While kids count down the days until Christmas, football junkies anxiously await the NFL draft as they look forward to the new toys their team will pick out. There is nothing like fresh new blood to interject some excitement into the upcoming season. There will be those first round difference makers as well as late round sleepers that will domesticate themselves as our pet cats and dominate our interest for the next several months. But who will these new players be? Can you tell me? I'll listen to anyone. Yes, fans can get real antsy this time of year. We read mocks. We make our own mocks. We mock other people's mock. It's a festive time for everyone.
As we sit around our laptops restlessly, we have a tendency to throw out different ideas and play around with a variety of scenarios. Here are a couple things that have crossed my mind in recent days.
Take Zeke And Don't Look Back
Disclaimer: Jaleney is number one on by board and if he's available then he's the absolute "must draft" choice for me. I just don't think he makes it to four.
Let's just get this one out of the way. Right now, you either love the idea or hate it, and if it's the latter - you're sick of hearing about it. But hey, I'm just like you. I understand that the running backs position doesn't offer up a lot of variation and their productivity is dependent on the situation around them. The evidence is overwhelming. In 2014, the league's two top rushers were DeMarco Murray and Le'Veon Bell. They both averaged 4.7 yards per carry. For different reasons, these RBs weren't able to take on the workload for their 2014 teams. Instead, Darren McFadden and DeAngelo Williams had to take on that role. And despite them not taking over the starting role until about midway through the season, they both finished in the top 10 in rushing for 2015. They ran for a respectable 4.6 (McFadden) and 4.5 (Williams) yards per carry.
There are just too many times where teams have been able to plug and chug through running backs to supplement their running game. Marshawn Lynch goes down, no problem. Just throw undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls out there and watch him pound out 5.6 yards a carry. All running backs are not created equal, but a lot of them are similar. And for that reason, running backs just don't go very high in the draft.
But Ezekiel Elliott is different. It's rare that a RB is even projected this high in the draft so that speaks to how talented he is. In last year's draft, it was Todd Gurley who was the standout running back. He was projected to go in the middle of the first round. The St. Louis Rams found him too good to pass up when they selected him 10th overall. They were right. Gurley only started 12 games last year, but he still managed 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. And this was on a Rams offense that was dead last in total offense last season with a measly 297 yards a game. Despite no presence of a passing threat, Gurley still tore it up because he was a talented back. And a player this talented shouldn't be passed up just because the other non-special running backs are mostly interchangeable. A talent like Zeke on any team's offense is going to be helpful, but if that team has the best offensive line in football - it's going to be epic.
The Cowboys may not have a shot to get a franchise quarterback in this draft, but they have a great shot at getting a franchise running back. Pull the trigger and don't lose any sleep over it.
If The Gettings Not Good, Get Out Of Dodge
If you are not on board the Zeke train, that's okay. Maybe you have your heart set on someone else. But what happens if that someone is not there at four? The Cowboys could get stuck with a bunch of choices where there is no standout player. Do they just settle? That might work okay for the Amish people in the Direct TV commercial, but the Cowboys are not settlers. If that happens, they must be prepared to surrender their fabulous draft spot if there is not someone at four that they absolutely love. If the San Diego Chargers grab their guy right out from under them and their board now contains a handful of players that are all tiered the same, it makes no sense to draft at that spot. So move. The Cowboys can still get a talented first rounder and pick up an extra mid-round second rounder while they're at it. Just think about that. Here are some potential available players at each of those spots:
- At pick 11, CB Vernon Hargreaves III or DE Shaq Lawson
- At pick 34, RB Derrick Henry, QB Paxton Lynch, or DE Emmanuel Ogbah
- At pick 41, CB Kendall Fuller or QB Connor Cook
- At pick 67, RB Kenneth Dixon or QB Dak Prescott
With this assortment of picks, the Cowboys could maximize their opportunity to land starters at positions where they have pressing needs. They'd also have some nice choices for a developmental quarterback without having to burn the coveted number four pick for it. And that's not even counting their two fourth-round picks. The Cowboys would be able to pick off quite a nice collection of talent with all those draft resources.
It takes two to tango, but these deals happen. In the last four drafts, the Cowboys were involved in two of them when they moved up in 2012 to select Morris Claiborne and moved back in 2013 to take Travis Frederick. In these same four drafts, the number four pick has been dealt twice. In 2012 (Cleveland to Minnesota) and 2014 (Cleveland to Buffalo).
It's not often the Cowboys get the number four pick, but it's also not often that a team can get draft four players before pick 70.
What would you mock up if your draft picks looked something like this: 11, 34, 41, and 67?