The Dallas Cowboys could be looking for a new starting running back in 2024.
As predicted by Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema, he projects the Cowboys to select running back Notre Dame running back Audric Estime with a fourth-round pick in the 2024 NFL draft.
Sikkema mentions how the Cowboys could be seeking a new back with Tony Pollard on the franchise tag. If Dallas allows him to walk in free agency, the Cowboys would only have one running back under contract for next season in rookie Deuce Vaughn.
“With Tony Pollard on the franchise tag and Ezekiel Elliott gone, the Cowboys could have a new lead back next offseason,” writes Sikkema. “They likely won’t go into the draft without a veteran running back on the roster, but Estime would be a solid addition, no matter what. He continues the trend of giving the Cowboys bigger players in this mock draft. Notre Dame has Estime listed at 5-foot-11.5 and 227 pounds. But he’s more than just a big back. He brings good vision and footwork, which have yielded an elite 91.2 rushing grade this season.”
Audric Estime Would Be One of NFL’s Biggest Backs
Estime is a big back at 5-foot-11, 233 pounds. For perspective, the top seven heaviest running backs weigh at least 235 pounds.
During his junior season, Estime has racked up 988 yards on 163 carries (6.1 yards per carry) to go along with 13 touchdowns.
While he’s not a shifty, versatile back like Dallas’ current one, Pollard, he is the definition of a “physical” runner who can pound the football in between the trenches as Ezekiel Elliott once did in Dallas.
“Estime is a dense, physical runner who knows where his strength lies,” writes Crabbs in his scouting report of Estime. “While he isn’t particularly creative/elusive/agile, he’s nimble enough, and he pairs that with good contact balance to spin, bounce, or parlay off of soft contact challenges. You don’t necessarily get a lot of fluff with his running style, but you do get efficient carries that maximize yardage.”
How Cowboys’ Backfield Could Look in 2024 With Audric Estime
Outside of the fact that Estime is sparsely used in the passing game — just 17 receptions for 142 receiving yards and zero touchdowns in 10 games — his other potential flaws include ball security — he had three fumbles in the first four weeks of the season — and perhaps lacking the ability to get to the second level.
“He’s not a rapid foot-fire athlete, and as a result, redirection efforts or sudden pivots lack twitch and explosiveness,” writes Crabbs. “Can he still jump to an adjacent gap at the next level? I’m a bit skeptical that he won’t become a slashing style runner who is best carrying momentum through the line of scrimmage.”
It’s worth noting that Pollard isn’t exactly lighting up the stat sheet in his first season as a starting running back. He’s averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, a drastic decline from the 5.2 yards per carry he averaged last season as a complementary back to Elliott.
That could mean Dallas ends up bringing Pollard back on a reduced deal, rather than a long-term contract that costs money.
However, even if the Cowboys bring Pollard back, they could find it more suitable to pair a bigger back such as Estime — the way they previously did with Elliott — with Pollard in an effort to maximize the efficiency of the running game.