The NFL draft is now over and one of the first-round selections that drew attention was the Dallas Cowboys’ selection of Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott with the No. 4 overall pick. ESPN’s Ed Werder, one of the best NFL reporters out there, reported via Twitter that the Cowboys had Elliott and Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey rated evenly, but chose Elliott because “they can give Elliott 25 touches. Teams can throw away from Ramsey.” The SportsChasers crew found this a topic worthy of debate. If you’re an NFL team with a high first-round pick, need both a running back and cornerback and there are players at both positions on the board whom you like evenly, what do you do? The case for the running back:
By Michael Day
Current NFL wisdom dictates that taking a running back in the first round is folly, but I happen to believe it was the correct pick for Dallas.
First, Ezekiel Elliot isn’t just a good running back prospect. He’s a great prospect: provides the home-run threat with speed and he is elusive. The elusiveness is what sets him apart from the other backs in this year’s draft. It is one of the things I worry about with Derrick Henry. Most successful backs in the NFL make defenders miss as well as run with speed and power. Elliot has all the tools for success in the NFL.
Next, the number one goal for the Cowboys this year is to protect Tony Romo. With Romo, the Cowboys are favorites to not only win their division, but win the Super Bowl. This also falls right in line with the current NFL Manifesto – It’s a Quarterbacks League. Well, how does a team protect their quarterback, the most important player in the NFL?
Fortunately for Dallas, they have a great offensive line, the number one piece of the puzzle required for a quarterback’s protection. Nothing derails a season faster than offensive lineman giving up bone-crunching sacks. (Please see last year’s Dallas season without Romo, which means that a great offensive line alone doesn’t do the job.)
You know what also helps the quarterback? The ability to just hand the ball of and watch a great running back behind a great offensive line score touchdowns. How fun is that? Hand off, watch a few seconds or maybe seven-eight seconds of work, and touchdown. No standing in the pocket worried about the rush. No delivering the ball under intense pressure. No, none of that, just hand off…touchdown (oh man, I am going sports-hate this Dallas team so much this upcoming year.) Sure, an average running back could score touchdowns behind this offensive line, but why waste this talented group by letting an average running back enjoy the fruits of their labor. This is like giving me the keys to a fine-driving sports car. Yes, you guessed it, lots of wasted horsepower. Don’t make this offensive team deal with speed limits. Let them put the pedal to the metal and leave everyone behind. Get ready for multiple checker flags for Elliot this year after crossing the end zone.
Normally, I would agree with taking the potential shutdown cornerback over a running back in the first round, because the cornerback position is arguably the second-most difficult position to fill in the NFL. Also, I agree with Mike Herndon’s point that it isn’t sound to argue that a team can just throw opposite the dominant corner, giving up a whole side of the field. How is limiting areas of the field good for an offense?
However, this Dallas team is in a unique position because adding a potentially great running back increases their chances of winning a Super Bowl more than drafting a potential shutdown corner. The cornerback may stop the offense from throwing to his side of the field, while this is effective and what he is paid to do, this will not score touchdowns. Even with limiting the field options, opposing offenses can still score; especially, by employing a strong running game and forcing the shutdown corner to tackle. A great running back behind this offensive line will score and since scoring is the name of the game, this draft choice fits Dallas.