The Dallas Cowboys have a need at running back and their recent pre-draft invites indicate they are looking for a certain type of running back. Most of us, myself included, thought the team would look for a smaller and shiftier back, but Jason Garrett and company seem to be in the market for a larger more durable player who can run, catch and pass protect. Dallas probably likes what they have in Lance Dunbar, but it appears they would like to add another back who can be a starter for them. DeMarco Murray is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, but his durability concerns have forced the Cowboys into looking for another starting caliber running back.
One running back continues to see his stock rise and that's Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell. I've spent more time evaluating Bell the past few weeks and he's been a steady riser on my personal board that I alter daily. Let's take a closer look at the type of player the Cowboys would be getting in Bell.
The first thing that stands out about Bell is his size. He stands in at 6'1" and weighs 230 pounds. While Bell is a larger runner, he isn't a fat running back. Most of his weight comes in the form of muscle and he's even begun to cut some of his weight. He had lost seven pounds by the time he got to the combine, but there has been some reports that Bell is actually down 12-15 pounds from his playing weight at Michigan State. It's obvious that Bell is wiling to work on his weight and do what it takes to get into better shape for his impending job in the NFL.
Bell's size allows him to attack the defense. Usually it's the other way around, but Bell is the type of powerful brute that will give defenses major problems throughout the game. Bell has the strength and power to completely takeover games in the fourth quarter. He's the type of running back that you can feed 20-30 carries per game and he will only want more. Bell is a physical runner that is going to fight for every yard and wants to pick up the first down.
Running the ball and picking up first downs late into games can be deemed "old school" football, but Bell will give you a workhorse running back that can close out and win games for you.
Running backs with that type of size typically don't have good footwork. Bell is light on his feet and actually has some "make you miss" type of agility to his game. Whether it's a spin move, jump cut, stop-start or hesitation move, Bell has it in his arsenal. Now it's something Bell needs to harness in and use sparingly, but he does have the footwork to make defenders miss and he can plant his foot hard into the ground and make a quick cut up the field.
Patience and vision are qualities to look for in zone-blocking schemes, and Bell is perfect for that scheme. He has the footwork and burst to execute the cuts and cutbacks that are vital in that type of blocking scheme. Bell understands that he needs his blockers to set up before he can hit the gas and fly through the holes left open by his lineman. That tells us that Bell understands the game of football, but it also shows that he is willing to let the people around him do their jobs.
Bigger backs typically don't excel in the passing game, but Bell is actually very polished in that area. In the last two seasons at Michigan State, Bell caught 67 passes and was utilized in the passing game. Because of his ability to catch the football, it would allow Bell to play more downs and be more involved with the offense.
There is a lot of mileage on Bell's tires considering he carried the football 671 times during his career in college. Most of those carries (382) came last year when Michigan State made Bell the focal point of their offense. With that in mind, it's reasonable to think that Bell really only carried the ball a lot in one season and he has plenty of left in the tank.
Bell is a big target for defenders and he does tend to run the football upright. His physical style of play paired with his upright style could shorten his professional career.
While he is quick, he doesn't hit the hole with a lot of authority or velocity. If Bell can get the ball and turn on the speed earlier on, then he can overcome this deficiency. If Bell does improve in this area, then he is only going to be even harder to stop in short-yardage situations.
His lack of speed is another negative. Bell won't be able to bust off the long touchdown run, but that's just not his game. He's a great athlete that does possess some quickness, but Bell doesn't have the breakaway speed to create on his own and blow by defenders in the second level.
The only other flaw that I can find with Bell is that he must get better in pass protection. He needs to improve in this area because it would allow him to be a complete running back.
If Bell is drafted into a zone-blocking scheme where he can make one cut and run, then he has the potential and skill-set to become a great running back. His physicality combined with his ability to make defenders miss is an interesting combination for a large and powerful running back.
The Cowboys have a need at running back and I believe they liked what they saw from Bell at Valley Ranch a couple of weeks ago. You can read the whole article here on the mothership, so be sure to check out what Bell had to say about his visit with the Cowboys.
If the Cowboys want a bruiser, then Bell is probably the best option for them in this entire draft. I believe that Bell is going to be one of the biggest bargains in the entire draft. Whether it's the second or third round, the team that drafts Bell will get a good young man with high character and good physical ability.
Comparison: Marion Barber or Steven Jackson
Ultimate Le'Veon Bell Highlights (via TheVikingsworld2011)