Cowboys’ Sleeper NFL Draft Target Could Make Immediate Impact

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy

Getty Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy

The Dallas Cowboys lack experience and proven playmaking ability at running back, following Tony Pollard‘s departure to the Tennessee Titans in free agency. That might be about to change.

As the NFL Draft nears, the Cowboys’ needs at offensive tackle and depth along the front seven will likely rank high on the organization’s priority list, but few positions are in more focus ahead of 2024 than the uncertainty at running back.

ESPN lists explosive University of Texas running back Jonathan Brooks as the prospect outside of the first round who could be a perfect fit to fill arguably the biggest hole on the Cowboys’ roster.

“The Cowboys’ lack of a starting-caliber running back on the roster means whomever they draft has to be ready to carry the load,” Matt Miller writes for ESPN. “Brooks can do that, despite coming off a November ACL injury. Brooks has power and vision, and he is the best pass-protecting back in the class. He posted 1,139 yards last season.”

Finally healthy, Brooks looked the part of an explosive back during the 2023 season while averaging 6.1 yards per carry and reaching the end zone 10 times.

In what many consider to be a lackluster running back class, Brooks might be the most coveted prospect at the position.

Jonathan Brooks NFL Draft Scouting Report

Brooks has the speed and explosiveness to step into an NFL backfield and become a bell-cow, which is the caliber of running back the Cowboys have been missing since Ezekiel Elliott’s decline and eventual departure.

Pro Football Focus points out that Brooks averaged a whopping 3.91 yards after contact per carry last season while forcing 63 missed tackles and garnering an elite 140.3 elusive rating during a stellar 2023 campaign.

NFL Media’s Lance Zierline compares Brooks to former Kansas City Chiefs star Jamaal Charles.

“He’s agile and smooth working from cut to cut,” Zierline writes of Brooks. “And is likely to improve his feel for reading blocks and setting up defenders as he gains experience. Brooks has the wiggle and know-how to create yardage in tight quarters or in space but is efficient finishing runs when it’s time.”

Even as the Cowboys face turmoil along the offensive line, having to replace two premier starters in All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith and stalwart center Tyler Biadasz, Brooks is the type of back who can mask some of the growing pains a revamped offensive line might go through.

Is Cowboys’ Backfield by Committee Approach Coming?

Whether the Cowboys end up selecting Brooks, or another running back, or even enter September with the backfield as is, Dallas could take a running back-by-committee approach.

But, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones says the backfield remains a work in progress.

“We’re looking at the draft, too,” Jones told the team’s official website. “We don’t have an established [RB] in the organization right now. It’s something we’ll be looking at — in terms of getting young there again. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we also address it [in free agency].”

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has lauded the running back-by-committee approach in the past, and if the regular season began today Dallas would feature Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Malik Davis, and Snooper Conner, which could certainly use an upgrade.

“In this day in time, everybody’s got complementary backs in this league,” Jones admitted., “This has become the norm. I see us not just fixing it with one player at the running back position, but with more than one player.”

Read More