The Cowboys let running back DeMarco Murray, a third-round pick in 2011, walk away via free agency. They replaced him with running back Darren McFadden, the fourth overall selection in 2008. Murray led the NFL in rushing last season, with a franchise-record 1,845 yards. McFadden, in contrast, sputtered to a mere 534 yards in 2014.
So why do the Cowboys regard McFadden as a competent replacement?
“[Y]ou’ve got a good chance to not live up to expectations,” Cowboys owner and G.M. Jerry Jones told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio regarding the lackluster career of McFadden, who has only one 1,000-yard campaign in seven seasons. “Because when you are drafted that high, people think that you are going to be the next Jimmy Brown. So, yes he would have liked to have had a more productive career. But the kinds of skills that got him drafted with the fourth pick in the draft, he still has.
“You worry about injury, but we were worried about injury with Murray. In eight seasons, four in Oklahoma and four with the Cowboys, Murray only had two injury free seasons. And so the position is one you have to take into consideration no matter what the skill level is, they take a lot of hits, lot of punishment, and you got a good chance to have an injury issue. And that’s why we couldn’t make that kind of commitment of dollars to that position.”
The team’s position on not investing a lot of cash in an injury-prone position would also suggest that the Cowboys won’t make a play for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. But Jones wouldn’t confirm that Peterson won’t be a Cowboy.
“I get in enough trouble in a lot of areas anyway with this mouth but I’m not going to talk about that,” Jones said.
He doesn’t need to say it. There’s no way the Cowboys will make a major financial investment in the tailback position with Adrian Peterson or anyone, hoping instead to get the most out of underpriced talent running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.
Regardless of how it works, it will be one of the great experiments of the 2015 season.