The 3rd Round: A Running Back?

We now turn the focus to the third round of this weekend's NFL Draft. The Cowboys, once again picking near the top, will have the opportunity to pick up another quality athlete. Our third round analysis is contained in this report, and it may just suprise you.

The Cowboys have made waves throughout the offseason with key free agent pick ups in La'Roi Glover, Kevin Hardy, and Bryant Westbrook. With those additions, even the most skeptical Cowboys' fan realizes that a winning record and the playoffs could well be within reach.

The first round of the draft will see the Boyz pick up one more defensive player in either Quentin Jammer or Roy Williams. The second round will likely see Dallas go after a big wide receiver, or tight end with soft hands.

In the third round, the Cowboys should stay the course. And when I say, "stay the course," I mean continue the focus on your offensive playmakers- guys that can get you touchdowns.

And the one thing you might not want to do in this round is assume that Jerry Jones will go after whichever position he missed in the 2nd. Just because he gets a wide receiver in the 2nd, don't assume that he'll go after a tight end in the third. (Need I remind you that Ken Dilger still looms on the horizon.)

No, the guy we really like with this pick isn't a wide out or a tight end. He's a running back.

RB Adrian Peterson (5'10, 210) is a big time playmaker out of Division I-AA power Georgia Southern.

Perhaps you aren't too familiar with this tough, hard nose back, but you'll likely be hearing his name on Sundays for many years to come.

Most scouts compare his running style to that of Curtis Martin. He's stocky, and he is able to lower the boom on just about anybody that stands in his way.

His senior year at Georgia Southern saw him rush 322 times for almost 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns. His junior and sophomore years also saw him rush for a combined 3,000 yards and 42 touchdowns. For his career, he averages almost 5.8 yards per carry- and he did that against teams that like to stack the box with 8, or even 9 defenders.

Peterson has all the skills you'd like to see in a running back, and he has the NFL in his bloodlines- he is the younger brother of Indianapolis Colt linebacker Mike Peterson.

But what you like most about Peterson is that he falls forward when being tackled, and he generally picks up extra yardage when plowing over linebackers and defensive backs. He also is a solid blocker and he always looks for somebody to hit whenever he gets the chance.

The downside to Peterson is that he didn't catch a lot of passes out of the backfield in college- but that really isn't his fault. He was the featured back in an offense that stayed almost entirely on the ground.

Another name we are hearing that is picking up steam is North Dakota State running back Lamar Gordon. (There is a reason you are seeing him pop up in certain mock drafts around the country by the way.)

The 6'1, 218 lb. running back has looked good in several combines, and the only reason he'll be likely be left in the third round is that teams are scared because he played Division II college football.

Gordon had a strong week of practice before the Senior Bowl, demonstrating his strong cut-back ability as well as showcasing his talents as a receiver. He also is a patient runner, and when you watch him on film, his running style reminds you a little bit of Ricky Watters.

He waits for the play to develop, and then he hits the hole with authority. He is also fast enough to turn the corner with his 4.45 speed. Gordon will some adjusting to do in the NFL, but he has the to physical tools in place to give himself a strong shot at success.

Also, don't forget that several Cowboys' scouts were reportedly very impressed and intrigued with Lamar Gordon during some of the Senior Bowl workouts in Mobile this past January. He, along with Adrian Peterson, has the talent to make it in this league.

So don't be surprised if Jerry Jones looks long and hard at one of these two running backs in the third round. Taking one then allows the Cowboys to take a chance on a strong runner while at the same time it shows no disrespect to Emmitt Smith.

Adrian Peterson currently ranks as the 6th best running back on our board, and Lamar Gordon is right behind him at number seven. Both should be available in the early part of the third round. Stay tuned for continuing draft coverage.

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