The Cowboys need to adopt analytics and start ignoring the running back position

34 to 28 with three and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The college football playoff was on the line. Ohio State held the lead and the ball, looking to upset no. 1 overall Alabama. On first and ten, Ezekiel Elliott took the handoff and rolled out left. He would not be touched on his way to an 85-yard touchdown to seal the game.

After a 1,821-yard junior season, many believed the OSU running back was a safe pick. The Dallas Cowboys thought so. They selected Elliott fourth overall with Jalen Ramsey still on the board. Since then, Elliott’s time in Dallas has been up-and-down, with more “down” moments in recent years.

If the Cowboys want to avoid a situation like this happening again, they should turn to analytics. Quantifying talent in sports became popular when Michael Lewis published “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” in 2003. The book detailed Billy Beane’s use of analytics to build a roster for the Oakland Athletics. This approach made its way to professional football in the mid-2000s.

By 2021, every NFL team employed at least one data specialist. The use of statistics has led to improvements in roster construction and in-game decision-making. But the main result of analytics in football is that teams now believe the running back position is overvalued. And if the Cowboys want to increase their probability of success, they have to adopt this approach.

The Cowboys need to adopt analytics and start ignoring the running back position

Halfbacks contribute to the outcome of a game, but not because of their ability. An above-average quarterback or receiver can use their athleticism to move the ball downfield. But Pro Football Focus, a company that provides data-driven insights for NFL teams, found that offensive line performance, defensive strength and yards from the end zone affect the result of a rushing play more than the running back’s talent.

Halfbacks who can take over a game, such as rookie year Ezekiel Elliott, are the exception rather than the rule. And it is not a coincidence that Elliott’s best years came when the offensive line was at its best.

In-game analytics has also limited a running back’s influence. Teams increasingly believe that passing is more effective than rushing to convert first downs and score points. Rushing frequency continues to decline in situations like third and short, first downs and around the goal line. Simply put, you don’t need a running back as often as you used to.

Players like Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans, who shoulder the workload for their team, are a dying breed. From 2001 to 2010, 48 running backs carried the ball more than 325 times in one season. Since then, only eight running backs have hit that mark.

Because of the declining value of the running back, Dallas needs to ignore the position in the first few rounds of the draft. From 1985 to 1989, 41 running backs were selected in the first two rounds. Compare this to 2017 to 2021, where 22 running backs were selected in these rounds. Taking a running back in the first round is a scary proposition that is not advisable. Taking a running back fourth overall, as the Cowboys did with Elliott, should never happen again.

Limitations in analytics are also devaluing the position. One facet of football that is nearly impossible to foresee is injury. But a starting running back is tackled 200 times a year on average. The risk of a torn Achilles or concussion is greater for this position than for others.

Because of this risk, it is challenging to find a safe pick at halfback. Since 2006, running backs selected in the first two rounds have become a consistent starter 31% of the time. This number dips to only 26% for fourth-round selections. It is easier to evaluate positions like wide receiver who become a starter 59% of the time if taken in the first two rounds.

This trend doesn’t stop at draft value. From 2011 to 2021, the average NFL salary grew from $2.3 million to $3.5 million. But over this span, the average running back contract declined by $600,000. This is another facet that makes Elliott’s six-year, $90 million contract even more disappointing.

And the odds that a running back even receives a contract is decreasing. A fourth-round running back makes $750,000 annually, whereas the minimum for a veteran running back is $1.1 million. A late-round halfback is younger, cheaper and thought to be interchangeable with the veteran. In 2011, nine starting running backs were on their rookie contracts. In 2021, that number stood at 17, more than half of the 32 NFL teams.

Here is the hard truth, over the last three years, the Cowboys easily could have replicated Elliott’s production with a fourth-round running back at a fraction of the price (i.e. Tony Pollard).

Football still needs running backs. But Dallas’ strategy needs to revolve around minimizing the capital invested in the position. Using a bunch of low-cost dart throws in the later rounds is the best place to find running backs.

This approach is changing the NFL and leading to success on the field for teams that choose to adopt it. Since 2008, no team has won a Super Bowl while investing more than $2.5 million in its starting halfback. Efficient capital allocation in professional football leads to success, which now entails prioritizing other positions over running back.

The shift away from the position is at an all-time high. In 2022, only three running backs were selected in the top two rounds of the draft, tied for the fifth-lowest total in NFL history. The average contract amount of a starting running back declined by $275,000 compared to 2020. And for just the third time in history, all 32 teams passed more than they ran the ball.

