With the NFL draft later this month, the Dallas Cowboys are looking at areas of their roster they can improve when it comes time to make their selections. Today, we continue our pre-draft positional breakdown series, examining where things stand position-wise before the draft.
We begin our second installment of the series by taking a look at Dallas’ running backs.
The Starter: For the first time since 2015, the Dallas Cowboys will have a new starting running back during the 2023 season. This spring, the Cowboys decided to move on from long-time starter Ezekiel Elliott after seven years with the team. In turn, Dallas placed the franchise tag on their new starter, 25-year-old Tony Pollard, fully giving him the reins to take over the rushing attack for the first time in his career.
Pollard was outstanding during the 2022 season. The former fourth-round pick surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career while totaling career-highs in total touchdowns (12), and first-down runs (46).
Tony Pollard 54-yard touchdown!— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 30, 2022
(via @dallascowboys) pic.twitter.com/lg69tutJlv
Pollard was the fifth-highest rated (90.2 offensive grade) in football by Pro Football Focus, further showing how outstanding the running back was last season.
Just an absolutely incredible touchdown run from Tony Pollard with Tyler Smith providing security detail along the way.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) December 5, 2022
(via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/Fb1oCHvgnT
During his time in Dallas, Pollard’s individual success has almost always led to team success for the Cowboys. Dallas is 14-2 when Pollard scores a touchdown, 14-2 when he touches the ball 15 or more times on offense in a game, and 18-2 when he totals 60 or more rushing yards.
While he suffered an injury in Dallas’ playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Pollard is expected to make a full recovery and give the Cowboys one of the best lead rushers in the NFL entering next season.
The Holdover Backup: With Elliott out the door, the other Cowboys player to see action at the postition on last year’s roster is 24-year-old Malik Davis. Davis saw game action six times last season, totaling 38 rushing attempts for 161 yards and one touchdown.
The former UDFA didn’t get many chances to prove himself on the field, but Davis did have a couple of nice runs during the season, including an impressive touchdown run against the Colt.
MALIK DAVIS FIRST NFL TOUCHDOWN! #nFL— Barstool Florida (@UFBarstool) December 5, 2022
Great vision, shiftiness from Cowboys RB3 Malik Davis on this 23-yarder pic.twitter.com/zHVtcgGhk1— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) December 30, 2022
While Davis is eyeing the RB2 spot with Elliott out of the picture, there are others looking to claim the spot.
The Rest: Outside of Pollard and Davis, the Cowboys currently have two other running backs on their roster.
Rico Dowdle, the less accomplished of the two, has totaled just seven rushing attempts during his three years in the NFL. Ronald Jones, who the Cowboys signed in free agency just a few weeks ago, has a better résumé, but the former second-round pick fell off a cliff last season. Just two years removed from rushing for 978 yards with the 2020 Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jones played in just six games with the Chiefs last season, totaling 70 rushing yards on 17 attempts.
Dowdle and Jones will try to avoid being on the outside looking in after the draft in April. It seems extremely likely Dallas will add a running back in the first three-to-four rounds of the draft, and that could shake up the Cowboys running back room in the scramble for the 53-man roster,
Positional Grade: B-
This grade will likely improve after the Cowboys add to the position in the draft, but even with Ezekiel Elliott gone Dallas still has a very solid running back room.