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Eatman: Lessons Should Be Learned By Drafting Felix

Posted May 14, 2013


I can remember exactly what was happening here on Draft day in 2008 when the Cowboys were on the clock with the 22nd pick in the first round.

Trying to get a story out as soon as possible, I was nearly done with five-paragraph story on the team taking Rashad Mendenhall, who had fallen to this spot. The Cowboys clearly wanted a back and he figured to be the best guy on the board.

Of course, they took Felix Jones, and we all know what happened there. Obviously, taking Jones over Mendenhall wasn’t a big deal. Neither has lived up to expectations.

But the Cowboys and Steelers, who took Mendenhall with the next pick at No. 23, have had to live with the fact Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles have been so successful and were all taken after the Cowboys’ selection of Jones.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here as Felix Jones has now moved on to the Eagles, signing a one-year deal: The Cowboys didn’t make a mistake in evaluating Felix. Their mistake was how they evaluated Marion Barber.

Remember in 2008, the Cowboys signed Barber to a seven-year deal worth $45 million. They obviously pegged him as their back of the future for years to come. Felix was drafted to provide a change of pace on offense and help with kickoff returns, where he was a two-time All-American at Arkansas.

I can say I watched nearly every snap Felix had in college and he was one of the more breathtaking players of his time with his ability to score from any spot on the field. When he had the ball in his hands, you just thought he would score.

And when he started off with the Cowboys, scoring three touchdowns in his first three games, Felix Jones seemed like the perfect draft pick. But once Barber got banged up and now it forced Felix, the first-round draft pick, into the starting lineup, everything changed.

Over the next few years, Felix never could get at a comfortable playing weight. In 2009, he was actually listed at 220 while Barber was 212. The quick, shifty, home-run hitter was putting on pounds to be an every-down back while the big, bruiser was shedding pounds so he wouldn’t a one-dimensional goal-line back.

Barber had the big contract. Felix had the first-round status. Neither one of them were living up to the expectations go along with such monikers.

Here we are five years later and neither of them are with the Cowboys. Barber is out of the league and I’ll say it goes as a mild surprise that Felix signed with another team. There is no guarantee he will be playing this season.

The point to it all … the Cowboys should’ve never drafted a role player in the first round. Felix wasn’t a starter in college. They didn’t think he would be one in the pros. And he wasn’t.

And maybe the Cowboys have learned from that. If you look at these draft picks over the last few years, they don’t always make perfect sense … for this year.

While Travis Frederick will likely start right away, Gavin Escobar is more of a role player now but could eventually replace Jason Witten. Terrance Williams is a third or fourth receiver now but what happens if Miles Austin is no longer here after this year.

Last season, trading up to get Morris Claiborne was surprising because of Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins. Heading into next year, Carr might be the only one still around.

 This team needs to get into the habit of drafting starters for the future and worry less about acquiring role players for today.
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