The Cowboys need to catch up with the rest of the NFL. The value of a running back continues to decline. The era of the workhorse halfback seems to be over. And quarterbacks are more important than ever.

In 2023, the Cowboys have the opportunity to get out of Ezekiel Elliott’s contract, and with Tony Pollard set to be a free agent, they will start from scratch. Now we have to hope that the front office has learned its lesson and is willing to start ignoring the position. If they want to win, they have to change with the rest of the league.

Cowboys news: NFL schedule is released, Dallas will host Tampa Bay to open the season

Cowboys Open 2022 Schedule Against 2 Elite QBs – Rob Phillips, Dallascowboys.com

The NFL schedule is officially here.

FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys will face the GOAT in Week 1 again.

For the second consecutive year, the Cowboys will open the regular season against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — this time at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 11.

Kickoff is set for 7:20 p.m. Central on Sunday Night Football.

It’s a rematch of last year’s thriller in Tampa, won by the Bucs 31-29, in which Brady and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott combined for 782 passing yards and seven touchdowns.

After Brady, the Cowboys will play another top quarterback at home in Week 2: Bengals Pro Bowler Joe Burrow, who led Cincinnati to last year’s Super Bowl in his second NFL season.

It’s the first time since 2001 that Dallas opens the season with back-to-back home games. It’s also the first time since 2010 that they’ll finish the regular season with consecutive road games (at Tennessee and Washington in Week 17 and 18, respectively.)

The defending NFC East champs play their first division game in Week 3 at the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. They’ll also face the Giants at home on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1992.

Here’s the complete schedule:

Most favorable NFL schedules of 2022: Forgiving draws for Cowboys, Giants – Jeremy Bergman, NFL.com

By all metrics it seems that the Cowboys may have a favorable slate of opponents in 2022.

What makes a schedule easy? Nothing, if you ask any Football Guy worth his salt.

No games are givens; everything is earned. You have to take it week by week, day by day, play by play. Any given Sunday, yada, yada, yada.

But certain teams do have it easier in any given season due to myriad schedule-related factors.

One way to measure the difficulty of a team’s schedule is to calculate strength of schedule (the combined record of its opponents based on last season’s results). But no roster is the same year to year, and SOS doesn’t take into account the many variables that come with the order of the slate. It’s far from a crystal ball statistic.

For instance, in 2019, Washington had the easiest strength of schedule entering the season and went 3-13, the second-worst mark in the league. In 2016, the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl despite entering the year tied for the hardest strength of schedule.

A proper guesstimate requires something more scientific, or at the very least, more subjective. That’s where I come in.

Jersey Number Assignments For Rookie Minicamp – Nick Eatman, Dallascowboys.com

The newest Cowboys got some new numbers.

FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys are welcoming nearly 30 rookies to The Star on Thursday as they get ready for the minicamp over the weekend.

Practice will start on Friday, but before that, the new players will try on their equipment, get fitted for helmets and receive their jerseys for the first time.

While jersey numbers are always subject to change, especially considering there are many players with duplicate numbers to veterans, here are the numbers we expect to see when the players hit the field Friday.

Draft Picks:

No. 73 – Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa

No. 54 – Sam Williams, DE, Ole Miss

No. 18 – Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

No. 48 – Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin

No. 71 – Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota

No. 30 – DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State

No. 53 – Damone Clark, LB, LSU

No. 95 – John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas

No. 50 – Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State

NFL breaks down Cowboys’ win probability in 3 crucial 2022 matchups – Lauren Barash, The Landry Hat

The Cowboys have a tough stretch of games early on, see how the league feels they will do.

t’s NFL schedule release day and everyone is talking about who is facing who and who has the toughest schedule. Although the Dallas Cowboys are currently tied for the easiest strength of schedule with NFC rival Washington Commanders, they certainly have some critical matchups to get through throughout the year.

Ahead of the schedule release, we already knew who the Cowboys’ home and road opponents would be. To be fair, there should be some walks in the park. Taking on the Commanders, Houston TexansJacksonville Jaguars, and Detroit Lions should be pretty easy. We’d like to think facing the Eagles and Giants will also be simple, but it will be interesting to see how impressive newcomers like Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jordan Davis, and A.J. Brown affect those NFC East teams in 2022.

Despite the low opponent win percentage, the Cowboys will still have some pretty difficult games on their 2022 schedule. Ahead of the schedule release, NFL analytics expert Cynthia Frelund did an in-depth look at all 32 teams’ win probabilities. Frelund broke down the win probability for each franchise’s three “must-watch” matchups in 2022.

For the Cowboys, the analytics expert took a look at the probabilities for games against the Packers, Bengals, and Eagles.

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