Cowboys Fibs + Truths: RB Situation

IRVING - The Cowboys said before the NFL Draft that they felt no 'urgent' need to draft a running back. They fibbed. The Cowboys say now they 'feel good' about the guys on the roster. They're fibbing again. But ... the truth is on their Big Board.


The Dallas Cowboys said before the NFL Draft that they felt no "urgent'' need to draft a running back. That was a fib; Dallas' optimal plan was indeed to find a runner in the first four rounds, and one deserving of earning a starting job here, so that Darren McFadden could serve as the No. 2 guy and so Joseph Randle wouldn't be in a position to have to be depended upon.


The Cowboys say now they 'feel good' about the guys on the roster.

Depending on how you bend semantically ... They are fibbing again.

While McFadden's pedigree brings something important to the table, while Randle (105 career carries) showed in spurts last year how explosive he could be in relief of the departed DeMarco Murray, while Lance Dunbar is a specialist with skills and while practice-squadder Ryan Williams can still be the back Arizona thought he was when it drafted him in Round 2 a few years ago ...

Dallas doesn't "feel good'' enough to skip bothering to targeting draft-worthy runners. And man, how the Cowboys did target.

Their pre-Draft visitors included Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman, T.J. Yeldon and Buck Allen. That was no accident. It was part of a plan that simply didn't come together over the weekend of the draft because one team doesn't control its fate in the draft -- 32 teams combine to influence everyone else's fate.

“If you look over our drafts the last four or five years, probably the best thing we’ve done is have really good discipline on draft day,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Often times you have a need, or a perceived need, that you feel like you have to go reach for a guy who you feel isn’t as good as a number of other players you have on the board.''

"True to the board.'' That was the theme all weekend, as it's been in recent years when (with the exception of the Sharrif Floyd Debacle) Dallas has for the most part made sure "ranking'' trumped "need.'' ... with hope the top draftees somehow manage to fit into both categories.

Once Gurley and Gordon were gone way before Dallas' first-round slot at 27, the Cowboys could've traded down to position itself for a runner. But there sat DB Byron Jones, right on the cusp of being one of the Cowboys' 18-or-so first-round-graded players and with both high character and cornerback/safety position flex at a need spot. So they took Jones.

Tevin Coleman and Duke Johnson were among those available at Dallas' slot at No. 60. (The Cowboys liked both, and RB coach Gary Brown, I know for certain, had a fondness for Duke.) But Dallas couldn't resist pass-rusher Randy Gregory, who had a first-round grade along with some red flags and yes, filled a need.

Along comes the third round, slot 91. Should runner Jay Ajayi have been a consideration here? Dallas passed on Ajayi to instead grab offensive lineman Chaz Green. Is a swing tackle more important than a running back? Not "more important.'' Rather, the board (and Ajayi's knee problem) dictates.

This process continued throughout seven rounds, the exact right player never being available at the exact right spot with a grade superior to the guys chosen.

Said Garrett: “There were some running backs we were interested in at the top of the draft, in the middle of the draft and down here late in the draft, but I do think we had good discipline throughout taking players at other positions that we think can really help us.”

This doesn't make the Cowboys' board "right.'' Tevin Coleman and Duke Johnson will almost certainly make more "SportsCenter'' highlight reels next fall than Gregory will. Ajayi will almost certainly made more "SportsCenter'' highlight reels next fall than Chaz Green will make in a dozen autumns.

But it's worth noting that Johnny Manziel is also a star on The Bristol Network and many of those folks have no idea who Zack Martin is but ... who cares?

Said COO Stephen Jones of this draft: “If the right guy falls to us in the first round, then we would have taken him. If the right guy falls to us in the second round, we would have taken him. If the right guy falls to us in the third round, we take him. But I don’t think it’s something where you’ve got to stretch, and I think that is where you make big mistakes.''

One draft, with seven rounds, can't cure all. And no team can "have it all.'' Dallas has, on paper, upgraded its defense, knows it has Pro Bowl talent at quarterback, receiver and tight end, and possesses every faith its its best-in-the-business offensive line. ... the latter point really being the running-game issue solution.

Contrary to what's been written so often, the Cowboys do not think "We can just plug in just anybody at running back'' or "With this line, we'll have another DeMarco back there.'' But they do believe in Asset Management when it comes to the draft. That's one truthful philosophy. (And in all matters, which is why Jerry Jones' $17-mil mansion is now La'El Collins Recruitment Central.)

Another truth: They will likely view this group as "good enough'' rather than "optimal,'' and at this moment, they view it that way just enough to not be very tempted by other teams' discards. (For the foreseeable future, that includes Chris Johnson, even as he begs for work here, and most every other name being tossed around by Cowboys Nation.)

Now ... we get to camp ... and Dallas finds itself dissatisfied with this group? I guarantee the Cowboys will re-examine, not just with released veterans but maybe even with a trade for a more primo one. But not now.


And amid all these fibs, here's another truth:

“We’re going to run the football this year, that was a good formula for us,” Garrett said. “We’re a physical football team and running the football is going to be a big part of what we do.''

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