Cowboys RB Tony Pollard is Most Critical Rookie to 2019 Success

    had to wait until Saturday to hear his name called in the . But despite being a fourth-round pick, the ' new should be more critical to the team's success in 2019 than any other rookie. That includes the two drafted ahead of him, DT and OL .

    This statement may sound silly to some of you. Given that Dallas already has a franchise RB in , are we exaggerating how important Pollard or any other RB could be this season?

    Well, let's look at the other rookies for comparison. We can quickly dismiss any of the players drafted after Pollard; I wrote yesterday about how they will all struggle to even make the 2019 roster. Barring or some unexpected scenario, the rookies from Rounds 5-7 will be hoping just to be at the bottom of their positions' depth charts.

    How about 3rd-round pick Connor McGovern? Ideally, we won't see McGovern on the field except for a meaningless finale. He was a luxury pick whose was taken more with 2020 in view, preparing for the likely departures of and in . Connor should remain behind both Looney and Cam Fleming, the team's primary reserve linemen, this season.

    The debate really comes down to Tony Pollard and Trysten Hill. Which of these rookies has the best opportunity to make an impact in 2019, and who will be relied on the most to do so?

    Trysten Hill
    Dallas Cowboys DT Trysten Hill

    While Hill is likely to be active and part of the rotation at defensive this year, he still has to contend with some solid veterans. , , and are all returning from last season. Now there's also , a fifth-year vet who Dallas signed in free agency this year.

    Unless Trysten hits the ground running in an exceptional way, he is going to have an uphill climb to earn playing time over these players. Some would argue that Hill's situation isn't that different from Connor McGovern's; he's here for a year of development before replacing guys like Collins and Crawford in 2020.

    The point here is that if Hill and McGovern don't play much in 2019, be it by design or by , the team shouldn't feel the loss that much. And even if these guys do play a lot, their impact potential as rookies is unlikely to exceed their veteran teammates.

    This is where Tony Pollard is different.

    Not only may he be relied upon for a crucial role, but Pollard has a chance to bring a unique element to the . He can potentially give Dallas something it hasn't had since at least , and hopefully to a greater degree than Dunbar was capable of.

    Tony Pollard
    Nov 3, 2017; , OK, USA; running back Tony Pollard (1) carries the ball to score a touchdown in the first half against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. (David D. Stacy-USA TODAY Sports)

    Unlike any of his fellow Dallas rookies, Pollard is already projected to be the immediate backup at his position. Not only that, but he will likely walk in as the new and could compete for the job on punts as well.

    Ideally, Tony's role in Dallas will extend even beyond those duties.

    If 's offense takes advantage if versatile players the way we hope, then a guy like Pollard could become a consistent contributor. We could see him line him up at RB and then move out to WR, or get plenty of looks on screen passes.

    There may even be pure run plays, like tosses or sweeps, where Tony Pollard's speed makes him the best RB for the play over Ezekiel Elliott.

    While we certainly don't expect Tony to ever eclipse Zeke, like did over Mark Ingram in New Orleans, the potential is there for the rookie to get substantial playing time. None of his fellow rookies have it so easy.

    If the Cowboys do decide they can rely on Pollard, it could lead them to cut the incumbent return specialist and gadget player in . That would only increase Pollard's criticality to the team's success.

    So, fourth round be damned, Tony Pollard projects to have the most responsibility of any of Dallas' rookies in 2019. Even if guys like Trysten Hill and Connor McGovern surpass him in future years, Pollard's immediate opportunities at running back, receiver, and on make him the most important rookie this season.

    Jess Haynie
    Jess Haynie
    Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!


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    Ben Miller

    The Cowboys would be foolish to count on Pollard as RB2. A few facts about Pollard:
    He didn’t start in college. He never returned a punt in college. He ran a 4.5+ forty at the combine.
    Dallas needs a true, experienced 3 down back as RB2. Pollard’s skill set does not fit the offense if anything causes Zeke to miss time. Ajayi, Morris and Blount would all be good signings.
    As for Austin, when healthy is the best PR the team has had since Deion. Don’t forget he was “the next, better Dunbar” this time last year and is very cap friendly.