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Is Drafting Another Running Back A Possibility?


(Editor's Note: With the NFL Draft fast approaching, is taking a comprehensive look at each position on the roster: free agency additions, departures, and what the draft might hold. Today, the series continues with running back.)

Need Meter (1 lowest, 5 highest): 1

Depth Check: It's about as deep as you could expect. The obvious centerpiece is the $15 million man, Ezekiel Elliott. You can argue all day about the pros and cons of paying a running back, but it's hard to deny Elliott's productivity and availability since entering the league. In four seasons, he has played in 59 of 67 possible games. Six of those absences were due to his contentious 2017 suspension, while the other two were healthy scratches. He's averaging 292 carries and 1,300 yards per season and doesn't seem to be slowing down.

Behind him, the front office may have struck gold with the perfect complementary back. Tony Pollard was underutilized in his first pro season, but he still managed to rush for 455 yards and catch another 15 passes for 107 yards. His versatility as Elliott's primary backup is awfully enticing.

After that, there's Jamize Olawale. The Cowboys picked up the option on the veteran fullback's contract this spring, which means he'll be in place for two more seasons. Olawale hasn't touched the ball often as a member of the Cowboys, but he does have 96 career touches and could tote the rock if need required it.

Prospect Preview: This could be the first time in six years we don't see a running back drafted in the first round – but that doesn't mean there's no talent in this class. Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins, Georgia's D'Andre Swift and Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor all look like NFL difference makers. Perhaps one of them could go at the tail end of the first round, but it's definitely not a sure bet.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys had a virtual draft interview with Clyde Edwards-Helaire. It's hard to imagine them drafting the LSU standout, given that he'll likely be drafted in the first 60 picks, though that shouldn't stop them from doing their due diligence.

If the Cowboys wanted to sign a Day 3 running back to add to the competition, like they did with Mike Weber last year, they'll have options. Arizona State's Eno Benjamin, Florida's Lamical Perine, Boston College's A.J. Dillon and Miami's Deejay Dallas are names worth knowing.

The bottom line is that it's hard to imagine the Cowboys addressing the position until the later rounds of the draft.

Memorable Pick: Throughout its history, this organization has had some outstanding luck finding running backs.

The obvious example for 2020 is Emmitt Smith, who was selected in 1990 with the No. 17 overall pick – the same first-round pick the Cowboys hold in this year's draft. That feels like a heck of a bargain in retrospect, given that Smith eventually played 13 years for the Cowboys, becoming the NFL's all-time rushing leader, one of the faces of the team's 1990s dynasty and an eventual Hall of Famer.

There have been too many other successes to list. Tony Dorsett was taken No. 2 overall in 1977 and turned out a Hall of Fame career of his own, most of it coming in his 11 years with the Cowboys. Calvin Hill, drafted No. 24 overall in 1969, was a four-time Pro Bowler in six years with the team. Duane Thomas, drafted No. 23 overall in 1970, was a vital part of the team's first championship in 1971. Obviously, Elliott – the No. 4 overall pick in 2016 – is on an impressive trajectory of his own.

It's not even just the top-tier picks. Walt Garrison, Herschel Walker, Marion Barber and DeMarco Murray are just a handful of the success stories the Cowboys have found after the first round of the draft.

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