It wasn’t that long ago that running backs had become an afterthought in the NFL draft.
In 2012 and 2013, no running backs were selected in the first round. The shelf life of a running back, after all, isn’t as long as a quarterback, offensive lineman or defensive end.
But the Dallas Cowboys bucked that trend a year ago when they used the fourth overall pick on Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott. That worked out well, as Elliott led the league in rushing as a rookie with 1,631 yards on 322 carries with 15 touchdowns.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping to follow suit. They took LSU running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick on Thursday night, a pick that was widely praised by analysts. The Carolina Panthers snagged Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey four picks later.
And Elliott couldn’t have been happier, either, seeing a running back go in the top-five for a second straight season.
“The RB is back. CONGRATS @_fournette !,” Elliott posted on his Twitter account, @EzekielElliott.
That’s a much different vibe than even a year ago.
Hall of Famer and Cowboys great Emmitt Smith ripped teams for devaluing the position before last year’s draft.
“I’m extremely disappointed in it because they have placed the emphasis on the quarterback position and the D-ends and maybe even cornerbacks. And the guy who takes the pressure off all of that is the running back,” Smith told the Star-Telegram.
Owner Jerry Jones predicted that the Cowboys would “stay put” at the No. 28 position earlier in the week, and they did. At least in the first round.
The Cowboys have made first-round trades four times in the past decade, but haven’t done so since moving back in the 2013 draft when they landed center Travis Frederick.
The Cowboys traded up in the 2012 draft to get cornerback Morris Claiborne, traded up to get Dez Bryant in 2010 and traded back in 2007 when they selected defensive end Anthony Spencer.
Jones said earlier in the week that it was a good draft to “stay put,” citing the depth among secondary and pass rushers.
The Cowboys confirmed the dates and kickoff times for their 2017 preseason games:
Thurs., Aug. 3 vs. Arizona Cardinals (Canton), 7 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 12 at Los Angeles Rams, 8 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 19 vs. Indianapolis Colts, 6 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 26 vs. Oakland Raiders, 7 p.m.
Thurs., Aug. 31 at Houston Texans, 7 p.m.