WACO, TX - DECEMBER 1: Joseph Randle #1 of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys carries the ball against the Baylor University Bears on December 1, 2012 at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
A few months ago, I posted a re-grade of Cowboys fifth-round running back Joseph Randle. The Cowboys apparently had a third-round grade on Randle, but I graded him as a fifth-round prospect—meaning Dallas didn't get great value with him, nor was he a big reach.
The primary reason I'm not high on Randle is that he's a rather slow, lean back. He ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at just 204 pounds. Those two traits—speed and weight—are the biggest predictors of NFL success for running backs, and Randle is average at best in both categories. Take a look at Randle and perhaps his closest comp:
Randle: 6-0, 204 pounds, 4.63 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical, 4.25 short shuttle, 5.5 YPC
Noah Herron: 5-11, 200 pounds, 4.60 40-yard dash, 31-inch vertical, 4.03 short shuttle, 5.5 YPC
Herron, who was less explosively vertically but quicker laterally, played two years in the NFL and ran for 273 yards. Is Randle the next Noah Herron? Maybe, maybe not. It's important to note that Alfred Morris is another good comp for Randle. There are all kinds of paths down which Randle could go with his skill set, but he's unlikely to be a top-tier player with his speed. Morris is the exception, Herron is the rule.
That doesn't mean Randle can't be productive in 2013, though. Actually, if he has a chance to produce in the NFL, we’ll know it right away; most running backs are most efficient at age 22—right when they enter the league—and it's a steady decline from there.
Still, Randle's projection is so difficult because we have no idea how much DeMarco Murray will play. Ultimately, we can probably project Randle at around 30 percent of the Cowboys' carries, which takes Murray's health into account. The Cowboys will likely run more often this year, probably close to the 408 attempts they had in 2011, meaning Randle should see in the neighborhood of 122 carries.
Because he's so young and should be running primarily in high-upside situations with fresh legs, I think Randle can average 4.6 YPC as a rookie, despite his mediocre skill set. We've seen this sort of early efficiency in the past from guys like Julius Jones, Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and even Murray. At 4.6 YPC, Randle would rush for 561 yards in 2013.
We don't really know who will handle third down and short-yardage work for Dallas. I have a feeling the Cowboys will want to limit Murray's workload a bit, meaning Randle could play a lot of third down snaps. The Cowboys could give Randle some goal line work as well since he was efficient in short-yardage in college. If so, 30 receptions and five scores isn't out of the question.
Final 2013 Projection: 122 carries, 561 yards (4.6 YPC), 30 receptions, 240 yards, 5 total TDs
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.