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NFL Draft

Draft Philosophy: Cowboys Running Backs

Jess Haynie



Darren McFadden, Patriots

Everyone has their own principles and philosophies when it comes to building a team. That's never more clear than during draft season, when the level of priority each of us senses for different roster positions varies greatly.

This weekend I thought I'd dive into the three glamour positions of any NFL team; running back, quarterback, and wide receiver. I wanted to share my personal philosophy about each position and how that's shaping my sense of what the Cowboys need to do later this month in the NFL Draft.

Many want to see Dallas add an elite runner, such as Ezekiel Elliott, with the idea that such talent behind our offensive line would lead to rushing domination. Others, such as myself, feel that our offensive line is so good that you don't need top-dollar (or top-draft pick) talent carrying the ball to get big results. Again, two different philosophies and neither of which is wrong.

Cowboys Headlines - Draft Philosophy: Cowboys Running Backs 1There's no question that talent yields results at running back. The list of all-time rushing seasons is a who's who of NFL running back history; Eric Dickerson, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, LaDainian Tomlinson, O.J. Simpson, Adrian Peterson, and others who are either already in Canton or headed that way. There are also plenty of borderline Hall-of-Famers such as Shaun Alexander, Jamal Lewis, Ahman Green, and Tiki Barber on the list.

Cowboys Draft - Draft Philosophy: Cowboys Running Backs

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

DeMarco Murray's 1845 yards in 2014 set a Cowboys record and was the 17th-best total in NFL history. However, Murray likely isn't headed to the Hall of Fame. His pre-2014 seasons and an abysmal season last year in Philadelphia have likely assured that. His resume isn't even good enough for the Dallas Ring of Honor.

Last year, Darren McFadden went from the NFL scrap heap to fourth-best in the NFL. It's plausible that McFadden would have led the league had he been the full-time runner all season, not losing carries to Joseph Randle up until Week 7. Once again, the Cowboys rushing attack was highly productive without a major investment at running back.

Coincidentally, McFadden was a former fourth-overall pick and Dallas is picking at that same spot in 2016. You might argue that McFadden previous draft status is proof that we should go after elite talent now.

Cowboys Draft - Draft Philosophy: Cowboys Running Backs 1That argument would ignore just how low McFadden's stock was before last year. He'd only had one 1,000-yard season in seven years with the Raiders. He'd missed 29 games in that time. From 2012-2014 he was averaging just around 3.3 yards per carry. Like I said before, he was on the NFL scrap pile.

The last two years of Murray and McFadden's production tell me that this team doesn't need to spend big at running back to get top results. Maybe an elite talent would increase production somewhat, but will that increase be proportionate to the cost? How much more could a top-tier runner have done in 2014 to what Murray accomplished?

Perhaps even more importantly, the Cowboys need a smart financial plan to keep this offensive line together. Travis Frederick's rookie deal expires this year and both Zack Martin and La'el Collins could be free agents in 2018. Tyron Smith is already making a top five salary at his position. Keeping four first-round talents together for the long haul will take lots of money.

In 2016 the franchise tag number for running backs was $11.8 million. Remember, that's the average of the top five contracts in the league for players at that position. Are you prepared to pay Elliott that kind of money four years from now? Will you even be able to given the price tag at offensive line?

Some would argue that you don't have to worry about the second contract. They just want Elliott for these four years of his rookie deal, paying roughly $5 million a season. If he walks after that to get the big payday, like DeMarco Murray did, then we just reload with another young talent.

Cowboys Draft - Draft Philosophy: Cowboys Running Backs 2I can respect that philosophy, but let's consider what that means in terms of your fourth-overall pick. You're giving up a decade, potentially, with an elite talent at some other position for four or five years of a running back. If Jalen Ramsey is as elite a corner or safety as Elliott is a runner, or if Myles Jack is just as good at linebacker, wouldn't your rather have 8-10 years with them than just half that time with Elliott? I know I would.

Obviously, every draft class is unique. Philosophies and principles are great but have to be flexible to the talent you're presented with in each new draft.

If the Cowboys think Elliott is special in a way that none of these other guys are, then maybe they should go ahead and make that pick. If they'd rather have Ramsey but he's off the board then I can see not "reaching" on Jack, Joey Bosa, or someone else. If Elliott is the best talent on Dallas' board then I can't really fuss if they draft him.

However, they have to be pretty damn sure. They are sacrificing a lot to make that pick and potentially overloading resources in one aspect of a multi-faceted game. A top five pick doesn't come along every year (unless you're Cleveland or Jacksonville) and you can't use it lightly.

Obviously, I hope they find a better use for it than running back. But only time will tell if that better option exists.

And if Elliott has a 2,000 yard season on our way to a Super Bowl win, I promise to apologize.

