When you are selected in the seventh round of the draft, the odds are not overwhelmingly favorable that you will make an NFL team. Since 2014, the Dallas Cowboys have had a dozen seventh-round picks and the only players still on the roster are Geoff Swaim, Noah Brown, and this year’s selection, Bo Scarbrough. It’s an uphill battle for these guys drafted late and that is what the Alabama running back faces this year if he is to secure one of the last spots on the roster.
Scarbrough didn’t have amazing numbers during his three years in college, but a lot of that was a result of how he was used (committee approach). His freshmen year, he was stuck behind Heisman winner Derrick Henry, who rushed for over 2,000 yards that season and is now the lead running back for the Tennessee Titans. Despite only starting twice his sophomore season, he still managed to grind out 812 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016. He was tearing it up in the college playoffs, rushing for 180 yards and two touchdowns against Washington, and then 93 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson in the first half alone, before a leg injury sideline him for the rest of the game.
And here lies the issue with Scarbrough. He’s a punishing runner, but sometimes he’s the one being punished. His durability issues in college combined with a deep draft class are big reasons why he slid so far in the draft. And while he might not be a superstar talent running back who can handle the everyday workload, he still has plenty of traits that can come in handing as a reserve back. He’s powerful, and anyone who gets in his path when he’s gotten a full head of steam can attest to that. He’s a churner, always absorbing contact and pushing forward for extra yards. And despite being a big guy, he’s got good lateral agility to make cuts and find his way through open lanes - which was on display Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Cowboys running back situation is in pretty good shape right now as All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott is the team’s go-to guy. Zeke should dominate the touches in the backfield. And if there are spare carries to go around, the always-improving Rod Smith is in line to get those. So where does that leave Bo in the grand scheme of things?
Well, Scarbrough is going to have to be more than just a third-string back who chills on the sideline waiting to make a cameo appearance here and there. He’s going to need to find a role on special teams. And so far, that’s exactly what he’s doing. Against the 49ers, Bo recorded 12 reps on special teams (46%), which was the sixth most of any player in that game. The Cowboys are certainly giving him every opportunity to carve out a role on special teams and head coach Jason Garrett has stated that Bo has embraced that role.
But more than that, Scarbrough is working on other aspects to help round out his game. He hasn’t been known for being a refined pass-blocker, but he is putting in a lot of work in order to get better. Cowboys football analyst/scout, Bryan Broaddus had this to say about Scarbrough’s pass blocking ability from Sunday’s practice.
Bryan Broaddus: I can tell you from my experience of studying Bo Scarbrough, he wasn’t asked to pass block much at Alabama. After watching him get dumped by Kyle Querio on his first rep - - I understood why. What Querio did to Scarbrough had to put a bad taste in his mouth. Querio knocked him straight on his rear. The next snap wasn’t much better with Querio working around the edge and then again on a third time. Scarbrough was throwing a no-hitter but something changed against Tre’von Johnson. Scarbrough’s hands and feet were in better position which put Johnson in a bad spot. After the rep, it was as if Scarbrough had unlocked the secret of pass protection and his coach, Gary Brown couldn’t have been more proud of him.
With so many tough roster decisions ahead of them, the Cowboys need to be diligent about how they go about selecting those players to fill those last remaining spots. Some good players are going to be let go. Bo’s ability not only as a thumping back, but also as an effective blocker and contribution on special teams is what’s going to help him land one of those final spots.