The Dallas Cowboys have had one of the lesser defenses in the league over the last few years. The strength of their team has been their offense, led by Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and one of the better offensive lines that has been built through the draft with Tyron Smith, Travis Fredericks, and Zach Martin. That is an offensive line that can make any running back look good, while their defense remains a barren wasteland with holes in both the front seven and the secondary. So, coming off a lost season after Romo went down, and currently facing a season that will start with both defensive lineman Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence suspended for four games, who did the Cowboys take with the fourth pick in the draft? Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, of course.

There is no denying the skill of Elliott. In three seasons at Ohio State, he ran for 3,961 yards, the second-most in school history. He scored 44 touchdowns, fourth most in school history behind Pete Johnson, Keith Byars and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George. He is a versatile back who can run, catch, and help in pass protection, and behind that offensive line should help the Cowboys get back to where they were in 2014, when Demarco Murray had his best season as a pro, and the Cowboys made it all the way to the NFC Semi Finals.

But with Darren McFadden (who ran for over 1000 yards last season), Alfred Morris (who has run for 1000 yards a year in the past), and Lance Dunbar (who showed to be highly effective in the passing game before an injury ended his season early), the big question is did they really need another back, even one as explosive as Elliott, when FSU cornerback Jalen Ramsey was still available and promptly taken by the Jaguars with the next pick?

Elliott is the seventh running back the Cowboys have drafted in the first round in team history and the first since Felix Jones in 2008. The only running back drafted higher by the Cowboys is Tony Dorsett. The Hall of Famer went with the second overall pick in 1977. He has quickly made Cowboy fans envision a new version of the ‘Triplets’ that once led Dallas to three Super Bowl victories in four seasons back in the 90s.

But those teams had underrated defenses led by Darren Woodson, Deion Sanders, Charles Haley, Ken Norton, Kevin Smith, Leon Lett, Russell Maryland, Brock Marion and Dixon Edwards. This defense will continue to be the Achilles heal of Dallas, and could be what stops them from getting over the hump and returning to the Super Bowl during Romo’s career (which may only have two or three years left). They have tried many times to improve their secondary, whether signing Brandon Carr to a ludicrous contract he hasn’t lived up to, to trading up to take Morris Claybourne with the sixth pick in 2012 (which also didn’t work out). Taking safety Byron Jones last year gave them a solid piece, and adding Ramsey would have been a nice complement. However, Jerry Jones struck again, and went for flash over a pressing need. Elliott should have a great career, but how many games will the defense cost them this season, and beyond?

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