NFC East Questions: DALLAS COWBOYS: Can Darren McFadden or Joseph Randle be a top 10 RB?
In short, the answer is yes. I believe that the Cowboys offensive line is so good that even a below average RB can become elevated to elite status. However, that comes with some caveats. When asking this question, there are two players that come to mind: Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle. Let’s first take a look at DMC. At this point, most NFL evaluators would say that he is an average, to slightly above average runner. The problem, of course, is that he is consistently banged up. In McFadden’s case, if he wins the starting job, I believe he will produce at an elite level, but will not be able to sustain it due to injury. For most of his career, he has produced like pre-2014 DeMarco Murray. That’s a guy who misses 4 or 5 games, but plays pretty well in the games he does play.
What would you say if I told you Darren McFadden played in every single game last year? Well, he did. Granted, he missed time in many of those games, but he did play every week in 2014. He’s only 27 years old, and I truly believe if he is healthy, he will be very valuable. To sum it all up, if McFadden is given the reigns, he should produce as a top 10-15 running back IF healthy. Just don’t expect that health.
The other Cowboy competing for starter carries is the underwear thief himself, Joseph Randle. Randle does not have a huge sample size as an NFL player. His rookie year he averaged only 3 yards per carry with 54 carries, while last year he averaged 6.7 on 51. On average, he is at 4.8 yards per carry, and behind that offensive line, I believe that is about what we could expect. All of this is to say that perhaps Randle is already a very good, and possibly elite guy when it comes to that system.
While DMC’s issue is health, Randle’s issue is staying out of trouble. Randle was caught stealing underwear from a department store during the 2014 season. He did not receive significant punishment, but that incident is enough to impact his fantasy value in a slight way. It proves he has some kind of issue with responsibility, and it’s tough to project how he would handle being the starting running back for the glorious Dallas franchise. DMC’s health is clearly more concerning than Randle’s responsibility issues, but Randle’s off field issues should not be ignored.
In conclusion, neither of the Cowboys RBs are a sure thing to be productive, but they should both be considered as a risky, but potentially extremely valuable lottery ticket.
Bottom Line: An average or below average RB can be elite in the Cowboys system if healthy and given 15 or more touches per game. I believe McFadden will have the first chance at being the starter, but Randle will eventually overtake him due to injury.