The Dallas Cowboys finally brought in a running back that's worth the value of their offensive line and despite the plethora of needs on the roster, the Cowboys decided to double-dip at the running back position in the sixth round by adding Darius Jackson out of Eastern Michigan. Dallas fell in love with the SPARQ analytic with this draft class and the prime example of that is Jackson.
At 6 foot, 220 pounds, Jackson has nice size. He's built extremely well and he also has the makings of a player that can excel in a zone-blocking scheme. With Elliott taking the bulk of the carries, it will be hard for Jackson to carve out a role, but because of his athleticism and the element of what the Cowboys can do with him, Jackson can be a nice player in Dallas taking Elliott's carries when he needs a break. I also wouldn't rule out the possibility of Elliott and Jackson being out on the field at the same time. That athleticism paired with an all-around player like Elliott could give opposing defenses fits.
In 2015, the Cowboys got over 1,400 total yards out of Darren McFadden, 1,089 yard on the ground and 328 yards through the air. Considering the veteran and former fourth-overall pick did not start until Week 7, it's truly just goes to show how impactful a player can be behind the Cowboys' offensive line. Imagine what Elliott is going to go. The amazing thing about this offensive line is that the Cowboys changed their rushing attack to tailor to McFadden's strengths. McFadden is more of a man-blocking scheme type of runner rather than a zone-blocking scheme.
In Elliott, the Cowboys are getting an all-around running back who can do it all. And while they did draft a running back in the first round, they also added one in free agency in Alfred Morris. Unlike McFadden, Morris also fits the zone-blocking scheme the Cowboys want to deploy. If Lance Dunbar starts the year on the PUP list, the question remains, "could Jackson take McFadden's job?"
The Cowboys' goal in 2016 will be to set up the pass by pounding the football with the ground game. By using a healthy dose of the running game, the Cowboys will be able to get one-on-ones in the passing game with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Jason Witten getting open by finding holes in the defense.
Keeping McFadden is a wise for a variety of reasons. He's an intelligent player who showed last year that he deserves a spot on the roster. He's an excellent guy to have in the locker room. He's also one of the more veteran players on the roster, so keeping McFadden around to play somewhat of a mentorship role could be extremely beneficial for the Cowboys.
Unfortunately, McFadden will enter the last year of his contract in 2016 and he'll be 30 years old entering the 2017 season. It's worth noting that McFadden stayed healthy for the entirety of the 2015 season, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that he had only played in an entire season just once in his seven years with the Oakland Raiders.
McFadden isn't the best fit for the scheme and what the Cowboys want to do going forward. What he did last year was incredible. The fact that he was able to be ridiculously productive with a quarterback like Matt Cassel next to him is incredible, but it's more of a testament to how dynamic and talented the Cowboys' offensive line is rather than how improved McFadden was.
If Dallas wants to continue the trend of getting more athletic and younger, then choosing to keep Jackson over the likes of Dunbar and McFadden is the right direction to go. Dunbar's role in the offense was getting bigger and bigger before he went down with the ACL injury, but Jackson is a guy that can possibly manage that same role.
Dallas clearly had something in mind when they selected a running back in the back-end of the draft. Think back to the 1990 NFL Draft when they selected Emmitt Smith with the 17th-overall pick. Just a year later, the Cowboys drafted Curvin Richards in the fourth round. The Cowboys wouldn't waste a pick on Jackson in the sixth round if they weren't serious about keeping him on the roster. Dallas faces a difficult decision to make regarding the running back situation, but keeping Jackson and cutting ties with McFadden is a move that can potentially provide huge dividends for the Cowboys in the long term.