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Could Pollard Be The Cowboys' Biggest Pick?


FRISCO, Texas – Every team in the NFL spent Saturday night lighting victory cigars and toasting to a draft class that will help them win a Super Bowl. Only a handful of them will be right.

The Cowboys are no different. They just completed a 12-month process, culminating in the selection of some of their most coveted prospects. They should be elated, even if we don't know for sure how their decisions will pan out.

In reviewing their draft class, one such decision stands out above the rest – and if it works out the way they think it will, it could change the entire dynamic of their offense.

With all due to respect to Trysten Hill and Connor McGovern, even dominant linemen don't move the needle the way that skill players do. That's why the selection of Memphis running back Tony Pollard at No. 128 jumps off the page a little bit.

And when you hear the Cowboys' ideas about what Pollard could do for that offense, that intrigue becomes excitement.

"It's a little unfair -- he's certainly not at that level, don't get me wrong – but a little Kamara to him, as to how he complements Ingram down in New Orleans," said team chief operating officer Stephen Jones on Saturday night.

Obviously, that comparison should make anyone sit up in their seat. The Saints traded up to draft Kamara No. 67 overall back in 2017, and he has been a two-time Pro Bowler and an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

More interesting than the talent is the way the Saints use Kamara. He lines up all over the offense, offering a versatile complement to the traditional running game. In two seasons in New Orleans, he's averaging 157 carries per season – but also 81 receptions.

To hear it from Jones, that could be what the Cowboys are getting in Pollard.

"Obviously, he's got to come in here and show it, but he can do a lot of things," he said. "He can play flyer on special teams, he can return kicks, he can do all that. But what excites me the most is his home run threat as a running back."

This is the part of the story where it would be smart to emphasize the optimism of NFL front offices at this time of year. It was this exact weekend a year ago when Jones outlined a similar plan for newly-acquired receiver Tavon Austin.

"I think we can get him the ball — I don't want to speak for Jason, but I think we can get him the ball a dozen, twenty, two dozen times a game. And then you throw the return game on top of it and I think it's somebody we can really utilize," Jones said at the time.

Injuries were part of it, but Austin never realized that potential. He played in nine total games last season, averaging 3.5 touches per outing. Across all categories – receiving, rushing and returns – he tallied just 328 all-purpose yards, along with two touchdowns.

Suffice to say, it's fair to be skeptical of any proposed plans for an all-purpose player.

Still, it's hard not to feel intrigued by Jones' confidence. Pollard was a return man and also caught 104 passes during his college career, but the Cowboys seem convinced that he can handle the duties of a traditional running back.

"I think this guy can be a lot different than just a space player," Jones said. "There are guys who are convicted in our room. There are some guys who are a little more worried that you can't give him too much. But Pollard is a real running back. I think he can give you plays between the tackles, I think he can give you plays as a true running back."

The Cowboys probably need both if they're going to improve their explosiveness under first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The Cowboys clearly wanted to improve the depth behind Ezekiel Elliott, and they accomplished that by drafting both Pollard and fellow Ohio State alum Mike Weber.

But whereas Weber employs a comparable skill set to the All-Pro Elliott, Pollard could be useful as both a backup and a complement – if Moore and the Cowboys' coaching staff can strike that balance.

To hear it from Jones, though, that is definitely the plan. The Cowboys seem convinced that fullback Jamize Olawale can handle some running back duties if need be. With that in mind, it sounds far more plausible that Pollard will be able to get into a uniform on game day.

"I just think this is a guy who's going to be the right guy when you dress two backs," Jones said. "With 'Maze, you're going to have three guys up on the 46 and they're going to make all the sense. If Zeke gets hurt, you're going to need Batman and Robin, and that's when a guy like Weber can come in and do the job."

Again, it bears repeating that plans made in April often don't come to fruition in August and September. But the Cowboys clearly have big things in mind for Tony Pollard. And if he repays that confidence, it could be a big deal for the Dallas offense.