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!

  • Brian Martin

    I think I will probably be straddling the fence about whether or not to draft Elliott up until his name is finally called by some team. I can see both sides of the argument and I can't decide which direction I would prefer the Cowboys to go. Great article!

    • Bryson Treece

      That's exactly how I feel about it. I wouldn't be mad if they get him, or if someone else gets him.

      • Sean Martin

        Unless of course it's the Eagles or Giants. However, talked about this with Dante on my radio show when it comes to draft philosophy, and we both agreed that Dallas can't draft Elliott just to block him from one of those two teams. Have to worry about your own team at #4 and trust that whoever you pick will make you better and bring you to a level to compete with a New York or Philly team that has Zeke. Considering their approach to free agency, I'd say that's pretty likely in 2016 regardless.

  • M shepard

    If he is the best talent there by all means take him and if he turns out to be elite you find a way to pay him

NFL Draft

2018 NFL Draft: Cowboys to Hold Visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller

Sean Martin



2018 NFL Draft: Cowboys to Hold Visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller
(Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys have been frustratingly unsurprisingly quiet through the start of free agency, as their opportunity to improve at the AT&T Stadium hosted 2018 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching. Offensive line depth remains a team need for the Cowboys, one they're actively looking to address by visiting free agent Guard Marcus Martin while planning a pre-draft visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller.

Bobby Belt on Twitter

I'm told UTEP Guard Will Hernandez is another of Dallas' 30 pre-draft visitors. Hernandez joins Alabama WR Calvin Ridley and UCLA G/T Kolton Miller on the list of reported visitors for the #Cowboys. Since 2014, 14 of Dallas' 35 picks (40%) have been pre-draft visitors.

Protecting one of the top quarterbacks available in the draft in Josh Rosen through college, Kolton Miller absolutely blew up the Combine in Indianapolis - entering the draft as one of the most athletic available linemen.

It is this athleticism and versatility that the Dallas Cowboys should absolutely be looking for, if trying to add another "blue chip" player to an offensive line already featuring LT Tyron Smith, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, and RT La'el Collins.

Kolton Miller Longest Offensive Lineman Broad Jump 2018 NFL Combine

Kolton Miller with the broad jump world record for an offensive lineman at 10 1 wow

Tyron Smith's health (along with the level of play the Cowboys received at his spot in his absence) and the FA status of Jonathan Cooper are both reasons the Cowboys should consider adding a new, controllable option to their dominant offensive line. Whether this is with the 19th overall pick, or later on with a prospect like Miller, will depend on how the board falls through the first 18 picks of the draft.

With ten total picks coming in, the Cowboys could be positioning themselves for a move up the board to land an impact defender, or an additional piece for Kris Richard to work with in the defensive backfield. Staying home at 19th overall and selecting a player capable of playing swing tackle would not only be a safe option for the Cowboys, but a smart one with Ezekiel Elliott returning full-time to the lineup in 2018.

Without Elliott for six games in 2017, the Cowboys still managed nine wins. This is a point lost to most of Cowboys Nation, especially those watching the entire playoffs without their team in it, only to watch the Eagles hoist the Lombardi. Elliott's impact on each's week game plan for Dallas is hard to understate, and the Cowboys' trust in him begins up front.

Testing as an elite athlete with the film to match at tackle in the Pac 12, Kolton Miller should be a welcome addition to America's Team - getting the opportunity to learn the Cowboys' way with a trip to The Star in his future.

Tell us what you think about "2018 NFL Draft: Cowboys to Hold Visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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NFL Draft

Can Powers of Persuasion Help Make Will Hernandez a Cowboy?

Brian Martin



Can Powers of Persuasion Make Will Hernandez a Dallas Cowboy?

There is no shortage of NFL hopefuls who would like to become a member of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft. But, not one of them have used their powers of persuasion to make their intentions known as much as former UTEP offensive guard Will Hernandez.

Throughout the entire draft process, Will Hernandez has done nothing but stand out when given the opportunity. He first started to make waves at the 2018 Senior Bowl, where he pretty much dominated his competition. Then, he improved his draft stock even more by putting on a show at the Scouting Combine.

The 6'2", 330 pound offensive guard has likely cemented himself as a surefire first-round draft pick and is arguably the second-ranked OG in the entire 2018 draft class. He is a plug-and-play prospect for any team who drafts him, but he has made his intentions well known that he would love to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

Back in February, Will Hernandez was spotted hanging out with the Cowboys bookend offensive tackles, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, to see the premiere of the movie Death Wish, starring Bruce Willis.

Will Hernandez on Twitter

@PujolsFive Cowboys fans will appreciate this post!! ⭐️ Movie Premiere #Deathwish Great movie!

