Why the Cowboys drafting Ezekiel Elliott at 4 is a BAD idea
The whirlwind of news leading up to the NFL Draft is absolutely insane, and for the everyday fan it is hard to distinguish between fact and smokescreen. One of those rumors swirling around is the Dallas Cowboys looking to spend the fourth overall pick on Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. I’ll be blunt, this is a BAD idea. Many Cowboys fans are clamoring for the stud running back to make his way to Big D, and I’m surprised to see so many of those fans are out there. There are a few reasons as to why this would not be the best move for Dallas to make, as outlined below…
First, let me start by saying Ezekiel Elliott is hands down the best running back in this year’s draft, and it is not close. He is a supreme talent that has the chance to be a Pro Bowl caliber back. Still, he should not be selected at No. 4.
1. The Cowboys do not have a pressing need at that position
Dallas has a total of five backs on their roster, including newly-signed Alfred Morris to pair with Darren McFadden, who is arguably coming off of his best season as a pro. Add in change-of-pace/receiving back Lance Dunbar, who is coming off of a bad knee injury, but is expected to play at some point this coming season. That gives the Cowboys three proven, capable backs at their disposal. Rod Smith and Ben Malena are also on the roster, although not expected to contribute much in 2016 (for what it’s worth the Cowboys are said to be ‘high’ on Smith).
Some may say, well what if those backs get hurt? Which playing in the NFL is a distinct possibility. McFadden is the most likely candidate due to his track record, but he has successfully played in 16 games each of the past two seasons. Alfred Morris has never missed a game in his 4-year career, and has seen his touches diminish each season as well, so the wear-and-tear is not there. Morris has also rushed for over 1,000 yards in 3 of his 4 seasons, proving he knows how to get it done, especially with a sub-par offensive line in Washington.
2. In today’s NFL the RB position is not as important as it once was
The NFL is a passing league, dominated by quarterback’s, especially in the NFL Draft. In the past three years a grand total of two backs were drafted in the first round, both last year (Todd Gurley at No.10 and Melvin Gordon at No.15). Gurley the reigning NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year has shown to be worthy of the selection, but the Rams had a dire need. Tre Mason was the only legitimate back in the roster, and he could be out of the league next season due to off-the-field issues. Gordon bombed as a rookie, failing to record a single touchdown.
The majority of NFL teams employ a running back by committee approach, and the Cowboys are no different. They did not sign Alfred Morris to sit on the bench. Both he and McFadden will get their fair share of touches. So if Elliott is selected at No.4 he will not be utilized as much as a No.4 overall pick should.
The last three backs selected in the Top 10 are, Trent Richardson, CJ Spiller and Darren McFadden so it is absolutely not guaranteed that Elliott will come in and dominate the NFL, despite his track record. Trent Richardson had a track record, how did that turn out?
3. There is value later on in the draft at the RB position
With all of the bust first round draft picks that are running backs, the exact opposite can be said for those back selected outside of Round 1. Going back to 2008, here are just a few backs who were selected later on in the draft….
Eddie Lacy-2nd Round
LeSean McCoy- 2nd Round
David Johnson- 3rd Round
Jamal Charles- 3rd Round
DeMarco Murray- 3rd Round
Devonta Freeman- 4th Round
Lamar Miller- 4th Round
Andre Ellington- 6th Round
James Starks- 6th Round
Alfred Morris- 6th Round
Justin Forsett- 7th Round
Rashad Jennings- 7th Round
The list could go on, but history shows you not only get more value by not selecting a running back in the first round, you have a better chance of not having one bust on you in the latter stages of the draft.
4. The Cowboys need help on defense
This could be the most important point as to why the Cowboys should not draft Elliott at No.4 overall.
If you have watched the NFL or Cowboys games the last three seasons you know Dallas has struggled mightily on defense. In 2013, the Cowboys owned one of, if not the worst defensive units in the history of the NFL. They gave up over 415 yards per game and were the laughing-stock of the NFL. In 2014 and 2015, it improved in terms of total yards, but not by much.
What has taken a hit each of the last three seasons are vital to a defense’s and overall teams success, sacks and turnovers. The Cowboys have gone downhill the last three seasons, accruing 34, 28 and 31 sacks from 2013-15 respectively. The interceptions have gotten drastically worse as well, snagging 15 in 2013, 18 in 2014 and only managing 8 last season, good for dead last in the NFL. Dallas had a -22 turnover margin, which is the largest reason they went from a 12-4 team to a 4-12 team. Many will point at the QB situation, but the team lost 6 games by seven points or less. Create a turnover or two in any of those games, and those losses turn into wins. Plain and simple.
If the Cowboys look to address either the secondary with a Jalen Ramsey or defensive line with a DeForest Buckner or Joey Bosa, they are instantly upgrading those positions, and those players will make more of an impact right away than Ezekiel would.
I didn’t even mention suspensions to Randy Gregory or Demarcus Lawrence which impacts the defensive line depth for at least 4 games, but if they get popped again, Dallas loses those players for an entire year. A lot of risk put into guys who have shown they lack maturity.
5. The offensive line
Dallas sports the best offensive line in the NFL. They are the biggest reason DeMarco Murray had so much success in 2014, and why Darren McFadden had a stellar 2015 campaign. If the holes are there, most NFL backs are more than capable to find them and run through them. You do not need to take a back fourth overall, with so many other NEEDS on your team. Alfred Morris has over 4,700 rushing yards in his 4-year career, running behind a mediocre at best Redskins line. He is more than capable to succeed behind the behemoth’s of the Cowboys offensive line.
A few more points
- The average life of a NFL player is 3.3 years, for a NFL RB it is 2.7 years, not the stat you want to see when spending the No.4 overall pick on a player.
- Rumors are saying the Chiefs want to trade Jamal Charles. If the Cowboys are interested it would take much less than the No.4 pick. More value, for a RB who would be added into the committee approach.
- The Cowboys are a playoff caliber team in 2016, even more so if they shore up their defense. Getting a player who can impact that unit from day one is more valuable than Elliott.
- Defense, defense, defense
- Both Superbowl teams ran a RB-by-committee approach last season. Showing it works….
- If they truly want Elliott, trade back a few picks and gain some more picks to add to the overall talent to your team.
I’m not saying Elliott won’t be a solid pro, but the way the NFL operates nowadays, the Cowboys would be drafting a player who would not make as much of an impact, especially from day one. You can see who My Fantasy Sports Talk’s NFL writers think the Cowboys will select in the 1st round by checking out our Mock Draft here. I also did a full Cowboys mock draft here. Let me know what you think about the Cowboys passing on Elliott in the comments below….