One take on Cowboys’ RB strategy in 2024 NFL Draft

For those anxious to see the Cowboys get some help at running back, the 2024 NFL Draft served up some disappointment. Dallas didn’t address the position at all in last weekend’s big event, and one longtime reporter has his thoughts on why the team may have gone that route.

Todd Archer of ESPN, who’s been on the Cowboys beat for two decades, shared his take on Dallas’ lack of action at running back. The analysis comes in the wake of Ezekiel Elliott’s imminent return to the team, which was rumored over the weekend but won’t be official until Monday as the draft dust was settling.

Archer’s logic tracks with what we saw. There was no way Dallas was going RB in the first round, and then Texas’ Johnathan Brooks was gone by the time they were back on the clock in Round 2. The next-best prospect, Florida State’s Trey Benson, went at #66 before the Cowboys’ first of two third-round round picks. Another top name, Michigan’s Blake Corum, went between those picks.

Would the Cowboys have taken Brooks at #56, Benson at #73, or Corum at #87 if given the chance? Only they know, but it feels unlikely given how the rest of the draft unfolded. As Archer said, they had a big decision with their last third-round pick as they’d have to wait 87 picks between that one and their next selection late in the fifth round. Whoever they took at that spot was their last chance to add someone of consequence, at least in theory, to next year’s roster.

Right after Dallas took LB Marist Liufau, an immediate depth piece and potential future starter at the Mike position, RB Marshawn Lloyd went to the Packers. In the fourth round, while the Cowboys sat tapping their feet with no pick, six more RB prospects came off the board. Another five went before Dallas’ fifth-round pick; 11 total prospects taken between Dallas’ third- and fifth-rounders. Whether you were higher on Jaylen Wright, Will Shipley, Braelon Allen, or someone else, they were probably gone by the time the Cowboys were back on the clock.

So at that 87th pick, should the Cowboys have reached to fill their RB need or stuck to their board? If you’re demoralized by the idea of microwaved Zeke and Rico Dowdle leading the backfield in 2024, that’s understandable. But in what was a weak RB class overall, Dallas chose not to overdraft and focus on strengthening other parts of the team.

In the fourth round, should Dallas have spent extra draft capital to move up and get someone? Maybe, but perhaps just getting “someone” is why they didn’t. If they weren’t in love with any of those prospects, why take them? Why not let Dowdle have a crack at it at this point, with Elliott’s level of involvement still to be determined?

And remember, we still have the rest of spring and summer to go in this offseason. Who’s out there in a potential trade, or after June-1st releases? Who could the Cowboys grab in late August after final cuts? We can be sure that the personnel department has their eyes on lots of potential RB options over the next four months.

In the end, the Cowboys appear to have moved into a new philosophical era at running back. It’s tough for those of us who grew up with Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith, or Ezekiel Elliott as superstars at the position. But if the analytics guys are finding a voice in Dallas, you can see it resonating in how they’ve handled the position so far this offseason. It’s not what we’re used to in Cowboys Nation, but maybe that’s a good thing after nearly three decades of disappointment.


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