Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones didn’t surprise anyone when he confirmed on Wednesday that the team will be exercising its 2020 option on running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s contract, but that wasn’t the only backfield topic to come up at the team’s pre-draft press conference.
There was also discussion about the team’s plans for a No. 2 back to work behind Elliott on the depth chart. Rod Smith held that role last year, but remains a free agent and Jones said the team is “obviously going to be looking” for someone to occupy the job in 2019.
The draft would be one place to find such a player, but the team has to figure out how big of an investment they want to make in the position. Smith had just 44 carries last year as Elliott will do all the heavy lifting as long as he’s healthy, something Jones referenced when asked if the No. 58 pick could be used on a running back.
“I just think it depends on the player,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “If that’s a first-round-caliber player in our mind, then you have to take a look. … It’s certainly a rich pick. You hope you’re drafting there in the second round a plug-in starter. … We all know if Zeke’s healthy there’s not going to be a whole lot of touches going to that player. At the same time, you never know when you’re going to need a player like that if Zeke were to miss a game.”
Elliott has never missed an NFL game due to injury. He served a six-game suspension in 2017 and sat out the final game of his other two seasons because the Cowboys were resting players with their playoff spot in hand.