Rumors are the mother's milk of writers and bloggers leading up to the NFL draft. For the Dallas Cowboys, the latest speculation swirling around them is that the team is looking to make a trade for a running back. In the past couple of days, several sources of various levels of credibility have brought this up.
Getting a sense the Cowboys are looking at moving up for Todd Gurley after speaking to people around Georgia— Ollie Connolly (@OllieUKEZ) April 15, 2015
I'm told the Dallas Cowboys very high on Melvin Gordon/RB/Wisconsin and are targeting him in round one. Trade up?— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) April 13, 2015
I wonder if trading down is more of an option for the Cowboys than moving up at this point. If you look at the top prospects they brought in, most of them are pegged to go anywhere from No. 20 through the end of the first round. There are two exceptions: Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who will have his knee re-checked this week in Indianapolis and Kentucky defensive end Bud Dupree.
David Helman: I don't think I'd "sell the farm" to get anyone. I don't think this draft is as talented as others, and I think the Cowboys have too many needs to mortgage their draft on one player. If Todd Gurley falls within reasonable striking range, however, I'd consider it. I would trade up four or five spots to secure a guy who I think will be a really special running back.
These are all writers, of course, and no one knows what is really in the minds of the Dallas brain trust. Illusion and misdirection are time honored tactics in the run-up to the draft, and people often see things that have nothing to do with reality. There is a reason we refer to stuff like this as "draft rumors", after all. But there is no question that the Cowboys need to address the loss of DeMarco Murray. No one is banking on Darren McFadden or the running backs already on the roster to be the answer. Whether Dallas is looking to make a move in the draft to get a back they really like is a legitimate question. It also has more layers than a big Vidalia onion.
The first thing to consider is whether the team would be open to making a trade for the right player, and the willingness of Jerry Jones and company to do so is clearly established. In recent drafts they have traded up to get Morris Claiborne (now seen to have been a mistake) and DeMarcus Lawrence (which looks to have been somewhat more successful, based on the way he came on late in the season and postseason). They also made the trade back that netted them Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams, a move that was heavily criticized at the time, but which no one is complaining about now. Obviously, making a trade would not be at all surprising.
But for a running back? There are already many people, including our own One Cool Customer, who are very vocal about how unwise it would be to use any first round pick on a running back. The position is widely seen to have become devalued in today's pass oriented league. And with the perceived depth of this year's running back class, the theory is that you can get a successful NFL back in the second round or later, and use that valuable first round pick on a position with more long term worth to the team. For the Cowboys, that would appear to be just about any position on defense, with cornerback, edge rusher, and possibly linebacker all looking to be much better places to invest that first round pick. If you don't think taking a running back with pick 27 is at all smart, trading up for one rates as absolutely foolish.
However, that has to be weighed against the importance of the running game to the success that the Cowboys had in 2014. While we as fans may be averse to the idea of trading up (and I generally feel that way myself), that is not of course to say that the team feels this way at all. But the fact is that the team could just as likely use trading back to position itself to get a very good back. While Gurley and Gordon are generally seen as the top two backs in the draft, and the two most likely to go on day one, there is also not much fall off seen to the next tier of backs, which include Jay Ajayi, Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson, and T.J. Yeldon, depending on what draftnik you listen to. Coleman in particular is drawing interest. Like Gurley, he is recovering from injury and did not do the drills at the NFL combine, but he just had his pro day, posting impressive numbers, including 40 times that ranged from the mid 4.3 to mid 4.4 range. And according to Tony Pauline, one of those well-known draft analysts, he may not be that much of a drop from the big two.
Where will Coleman all in the 2015 NFL Draft? It could be much earlier than most expect.
Some teams grade Coleman almost the equal to another Big Ten running back in the 2015 NFL Draft, Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin, and the opinion of many scouts is Coleman ranks as one of the top three backs in the draft.
So what are the options for Dallas in the draft? Here are four:
- Go another direction, almost certainly defense, and trust the depth of the draft class to find your back later. This also includes the option of trading to get the right defender, but we'll leave that can of worms to squirm for a while.
- Trade up for Gurley or Gordon. This is dependent on one of the two being close enough for Dallas to go after without having to sacrifice too much. And there is a scenario that fits. The Baltimore Ravens have the 26th pick, just ahead of Dallas, and according to at least one report, they are not going to let Gordon get past them. It is possible that he could make it near the Ravens, and the Cowboys might then be able to engineer a fairly low cost trade up to jump ahead of them and grab Gordon.
- Sit at 27 and draft a running back. This is where the latest reports on Coleman become intriguing. Could he have shown enough for the Cowboys to give him a first round grade? Given that this year's draft class is generally seen to only have 20 or so legitimate first round picks, a top second round grade on Coleman might actually be enough to make it worth sending his name up when Dallas goes on the clock. Plus, there is a thought that the belief multiple running backs are going to be taken before Dallas' current pick may be entirely in error. A lot of people believe backs will start to slide when the real drafting begins.
- Trade back to get a higher second round pick. This brings some of those second tier names into play, particularly Ajayi. He has listed the Cowboys as one of the teams that has shown the most interest in him, but the other teams on his list all are before Dallas' pick at 60. This could make trading back a very good move, since it would also net the Cowboys one or more extra chances to find help for the roster. There are also those other names who might also be of interest in this situation.
It all depends on how the real draft board shapes up at Valley Ranch. We won't know exactly how looks - well, unless Rabblerousr pulls another decoding coup. In the meantime, we can just speculate, and of course express our own views. So how would you approach this if you could have Jerry Jones' job during the draft?