The Cowboys got a depressing spot in PFF’s RB rankings for 2024

The Cowboys got a depressing spot in PFF’s RB rankings for 2024

The Dallas Cowboys have a long history of being the preeminent running backs in the NFL landscape. From Calvin Hill to Tony Dorsett to Emmitt Smith to DeMarco Murray to Ezekiel Elliott, the franchise likes to employ a high-end option in the backfield.

That changed this offseason as the Cowboys adopted a running back-by-committee approach. There is no star to carry the load and according to Pro Football, Dallas has the worst RB room in the league.

After moving on from their leader in each of the last two seasons, the Cowboys now turn to a group that doesn’t inspire much confidence. Gone is Tony Pollard, and Elliott is back, designated as the starter. Rico Dowdle and second-year runner Deuce Vaughn return from last season, and the team also signed veteran RB Royce Freeman to compete for carries. The transition from Pollard to a multitude of RBs has not impressed PFF in their rankings.


After letting Tony Pollard sign elsewhere in free agency and missing out on top backs in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Cowboys re-signed Ezekiel Elliott to be their primary defender.

Elliott’s glory days came with the Cowboys, but his yards per carry average fell below 4.0 over the last two seasons, giving him a 69.2 PFF rushing grade, his career low in 2023. Behind him are Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn.

It is difficult to counter analysis. Pollard had surpassed Elliott as Dallas’ top running back a few years ago. Bringing back Elliott is good for nostalgia, but he might not prove to be much of an improvement over the other options. Of those still in the room, Elliott had the most rushing yards last season with 642, and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, the worst of his career.

On Thursday, the New England Patriots rewarded Rhamondre Stevenson, Elliott’s teammate, with a four-year extension worth $36 million, including $17 million guaranteed. His YPC dropped from 5.0 in 2022 to 4.0 in their 2023 offense, where Elliott outclassed him in the running and passing game.

The Cowboys considered bringing back Pollard, who was offered a hometown discount, but they did not address the deal he signed with his hometown team, the Tennessee Titans, and the team bypassed the best alternatives in free agency.

In the draft, Dallas also opted for other positions instead of selecting an RB, which could be a decision that haunts them going into the 2024 season.

The good news is that the season is not fast approaching and the team has time to expand the space. Training camp and the preseason will give the Cowboys an idea of ​​where they stand and whether they will need to find a better RB heading into the regular season. There are teams that could have an excess of talent at RB and maybe a trade could happen later, or the Cowboys could add an RB that was released towards the end of the preseason.

Unfortunately for Dallas, they will face six of the league’s top nine backfields this upcoming season, according to PFF rankings. The list includes three NFC contenders: the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions and rival Philadelphia Eagles, who added Pro Bowl RB Saquon Barkley in free agency. That’s not good for a team that has struggled to stop the run in recent years.

The Cowboys have put their financial situation back in position. It’s strange to see the team without a star RB, but things haven’t gone as planned this offseason. Although Elliott is no longer a bell cow RB, he should be able to gain yards behind a rebuilt offensive line.

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