The Dallas Cowboys are in desperate need of revamping their running game. One season after eclipsing 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, Tony Pollard was expected to break out as the unquestioned lead back for Dallas. Pollard hit a career-low with four yards per carry, and his ineffectiveness in the red zone hurt the Cowboys in pivotal moments. Pollard is not likely to return after finishing the 2023 season on the franchise tag after a new deal could not be reached with the Cowboys.
Rico Dowdle served as a nice change of pace runner, but wasn’t entrusted with the same volume as Pollard and is also a free agent. Deuce Vaughn needs to demonstrate he can do more to have a role in the team’s future. The Cowboys need new blood at the running back position, and a certain Wisconsin tailback could be the beginning answer to the Cowboys’ problems.
Braelon Allen, Running back Wisconsin, Age: 20
At 6’2” and 238 lbs., Braelon Allen certainly looks the part of a big, bruising running back. As a receiver out of the backfield, he has surprisingly soft hands, making catches away from his body despite not being featured much as a pass catcher. When running the football between the tackles, Allen demonstrates good lateral quickness and sudden jump cuts for a player his size, while also being deceptively fast in the open field for somebody nearly 240 lbs.
Allen has proven he has the power to barrel over would-be tacklers or stiff-arm them to the turf. Despite limited experience at running back, Allen does a good job identifying the free rusher in blitz pickup and frequently will correctly assess the proper assignment in that area.
Allen has limited running back experience, as Wisconsin recruited him as a linebacker. While he is smart enough to diagnose his assignment in pass protections, there are times when he will absorb the impact from the blitzing defender instead of initiating the contact to stop them in their tracks. Allen also needs to develop better instincts of when to leak out of the backfield for check-downs for the quarterback.
I keep seeing this a lot from Braelon Allen.— Alfredo Brown (@ThePretendGM) January 26, 2024
His creativity and processing of Wisconsin's zone runs are not the best.
I've seen him miss a lot of early play recognition which usually allows running backs avoid wasted movements and hit the running lanes more efficiently.… pic.twitter.com/NO0bnM4v28
You’ll see on film when the quarterback needs an underneath option, and Allen is a tick slow to get out into a route. Although he can move the pile, he needs better leg drive as he finishes runs between the tackles going downhill. There are concerns about ball security, evidenced by two fumbles against Ohio State last season.
Regarding Allen’s fit, he should serve as an early-down runner to start since and there is the prospect of him being able to be a three-down runner, with concerns about his pass blocking and passing game upside. Some of his inconsistencies could be attributed to playing with Tanner Mordecai (Sr.) at quarterback and then freshman quarterback Braedyn Locke.
Regarding where Allen should go, the third to fourth round seems right. There are several comparisons for Allen, the most popular being Green Bay running back A.J. Dillon, and there are some similarities in style with ex-Las Vegas Raider Michael Bush. Allen has a lot of growing to do but does not have a lot of tread on the tires; being so young, that upside is enticing. Imagine having a young Marion Barber in the backfield and being an excellent option in the red zone near the goal line.