Jerry Jones raised some eyebrows before the draft when he said running back wasn’t an “urgent” need for the Dallas Cowboys going into this year’s draft. This, after all, was coming from an owner of a team who lost the NFL’s leading rusher.
But Jones wasn’t bluffing.
The Cowboys haven’t taken a running back through the first three rounds, instead addressing more pressing needs on defense (defensive back, pass rusher) and adding another offensive lineman. The Cowboys, though, are expected to be in play for a running back today during the final four rounds.
Boise State’s Jay Ajayi and USC’s Javorious Allen remain on the board, and the Cowboys had each visit Valley Ranch for a pre-draft visit. Expect the Cowboys to give those two serious consideration should they remain on the board when they pick, but the team remains steadfast in its belief the current running backs corps is good enough to fill the void left by DeMarco Murray.
The Cowboys signed Darren McFadden earlier this offseason, and have returners in Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams.
“We’re doing well enough that we have not felt hostage at running back, relative to the draft,” Jones said after Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday. “We might not need that dramatic a term, but we did not have it down as a must drafting position when we came in. I’m not trying to sell it, we’re actually demonstrating that when it comes to getting a chance to get a top cover guy [first-round pick Byron Jones], or really getting an elite, elite pass rusher [second-round pick Randy Gregory], that’s taking priority over the running back.
“The point is, we’re drafting at positions, and we’re drafting players that are more important to us than running back.”
Ajayi, a Frisco Liberty product, had a productive career at Boise State and is considered a top-50 talent. He gained 1,823 rushing yards last season on 347 carries with 28 touchdowns. However, a lingering knee injury has scared some teams off of Ajayi as his durability is a concern going forward.
Allen, meanwhile, gained 1,489 yards on 276 carries for the Trojans last season, scoring 11 TDs.
But, as stated, don’t expect the Cowboys to draft a running back simply to draft a running back.
“I don’t think it’s a glaring need,” executive vice president Stephen Jones. “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. I don’t think it’s something that’s really holding us up, as Jerry said, but if we find the right guy there and there’s a couple of guys on the board that fit us then we’ll certainly look at it.
“Would we like to have a little more depth there? Of course we would. But if it doesn’t happen, then we really do like the four backs we have.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760