Cowboys reportedly chose between Marist Liufau, MarShawn Lloyd, Jaylen Wright in 3rd round

The pick was always going to be a reach.

Given that the Dallas Cowboys did not have a fourth-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft we all knew that whoever they chose in the third round (number 87 overall) was going to be a unique choice in that it had to be someone they absolutely needed to have.

The first Cowboys pick on Sunday did not come until the fifth round (number 174 overall) which made 87 unique as noted. For the most part we saw the Cowboys prioritize value during each selection throughout the draft, but that went out the window a bit at 87 with the team not returning to the clock for coincidentally 87 more selections.

The Cowboys drafted linebacker Marist Liufau out of Notre Dame and doing so cost them the opportunity at other players. Two of those other players have now been named (sort of) and they fit the position that many people wanted to see addressed throughout the draft – running back.

It appears things ultimately came down to Marist Liufau, MarShawn Lloyd or Jaylen Wright for the Cowboys at 87 overall

The Cowboys did not draft a running back at all on draft weekend, but they did bring back Ezekiel Elliott first thing on the Monday morning following it. Elliott’s return feels a little bit like a Cowboys Thing, but the merits of it are valid in a vacuum. Zeke can certainly contribute to a team in 2024 and presuming the Cowboys do not put too much on his plate then the jokes and snickering about it all will all be for not. I recently discussed this overall idea with Kay Adams on her show Up & Adams on Monday if you would like to watch.

But back to the draft, it was the worst-kept secret in the world that Dallas was going to bring Zeke back at some point, and to say that this did not impact the way they approached their process would be naïve.

In some small way, it is possible that the pending Zeke return allowed the Cowboys to prioritize Marist Liufau at number 87 overall and say no thanks to certain running backs like MarShawn Lloyd and Jaylen Wright who went to the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins, respectively. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler those were two players who Dallas was considering at 87.

The Cowboys were working the fringes on running back, one of several needs, but the lack of a fourth-round pick hurt their chances.

The No. 87 pick was a spot where they could have chosen a back, but the Cowboys felt Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau not only addressed another major need but provided the toughness to fit within Mike Zimmer’s defense. Dallas had shown enough pre-draft love to MarShawn Lloyd that the USC tailback (who went to Green Bay at No. 88) thought the Cowboys would be one of the possible teams to draft him.

The Cowboys also really liked Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright, who went No. 120 overall (the 20th pick of the fourth round) to Miami. If the Cowboys had a fourth-rounder and Wright were still available, chances are they would have jumped on him.

Prior to the draft there was all sorts of chatter about Dallas being interested in University of Texas running back Jonathan Brooks who ultimately went to the Carolina Panthers. It is possible that this was true and it is also possible that this was some sort of smokescreen, but Brooks was never making it to the Cowboys as he went 46 overall, before Dallas even took Marshawn Kneeland 10 picks later.

Dallas’ fourth-round pick belonged to the San Francisco 49ers by way of the Trey Lance trade from last August and it was 129 overall. Here are the running backs that went from 88 all the way through 173 right before Dallas returned to the clock:

As you can see the Cowboys would have been fine in terms of ability to draft a running back had they held their original fourth-round pick. If they wanted one then it is clear that they would have had to have spent that 87th overall selection and clearly felt that Marist Liufau (with the knowledge once again of Zeke returning) was the better overall play.

Sometimes that is just the way that it goes.


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