To see Will Hernandez rubbing elbows with a few of the Dallas Cowboys talented offensive lineman only strengthened the connection for Hernandez becoming a draft pick by America's Team. But, this wasn't the only time the former UTEP offensive guard was seen out with a Cowboys player.

In March, he was once again seen out on the town with the Cowboys All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith.

All of this can probably be chalked up to a current player hanging out with an NFL hopeful, but as a Cowboys fan you want to believe it's more than just a coincidence.

The Dallas Cowboys without a doubt need a new starting left guard. It can be argued it's the team's biggest need this offseason and Will Hernandez fits the bill to a T. He would immediately upgrade the entire offensive line and solidify the unit for years to come.

The only problem is, the Dallas Cowboys have already invested quite a bit in their offensive line and taking Will Hernandez in the first round would be considered by some as overkill. I for one wouldn't be opposed to taking him at 19 if he is the top rated player when the Cowboys are on the clock.

It's hard to know if seeing Will Hernandez hanging out with Tyron Smith and La'el Collins improves his chances of being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, but it definitely doesn't hurt. Offensive lines around the NFL perform at their best when they play as a cohesive unit, so developing a bond already could be viewed as a good thing.

Who knows, maybe Will Hernandez's powers of persuasion will pay off and end up being the deciding factor to help him become the next first-round offensive lineman drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you read anything into Will Hernandez hanging out with Cowboys players?

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NFL Draft

Keeping Dez Bryant Shouldn’t Stop Cowboys From Drafting Calvin Ridley

Mauricio Rodriguez



Butch Dill / Getty Images

With NFL Free Agency buzz at full speed this week, Dez Bryant is one of the most intriguing names in the Dallas Cowboys world. We all know the story. We've been talking about it since last season. Bryant, who was once among the "Top WR of the league" conversation, doesn't look like an elite player anymore.

That doesn't mean he is a bad football player, but the problem is that he's getting paid big time.

The Dallas Cowboys, who have struggled with cap space for many years now, may want to avoid paying $16.5M to a player who isn't justifying his paychecks on the field. Big name and all, it certainly doesn't feel that way.

His lack of production on the field the last three years is concerning, even though he's played with quarterbacks not named "Tony Romo." There are other receivers around the league who have played with bad quarterbacks and have still been able to produce.

Even still, it wouldn't be easy to replace Bryant on the offense just like that. Right now, top free agents are already off the market, so if Dallas wants to replace him, it'd have to be via trade or via the NFL Draft.

Jane Slater on Twitter

ICYMI: A few things to consider as we wait on news about Dez Bryant's future with the Dallas Cowboys

Right now, it seems that Dez is going to remain a Dallas Cowboy and after seeing the contracts other receivers in the league are about to get, who knows if a pay cut will even enter the equation.

Even if Dez keeps wearing the Star every week next season, wide receiver is still one of the team's top needs. Despite the fact that Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten are some very well-known names, the truth is this offense needs a guy who can create separation and be harmful as a deep threat.

This is a draft class with a lot of depth at wide receiver, and the Cowboys could find contributors at the second or later rounds. Even still, if they're on the clock at 19 and Alabama's Calvin Ridley is available, the front office should pull the trigger.

Yes, even if Dez is still on the team.

Despite last year's struggles, we shouldn't lose faith on the Cowboys' offense when it has a lot of talent. We believed in this group to take us to the Super Bowl. What they are missing could just be a new, dynamic wide receiver.

Dallas Cowboys Reportedly Set to Meet with Alabama WR Calvin Ridley 1

Alabama Crimson Tide WR Calvin Ridley (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

Calvin Ridley is by far the best WR in the Draft this year and will be an impact player anywhere he goes. Despite a poor showing in the Combine, Ridley proves to be worthy of a first round pick on tape. Ideal route-running, great ability to separate and more than enough speed for the NFL.

This would certainly take a lot of pressure off Cole Beasley's shoulders, who was constantly double-teamed last year. Sure, he's still good, but if he continues to run into double-coverage, Dak Prescott and company will probably continue to struggle another year.

It's tough to imagine Calvin Ridley being available at 19, especially with the Baltimore Ravens holding the 16th overall pick. However, some people believe there's a 50/50 chance he's available once Dallas is on the clock. If that's the case, the Cowboys shouldn't pass on this prospect.

Ridley could very well end up being the most productive receiver for the Cowboys in 2018 becoming an essential "best friend" for Dak Prescott.

We've seen how other front offices have made friendly offenses for their young QBs and if Calvin Ridley is what it takes, why even think about it?

Tell me what you think about "Keeping Dez Bryant Shouldn’t Stop Cowboys From Drafting Calvin Ridley" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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