We’ve heard a lot about the Cowboys’ running backs this season. DeMarco Murray is set to have a huge year under Bill Callahan. Lance Dunbar, although down for now, has showed big-time burst in the preseason. We’ve seen the same from Phillip Tanner, who is a different sort of back, and of course lots of eyes are on rookie Joseph Randle. But we haven’t heard much about undrafted free agent Kendial Lawrence.
Through three preseason games, Lawrence has totaled only 14 yards on five carries. One of those rushes was a seven-yard touchdown, meaning Lawrence had seven yards on the four other carries. He also has failed to record a reception. Playing only 16 snaps, there’s really not too much we can conclude from Lawrence’s preseason work.
So what do we know about Lawrence? Well, he’s just 5 feet 9 inches tall, 194-pounds, which is very comparable to Dunbar. That’s obviously not ideal, but Lawrence also has great speed. Actually, he’s probably slightly more explosive than Dunbar. Lawrence ran between 4.33 and 4.45 at his pro day. That’s a big range, but Lawrence’s 10-5 broad jump and 37-inch vertical suggest he has true explosiveness. He’s probably a high-4.3 or low 4.4 sort of running back, which is outstanding at any size.
The problem is that Lawrence wasn’t extremely productive at Missouri. Running back success is obviously largely dependent on the offensive line, but it’s still slightly concerning that Lawrence averaged just 5.0 YPC on 444 carries during his four-year career. He also caught only 10 passes per season and scored 21 total touchdowns.
Those numbers aren’t horrible number by any means, but we have to remember that we’re dealing with an undersized undrafted free agent. He doesn’t come pre-selected by scouts as a top player, so he can’t really afford to have other negatives. To conclude that the scouts somehow “missed” on Lawrence in some way, we’d need to see outstanding speed and top-notch production.
Having said that, I still think Lawrence is comparable to Randle as a prospect. Lawrence wasn’t as productive in college and he’s smaller, but that difference in speed is massive. At 4.63, I just don’t think Randle can be a consistently dominant player in Dallas. Right now, I’d keep Murray, Randle, and Tanner (whose lack of speed is easier to accept since he’s 218 pounds), with Lawrence and Randle competing to be the fourth option at the position.
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.