In a recent breakdown of the position, in-house reporter Nick Eatman predicted the capital-flush Cowboys could “add 2-3 backs” via the upcoming 2021 NFL draft.
“With 10 draft picks, one might figure the Cowboys to take a running back at some point,” Eatman wrote for the official team website. “It’s certainly not a position that needs to be addressed, at least not in the draft. The Cowboys have had some luck with undrafted free agents, even at running back where they have found the likes of Dowdle, Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner and others over the years to make the team as a backup running back.
“Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys add 2-3 backs either in the draft and/or rookie free agency.”
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The NFL’s richest runner, Elliott returns by default as the Cowboys’ resident workhorse following a bitterly disappointing 2020 campaign in which the three-time Pro Bowler fell short of 1,000 rushing yards, recorded his lowest yards per carry average (4.0) since entering the league, and matched his 2018 career-high of six fumbles across 244 attempts.
This, after offering to cede his bell-cow role to electric backup Tony Pollard.
“I mean, I’ve been pretty durable through my career. … 300 carries every season … haven’t seemed to be slowing down yet. But if they ever came to me and asked me to split carries, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do whatever they ask me to do to win,” Elliott said last August on 105.3 The Fan. “That’s my number one thing. I love being the bell-cow. I love getting the rock 30 times a game. I do. But whatever this team needs me to do to win that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Directly behind Elliott — you might say nipping at his heels — is Pollard, a 2019 fourth-round pick who temporarily replaced Zeke (Who?) during the latter’s infamous Cabo holdout. The Memphis product handled 86 carries as a rookie and 101 totes as a sophomore, including this game-sealing 40-yard touchdown scamper against the 49ers in December:
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Here is where that aforementioned depth chart gets muddled. After Elliott and Pollard, Dallas has two additional RBs under contract for 2021: Rico Dowdle and Sewo Olonilua — they of a combined seven career carries.
It’s highly possible, if not probable, the club will aim to upgrade at RB3. This is where their mid-to-late-round picks will come in handy. As such, multiple media outlets have mocked Iowa State’s Kene Nwangwu to the Cowboys on Day 3.
“Kene Nwangwu was a backup during his time at Iowa State and as such didn’t receive a lot of playing time, but when he did he impressed. He is an athletically gifted RB prospect, which is probably why his 9.88 RAS score is one of the best amongst all prospects in this year’s draft class. As impressive as that is though, he has an intriguing skill set as well,” wrote Brian Martin of Inside The Star.
“Why Nwangwu didn’t receive more playing time during his time at Iowa State is beyond me. He has three-down ability and the size, speed, power, and elusiveness to be a starting caliber RB. He also has shown the ability to be a good receiver out of the backfilled as well. And, on top of that he can contribute on special teams as a kick returner, where he averaged 26.8 yards per attempt in college.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL