Dallas Cowboys Draft Analysis: Running Back

DeMarco Murray

DeMarco Murray

Earlier I have blogged of Cowboys draft needs by covering positions that will likely be of higher priority than running back but make no mistake about it, the Cowboys could use another RB.

DeMarco Murray
Murray is an outstanding RB when healthy. But health has been an issue in his short career with the Cowboys. In two seasons, Murray has participated in 23 of 32 games. Last year, the Cowboys had to play 6 games without Murray so it’s very clear that having a solid backup RB is required.

Last year Murray was not as productive as he was his rookie season in 2011, which could be attributed to a weak offensive line and/or a new fullback. Probably a combination of all the above. Improving the blocking for Murray should be a high priority in the 2013 draft.

Felix Jones
Currently, Felix is an unsigned free agent and it’s not clear if Dallas will bring him back another season or not. Jerry has shown interest in signing Felix but it may depend on what happens in the draft. In the 2012 preseason, Felix failed his conditioning test and his productivity has declined steadily each season since 2009 as it is clear injuries have taken a toll on Jones.

It makes sense for Dallas to look for a Felix Jones replacement at some point in the draft.

Lance Dunbar
Dunbar was an undrafted rookie free agent last season that has turned out to be a good find. With injuries, the Cowboys called on Dunbar and he had 75 yards on 12 carries last season. It certainly appears that Dunbar figures into the Cowboys plans next season as a RB with impressive speed that provides depth behind Murray.

Phillip Tanner
Tanner made the Cowboys team in 2011 as a 3rd string RB and last season he only had 61 yards. Tanner has had injuries and I think he could be replaced on the roster if the Cowboys draft a RB.

If the Cowboys draft a RB, I look for it to happen late in the draft after more pressing matters are addressed. Besides in the NFL, good RBs can be found later in the draft each year. It’s not clear to me exactly what Garrett is looking for in a RB. Will he look for a more durable every down back or will he simply try to find a Felix Jones clone replacement?

Let’s look at some RB prospects the Cowboys may consider:

A Felix Jones Replacement: RB Kenjon Barner- Oregon
Barner is an impressive RB with breakaway speed (clocked with a 4.38/40) that Felix displayed in his first seasons as a Cowboy. He also displays nice hands and turns the corner well on sweeps like Felix has provided in the past. Last season Barner rushed for a jaw dropping 1,767 yards and 23 TDs. Barner can also return kickoffs which could really be of use for Dallas.

Barner is not considered an every down back in the NFL but could fill a complimentary role nicely until Murray gets injured again. Barner is expected to be drafted in the 4th or 5th round and could be a tremendous weapon for Garrett in the offense. Barner on VIDEO

A Durable Everydown back: Jawan Jamison-Rutgers
Considered smallish at 5-8 and 200 pounds but has been very productive as a runner between the tackles and as receiver out of the back field with 36 catches for 351 yards. A solid all around back that can fill in nicely when Murray is unable to play. Jamison compares to Ray Rice the former Rutgers RB that has been very successful with the Ravens.

Expected to be drafted in the 4th round, Jamison represents a good RB prospect for Jason’s offense.

A Murray Replacement: Knile Davis-Arkansas
An intriguing prospect that played at Arkansas Jerry’s college and the school that gave us Felix Jones. Davis is from Missouri City, Texas and has appeared spectacular at times but has had injuries. The injuries are what make it look like he will either be picked in the 7th round or not drafted at all.

On video he runs with a nice forward lean and follows blocks well. Makes nice cuts and runs using his eyes looking for day light. Can provide power but often makes defenders miss instead. Capable of cutting on a dime and giving you nine cents change. Wow.

With similar size as Murray at 6’0 and 227 pounds, Davis also displays soft hands with outstanding breakaway speed running a 4.37/40. He will remind some of current Raider and former Arkansas RB Darren McFadden but reminds me of DeMarco Murray. Davis had 31 reps on the bench at the combine which was the best among running backs.

While the past injuries cast a cloud of doubt, the Cowboys would be wise to take a look at this prospect who has great size and speed like Murray. Davis was also a team captain for two season which Garrett has shown a tendency to draft team captains.

My Take:
With only 6 picks, the Cowboys have bigger fish to fry in the draft but if they can get a quality RB late in the draft to replace Felix Jones, it would be a wise move. Jason and Jerry will need to decide which type back will best serve them next season and it’s almost a given based on the past, that they will play some without the injury prone Murray.

If they are unable to draft a RB, then looking at undrafted RBs will be a must and I think giving Knile Davis serious consideration could pay off for them in the future.