The hype of the preseason in the running back department was second year UDFA Lonyae Miller. Well I don't know what the Cowboys were selling us because Miller isn't Miller Time, like we were led on to believe. The real running back of the group besides Felix Jones, who has been amazing by the way, is UDFA Phillip Tanner.
Tanner is a player that caught my interest back in April when the Cowboys held their pre-draft invites. Let us take a look and see what I said about Phillip Tanner way back then.
Now this is one guy I really didn't know much about. I saw his name on the list and decided what the heck, let me look this kid up. I am sure glad I did. Phillip Tanner is a small school prospect from Middle Tennessee State. He weighs in at 5-11 208. I think he is one of the best running backs in the draft that is under the radar. This is the perfect sleeper candidate in my opinion. Teams are starting to get onto him and attended his pro day, but he is still a late round pick. I want Dallas to draft this kid, if there is one player I actually want to come away with late in the draft its this guy. Marion Barber should be released. Felix Jones and Tashard Choice should become our bread and butter. What we need is a third running back to have on the roster just in case, basically why we drafted Choice and that turned out to be a gem. Tanner has this physical run style and I love it. I saw a Legarrette Blount comparison and you could say they are similar. Tanner is obviously a lot faster than Blount, but the physicality is there. I will put his you tube video below check it out. I think Tanner is a perfect fit for Dallas this late. We might have found the next Marion Barber or Tashard Choice right here folks.
That was from a mock draft I did back on April 5th 2010, drafting only players who were invited to Valley Ranch. Then I looked Tanner back up in May for a UDFA RB Special. Here is what I said then.
RB Middle Tennessee State
40 yard dash: 4.57 vertical jump: 36
I wrote a fan post about Phillip Tanner when I read that the Cowboys had brought him in for a Valley Ranch visit. Tanner was one of the few running backs brought to Valley Ranch for the pre draft process. So I think out of all the running backs I have discussed, Tanner has the best shot of being signed by the Cowboys.
Phillip Tanner is a small school prospect that may have been drafted if he was at a larger school. Now I have only seen you tube highlights on Tanner but I came away impressed with what I saw. He is a physical runner that hit's the hole hard. He definitely has the speed to be a NFL running back. At his pro day he didn't time that well in the 40 yard dash with a 4.57 time. LeGarrette Blount ran a 4.59 at his pro day last year and was signed as a UDFA with Buccaneers. Blount had a tremendous rookie season for a UDFA. When I watch Tanner he reminds me a lot of Blount. They are both physical running backs with size that have good athleticism.
I honestly believe this will be the UDFA running back the Cowboys will sign for training camp. In my personal opinion I think Tanner would be a better option than Lonyae Miller. I just think Tanner is the more complete player at this stage. I also believe Tanner has the higher upside. I think Phillip Tanner could definitely become a rotational running back for the Cowboys, possibly more. So remember that name, Phillip Tanner. He may be the running back the Cowboys target on the UDFA market.
Tanner has been pretty much what I expected then, a solid downhill runner that is a one cut guy. He runs with authority, but has speed as well.
The question for Phillip Tanner is this, what happens when Tashard Choice comes back? Because in my eyes, Tanner has done more than enough to make this football team. 44 yards on 9 carries against the Broncos. 31 yards on 4 carries tonight against the Chargers. Those are productive numbers for any running back. What is more impressive is how easily he picks up those yards. He is picking up big chunks of yards basically every time he touches the football.
DeMarco Murray is supposed to return this week, but regardless his job is safe. He is the pass receiving running back Jason Garrett covets, and is also a 3rd round pick. The running back that faces jeopardy of losing his job is Tashard Choice. Lonyae Miller is a goner folks, you can't repeat bad performances back to back weeks and fumble the football. It's a show me now league, so Miller is toast.
Now I love what Tashard Choice can offer us on the football field. He is a nice runner who is always there when a guy goes down. The problem is, he really isn't good in pass coverage and special teams, an area Tanner looks pretty comfortable in. So there is a problem brewing in Dallas and I think it's time we answered it.
That problem is Tashard Choice. Like I said, I love Choice, but clearly the Cowboys and Jason Garrett don't have the same love. I wouldn't be shocked to see them entertain trade offers for Choice, say a similar offer for what they got for Patrick Crayton last year, a low level draft choice. Arizona is in desperate need of a running back and I am sure they would be willing to part with a 6th round draft pick for a proven NFL caliber running back.
No matter how the Cowboys play their card, the NFL already knows what we know, GM's pay attention to league wide issues with teams and their players. Teams know the Cowboys show their hand every situation it arises in. So for the people who think Choice is worth a 3rd round pick, you need to wake up and smell the coffee. That just isn't going to happen, I'm sorry to burst your dream bubble but #3 running backs in the NFL don't go for high draft picks.
Regardless, at some point Choice is going to leave this team. It most likely will either be a trade or release, but even if he stayed another year, he would have left via free agency next year anyway. So the point I am trying to make is this, get something in return now. They did this with Crayton and at least used one of their extra 7th round picks on Josh Brent in the Supplemental Draft.
The Cowboys have a real running back brewing with Phillip Tanner here. I think it would me moronic to try to get greedy and stash him on the practice squad. Remember Danny Amendola? That's my point, don't get greedy here Jerry. It's obvious you don't want Choice here, or you don't want to give him much playing time. Instead send him to a team that could use him, and that way we can keep Tanner without the risk of losing him. Because I guarantee if the Cowboys get cute here with Tanner, a team will snatch him up in a heartbeat of the practice squad.
I really like Tashard Choice and all that he has done here, but I would rather be a year EARLY than a year LATE. This Phillip Tanner kid is the real deal, just watch how he runs. He has nice fresh legs and you can see the burst the kid has (remember the old Marion Barber burst? yeah very similar). I know it's been only two preseason games, but this kid can play, that was evident tonight in my opinion. Please don't get greedy and try to sneak this kid on the practice squad.
Tanner is the ultimate RKG as well. He works hard and just seems like a very coach friendly player. He used to work the concession stand at the old Cowboys stadium. You know how awesome that must feel? Serving hot dogs to drunk dudes as kid for your favorite team, then actually PLAYING for that team? Man, that's a Blind Side type story if I have ever seen one. I just liked this kid even more when I read that. Tanner, welcome home son, because this is where you belong.
Do the right thing Jerry, Mars Blackmon did and it worked out well for him.