Going into the draft, there were two camps concerning the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott. One side of this discussion felt that he was talented and well-rounded enough to justify being selected with the fourth overall pick. The other maintained that no running back, at least in this class, should be taken that high in the draft. His choice is now in the books, but the debate has not stopped at all.
Although the title talks about the quarterbacks that weren't drafted, writer Gary Myers leads off with how much he liked the Elliott pick, and how the team could be even better than it was in 2014 with DeMarco Murray.
Elliott is cheaper and younger than Murray, and he might turn out to be a much better player in that system. He can catch the ball, he's a good blocker. He's a terrific running back. I saw him play a lot in college. I think he's going to be a terrific pro. I like it much better than people thinking they should have taken Jalen Ramsey. I think this guy's got a chance to be an impact player from the first day.
People were a bit stunned when Dallas and NFL legend Emmitt Smith said that Elliott was a better football player than he was. He explained a bit about what he meant.
"Well, he is better in the context of his speed, he's faster," Smith explained Tuesday. "In the context of his ability to block, he can block. I just think that he's a smart football player. At the end of the day, I'd like to think that he is better than me because obviously some of those things that we just talked about actually give him the ability to make a house call when he needs to."
Emmitt's teammate Michael Irvin was pretty pleased about Dallas getting both Elliott and Jaylon Smith.
"He (Jerry Jones) just picked up possibly what I would consider to be two Hall of Famers. And here again, here again, let me just say this, let me just say this: When people know they're playing with guys like this, it makes them play a different kind of way."
As has been widely discussed, the Cowboys declined matching the huge contract Murray got from the Eagles (who apparently like to overpay everybody in the backfield) at least partly because of his age. And age played a big part in using the fourth overall pick on Elliott, per Stephen Jones.
"We actually have done some work and believe that some of their best years, the great ones, are in their first five years. So you are maybe getting the best part of the running back in his first five years vs. the second contract.''
But there are also still many doubters, and Bob Sturm continues to argue that Elliott represents draft capital that didn't have to be spent to have a tremendous running game.
I think Derrick Henry with this team would have absolutely destroyed teams. And that's not at all me saying Ezekiel Elliot is not a really good player. I will stop short of saying he has Adrian Peterson or Todd Gurley traits, but I still think far and away he is the best RB in this market. That said, with the Dallas Cowboys specific situation of having so much talent on their offensive line and so much success running the ball with replacement level running backs like Darren McFadden, it seems foolish to me to take your biggest asset and fix something that's not broken. So basically, if you could get a top college running back, maybe not the best one, but the second or third or fourth best running back, later on in this draft, kind of using the same theory with Dak Prescott, we like the kid, but there' a price where its too expensive so let's wait, that's what I wish they would have done at running back.
It has to be said that Sturm may be in the minority now. Rob Phillips sums up the basic rationale behind going with Zeke.
But in many ways, the key to the Cowboys' 12-win season two years ago - coupled with a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, of course - was the tough-minded identity they developed through their second-ranked running game. It wasn't just an offensive theme - it permeated throughout the roster, to the defense and special teams.
Win or lose, the 2014 Dallas Cowboys would be the more physical football team.
But not all are convinced that the Cowboys didn't make a mistake by foregoing a chance to improve the pass rush earlier in the draft (although this does discount the plan to take Emmanuel Ogbah or Kevin Dodd before they were snatched just ahead of Dallas in the second round).
Still, a poor pass rush means defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli must blitz more, leaving the defense vulnerable.
The Cowboys took Elliott with their first pick, believing he would impact the offense and the defense.
Though Elliott will keep the defense off the field if he has the kind of rookie year most folks expect, he's not going to impact the pass rush -- and that's a problem.
So let's hear a little from the man of the hour himself.
"I'm not the coach, so I'm just coming in to help the Cowboys win a Super Bowl," Elliott said. "That's what my job description is. Whatever they require of me, I'm going to do. If it's running back by committee, then that's what it's going to be. I came to win a Super Bowl."
The Cowboys certainly rolled out the red carpet for Elliott, sending the team's private jet to whisk him to Dallas in style. Which prompted a minor protest from last year's first round pick, Byron Jones.
Nah hold up! Where was my private jet last year?? https://t.co/1CyhsGyxlt— Byron Jones (@Byron31Jump) April 29, 2016
Count defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli among the fans of the Elliott pick - but what he had to say about Maliek Collins, taken in the third round, is also good.
"I like him. He fits," Marinelli said on 105.3 The Fan's [KRLD-FM] draft show Friday night. "Go back when Bo Pelini was [at Nebraska]. He was unbelievable, and he was playing our system. I had their line coach in here before, and they're doing everything we do. His movement and patterns, he was rated higher this year. And they changed systems, he was standing up as a linebacker at times, they blitzed him as a linebacker, everybody does it differently. No big deal. I try to evaluate all that.
"Big Cat [Leon Lett] went up there and worked him out and he had a terrific workout, things that we do. That really sold it to me. He's a hard-nosed guy. It was really good."
The Cowboys finally used a draft pick to take a quarterback, and Dak Prescott could not be happier about joining the team.
I'm excited I'm going to a good team. I've got a great quarterback ahead of me that I can learn from. I can pick up everything, from the way he handles his business on and off the field, the way he goes about being a pro within the facility is something I'm looking forward to learning from Tony.
And Mississippi State, Prescott's alma mater, wants you know what a great player and person Dallas got.
One of several questions arising from the draft was why the Cowboys sought to double-dip at running back by taking Darius Jackson in the sixth round.
The answer is traits. Jackson weighs in at 6-0, 221 pounds, and he clocked an absurd 4.35 in the 40-yard dash at Eastern Michigan's Pro Day. He also posted a vertical leap of 41 inches and a broad jump of 11-feet, 1-inch - impressive numbers by any standard. Perhaps the biggest thing working in Jackson's favor is that Dunbar is currently recovering from knee surgery and may start the 2016 season on the Physically Unable to Perform List. Jackson ran for 1,110 yards last year and added another 201 receiving yards, so he has the ability to carve out a role. If he can't do that, then he at the very least gives the Cowboys a talented option to consider for their practice squad.
Even though sixth round picks are always a long shot to make the team, the Cowboys had a definite plan to use the four selections they had in the round due to compensatory slot.
The plan with those four choices was a "mixed bag," according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Without a seventh round pick, the last two choices were spent on players they didn't think would make it to rookie free agency.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the first two picks, Brown and Frazier, were players the Cowboys had given fourth-round grades.
Although not going as far as at least one other team, the Cowboys have decided to dial back the workload for rookie minicamp, which starts on Friday.
The Cowboys are scheduled to have a morning walk-through plus an afternoon practice. In the past, the Cowboys have put the players through two-a-day practices. New Miami coach Adam Gase will not have his players on the field at all for the Dolphins' three-day minicamp, choosing to focus on mental preparation.
Finally, despite their proliferation, draft grades immediately after the fact are rather pointless. You don't find out how good teams did until years later, and it is educational to see how many teams have declined picking up the fifth-year option on the first-rounders from 2013. Dallas, needless to say, is using it on Travis Frederick, taken at 31 that year.