs in 2015 that he could be a playmaker as well. Another of those top 10 draft picks is Darren McFadden, who at the age of 28 is the Cowboys starter at the moment for 2016.
The fact is that running backs are more valuable than people today seem to give them credit for. Two years ago when Dallas was on the verge of the NFC Championship appearance, they made it as far as they did thanks to DeMarco Murray, the NFC Offensive Player of the Year. Murray ran for 1,845 yards, leading the NFL by a long shot, and also caught 57 passes for 416 yards. He scored 13 touchdowns and was a great blocker for the Cowboys when it came to picking up blitzes.
Last year, when Dallas had one of the worst records in the NFL, they started the season with Joseph Randle as their starter. Randle ran for 315 yards and four touchdowns before the Cowboys waived him for off-field problems. McFadden replaced him and ran for 1,089 yards and three touchdowns. It is also important to note that Romo was injured twice last season due to lack of protection, specifically on blitzes, which none of the Cowboys running backs were good at picking up.
The problem is that the NFL is cutting what they pay to running backs, which hurts the market. It means that the Cowboys can offer running backs less money and that often costs them someone like DeMarco Murray, who felt disrespected and left Dallas for the Philadelphia Eagles last season.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones discussed the new value of running backs in the draft with ESPN. From the way Jones talked, picking someone like Ezekiel Elliott in the draft is something that makes more financial sense than paying a free agent with four years or more of NFL hits in his body.
“You measure what kind of value you’re getting under the cap cause these top picks are a lot less than what they used to be in terms of what they counted toward your cap and you measure it as to what a top player might be making if you had to go out and get him in free agency. So, you know, at the end of the day, obviously, you’ve seen that running back market come back rather than move forward.”
When the 2016 NFL Draft starts on Thursday night, Dallas has a big choice to make. They can take one or two players that will immediately improve their defense, or they can take the one player that can help them win in 2016. If the first Dallas Cowboys draft pick is Ezekiel Elliott, they are going all in to win this season.
[Photo by Darron Cummings/AP Images]