Since being drafted fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ezekiel Elliott has carried a heavier load than just about any running back in football. He's totaled over 1,000 touches in just three seasons, and did so even with a six game suspension in 2017.
This workload cannot be sustainable forever, can it? Probably not. And because of this, the Cowboys really need to look for another running back who can contribute for this offense as soon as possible.
While they may want to target an Elliott-like back, someone who can pound the ball between the tackles and be a traditional zone-blocking scheme runner, they may be best suited to look for more of a compliment to what Elliott does well. Someone who can shoulder parts of the load on passing downs, or provide a change of pace to keep the defense on its toes.
If they want to target this type of running back in the 2019 NFL Draft, Utah State's Darwin Thompson might be that guy on day three. Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network mocked Thompson to Dallas in his latest mock draft, so I decided to check out the player.
Thompson is a 5'8″ 198 pound running back who had himself a nice Pro Day this Spring. At his Pro Day Thompson ran a 4.5 40 yard dash, put up 28 reps on the bench press, and measured at 10 feet 6 inches on the broad jump. While the 4.5 isn't exactly blazing, his other athletic marks would have put him in good company at the NFL Combine.
On tape Thompson is far from a finished product. Although he has the body of a scat-back, Thompson doesn't have the next-level speed that you'd hope for out of that type of player. He was used effectively as a receiver on swing passes, and on jet sweeps, but being quicker-than-fast in the short area isn't exactly a great attribute for someone of his size.
Thompson also doesn't have the most fluid hands, and will need to be coached up as a route runner. What he does do well, however, has a lot to do with his “want to.” Thompson plays with great effort, and though undersized, will battle for every extra yard. A clearly competitive player, Thompson is the type of guy I could see Jason Garrett loving to have around.
Darwin Thompson is also a very elusive player in space. Although not a blazer, he's an evasive runner who can make people miss with the ball in his hands. Once he's in the open field Thompson is a fun player to watch, but getting him to that point was sometimes a struggle for Utah State.
In a lot of ways, Thompson is the antithesis of Ezekiel Elliott. But that could be exactly what the Cowboys need in their running back room. In recent years they've backed Elliott up with Rod Smith and drafted Bo Scarbrough, two big and powerful running backs who didn't see much time at all on game-day. It might be time for them to fill that spot with a different type of running back.
He's still a very raw football player, but it is obvious that there is talent there with Darwin Thompson. I like Thompson on day three of the NFL Draft if the Cowboys decide to take a chance on a guy with some scat-back qualities who needs some coaching and developing as a football player.