The front office of the Dallas Cowboys loves to pull a rabbit out of their hat with a draft selection that keeps people talking for days. It doesn’t matter if the team is picking early or picking late, they somehow find a way to pull off a little draft magic. From 2010 to 2021, the Cowboys selected 11 players in the first round. An astonishing nine of those players have registered at least one All-Pro season. That is an amazing track record for first-round drafting! And even last year’s pick of Tyler Smith, who came with scrutiny early, turned out to be one of the best picks in the draft. He might eventually bring that number to 12.
There is no magic formula for taking a stud on Day 1 except having a sharp scouting department and leader in the war room. The Cowboys have that in Will McClay and his merry men of college scouts. The Cowboys also have the craftiness of Jerry Jones who loves to somehow come away with the best college player at his position. Here is a reminder of the players who fit that description.
It is important to reiterate that the list of players above are players the Cowboys' believed were the best at their respective position at the time of the draft.
We’ve discussed this strategy many times on this site, and it has become so recognized that we are going to do a complete series on players who fit that bill. Last week, we kicked things off with what could be the best guard in the draft in Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence to strengthen the team’s offensive line. This week, we’re going with a player who could take advantage of that upfront blocking and help spark the offense.
RUNNING BACK, BIJAN ROBINSON, TEXAS
There is not a better running back in the draft than Bijan Robinson, he is the complete package. At 6’ and 220 pounds, he has the prototypical RB size and possesses all the important athletic traits you’d want in a ball carrier. Starting with top-level vision, Robinson is a patient runner who has excellent backfield anticipation allowing the blocking in front of him to take shape. He’ll even bait defenders into spaces that will soon be occupied by blockers.
Robinson is persistent through heavy traffic with great lateral agility and swift cutting ability to elude would-be tacklers. While he’s not a power runner, his balance and consistent push allow him to run through defenders that don’t square up on him. And just when you think he might be contained, he shifts his weight and turns up the speed. He has the ability to be a grinder as well as pop runs for big gains. His football IQ is elite and he is excellent in the passing game both as a pass blocker and receiver. Again, complete package.
Why he could slide to 26
As we know, running backs just don’t offer great value in the NFL. Even the elite college backs are often passed over, especially in earlier rounds. Over the last four drafts, no running back has been selected earlier than pick 24. Some notable names include:
- 2022: Breece Hall (36th overall) and Kenneth Walker III (41st)
- 2021: Najee Harris (24th) and Travis Etienne (25th)
- 2020: DeAndre Swift (35th) and Johnathan Taylor (41st)
- 2019: Josh Jacobs (24th)
It’s hard to know where exactly Robinson will go, but if history is any indicator, the nation’s top collegiate runner could slide to the latter part of the first round. Combine that with a deep running back class that features many quality rushers, teams may decide to wait a bit. That means some team could have the nation’s top running back talent fall into their lap.
Why this makes sense for Dallas
The Cowboys are no strangers to using premium draft capital on a running back as Ezekiel Elliott was selected fourth overall in 2016. The team certainly doesn’t want to make that mistake again; however, there’s a big difference between taking a running back 4th and taking them 26th. Still, it’s their top draft resource, and would they really want to use it for a player that might not stick around past his rookie deal?
The only way this could even be in the cards is if the Cowboys hit the reset button at running back where they release Zeke and let Tony Pollard walk in free agency. So, while using a high draft pick at running back isn’t ideal, the team could pass on throwing any more money at Elliott and Pollard and still have a threatening rushing attack with the rookie Robinson.