The Ezekiel Elliott Era Is Over | Cowboys Executive VP Stephen Jones Not Opposed To Drafting RB Bijan Robinson In First Round

Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys are coming off a season which saw them finish 12-5 and win a wild card playoff game. The 2022 season was one in which the Cowboys offense, including their former superstar running back, regressed and the defense blossomed into one of the best units in the NFL. Star quarterback Dak Prescott led the NFL with a career-high 15 interceptions, and while the team’s running game was solid, it was not up to the standards of team owner Jerry Jones.

Ezekiel Elliot Era Is Over In Dallas?

One reason is the rapid decline of stalwart back Ezekiel Elliott who looks like a shell of the bruising and explosive back that dominated the league his first 4-5 seasons. 

Yes, Zeke is still putting up decent numbers, but his presence is unimpactful and not nearly as impressive as it once was. That’s why backup Tony Pollard has become such a key cog in the team’s offensive approach the last two seasons. But with the Cowboys expected to release Zeke (unless he’s willing to take a massive pay cut) and Pollard on the mend from a pretty ugly leg/ankle injury, could Cowboys brass be willing to draft a running back in the first round?

The Dallas Cowboys wouldn’t be against drafting a running back like Bijan Robinson with the No. 26 pick in the 2023 NFL draft. (Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Stephen Jones Could Draft A Running Back First Round: Bijan Robinson?

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones isn’t one who believes you take a back at the top of the draft, because he is of the belief that the position isn’t valued enough to be picked that high. But he also stated he wouldn’t be opposed to drafting one if he fell to them late with the No.26 pick of this year’s draft. 

“If you’re taking a player in the top half, you’re hoping you’ve got a player who is going to be here for 10 years,” Jones said to reporters.

And if that running back is Texas star Bijan Robinson, no way you pass on the 6-foot and 220-pound do-it-all, bell cow type back. The belief is he won’t be there at No. 26 with a few starting tailback-needy teams drafting ahead of the Cowboys. But if he is there, could Dallas pounce? 

No one expected them to take Zeke at No. 4 in 2016, so taking Robinson at 26 would be a no-brainer, right? 

Since 2019 Only Three Backs Taken In First Round Of NFL Draft

In ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft, Kiper has Robinson being taken in the first round. Why is that a big deal? Because since 2019 only three backs have been taken in the first round, Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (K.C. Chiefs) and Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers). While all have shown flashes of greatness, Robinson is more talented than all of them. 

“It just makes sense, right? Team owner Jerry Jones loves star running backs, going back to his days of drafting Emmitt Smith in Round 1 in 1990, and he has repeatedly said Ezekiel Elliott is the Cowboys most important player,” wrote Kiper, who has Robinson going to the Cowboys in his most recent 2023 NFL mock draft. “Well, Elliott could be a salary-cap causality this offseason, and Tony Pollard — who made the Pro Bowl this season — broke his leg in the divisional round and is a free agent. 

“Could Jones and the Cowboys start over, and take Robinson, the best back in his class, here? Robinson also is a great pass-catcher, so he’s more than just a between-the-tackles runner. He could also take some of the pressure off quarterback Dak Prescott.”

That’s the same formula that Zeke and Dak came into the league with and found immediate success as rookies in 2016. Power running of Zeke and play-action passing of Dak, who also utilized his legs. The combination led to a 13-3 record and top seed in the NFC.

Robinson Is Best RB Back Prospect Since Saquon Barkley?

Viewed as potentially the most talented and complete back in the draft in the last 10-15 years and definitely since New York Giants star Saquon Barkley broke out in 2018, B-Rob possesses a total package of size, speed, vision, physicality and strength. His numbers at Texas speak for themselves. His 3,410 yards rushing in three seasons only trail Longhorns legends Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson and Pro Football Hall of Famer Earl Campbell. 

His 41 paydirt touches also rank fourth all-time in Longhorn history. The 2022 Doak Walker Award winner is ready to help a team right away, and if the Cowboys are lucky it could be them. 

Or could former Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore swoop in and take him at No. 21 with the Chargers?

We shall see. Enjoy “The Robinson Experience” at this week’s NFL Combine. 

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