I guaranteed that the Cowboys would draft a running back at some point this year, and they made me look smart by taking Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle in the fifth round. I like the idea of waiting on a back because, since 2000, running backs drafted in the middle rounds (3-5) have actually averaged slightly greater yards-per-carry (4.25) than those selected in the first two rounds (4.23). Simply put, good running backs are not scarce, so there’s no reason to overpay for one.
Prior to the draft, I published a scouting report on Randle, arguing that he’s a poor man’s DeMarco Murray. The backs have similar running styles and all-around skill sets, but Murray ran in the low 4.4s while Randle was in the low 4.6s in the 40-yard dash. What’s that 0.2-second difference worth? Historically, about six times as much production for the faster backs, actually.
What I Like
Randle was productive in the Big 12. He rushed for 38 touchdowns in the past two seasons, averaging 5.5 YPC over that time. He also caught 108 passes over the course of his three-year career, and that ability is surely one the Cowboys coveted.
Interestingly, despite his lackluster 40 times, Randle tested well in some other drills. He showed explosiveness in the broad jump (10-3) and short shuttle (4.25). Most backs who run in the 4.6s don’t have that sort of explosiveness in other metrics, so Randle has a chance to be one of the “slower” backs to overcome his lack of long speed.
What I Don’t Like
In addition to his 40 time, which is a concern no matter how you slice it, Randle also lacks an ideal build. The most successful NFL backs have traditionally been short and stocky. Randle is 6-0, 204 pounds; his long, lean build means he’s probably more susceptible to injuries than most other backs. He truly is Murray without the speed.
Re-Grade: Fifth Round
I don’t think the Cowboys got horrible value on Randle by any means; he was productive in a major college conference and he has the ability to stay on the field at all times—including third downs and short-yardage—which is important with a lead back who hasn’t been able to stay healthy. The problem is that there were superior backs still on the board, such as Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy or Central Florida’s Latavius Murray, which made the selection of Randle less appealing.
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.