Mel Kiper’s new mock draft rocks Cowboys backfield

As thoughts have already turned to next year for fans of 28 NFL teams, that means it’s mock draft season once again. Twenty-seven teams know where they’ll be picking in the first round (the Dolphins know they won’t pick at all after having their opening-night selection taken away for tampering violations), and the debates have already begun about what what each team should do and which prospect each team should target with their respective slot.

The Cowboys own the 26th pick, a spot that’s yielded NFL notables like Montez Sweat, Calvin Ridley, Datone Jones, Whitney Mercilus, Clay Mathews, Alan Faneca, and Ray Lewis. Of course, for every one of those household names, there’s also the likes of Fernando Bryant, John McCargo, and Paxton Lynch.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has made his picks, and his most recent mock has Dallas going back to a very familiar well with No. 26 this year.

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Bijan Robinson is undoubtedly an exciting runner to watch, ending the 2022 college season with 1,580 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns for the Longhorns. The Doak Walker Award winner is likely to be the first running back taken this spring, and few would fault a needy team for turning in his card within the top 10 picks.

But how would the Cowboys fanbase react to Jerry Jones doing so with their first?

The answer to that may depend largely on how they proceed with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.

Many assume that Pollard’s fractured fibula and high ankle sprain, suffered Sunday in the divisional round, spells the 1,000-yard rusher’s exit from Dallas, as he is set to become a free agent anyway.

Many have also assumed that Elliott’s declining numbers have become too obvious to ignore and that the team will look to rid itself of the former fourth-overall draft pick.

Do the Cowboys let just one of their existing backs go to pair the other with Robinson? Do they rework the financials to keep them both, a move that would let the team address another position altogether with their first-round choice?

For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Todd Archer believes that cornerback is biggest position the Cowboys should target this spring, with Jourdan Lewis looking at a potentially long rehab and Anthony Brown (with his torn Achilles) set to become a free agent.

Or does Dallas, as Kiper posits, decide to “start over” at running back and draft Robinson? The 6-foot, 220-pounder would have a clear path to a big workload and a bright spotlight with the Cowboys; perhaps he and Malik Davis even become the new dynamic duo in Dallas.

There’s a case to be made for cutting Elliott; there’s a case to be made for restructuring his deal to keep the consummate teammate in the locker room in a reduced role.

There’s a case to be made for sticking with a still-ascending Pollard; there’s a case to be made for letting some other club give him his big-money second contract.

There’s a case to be made for getting Robinson, the best runner in the draft class, at a rookie price; there’s a case to be made for focusing on other positions at No. 26.

Let the great debate begin.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire