The Felix Jones draft debate

October, 8, 2010
10/08/10
2:15
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- There is this debate regarding Felix Jones, the Cowboys third-year running back, and whether he should have been drafted ahead of some other stellar players at his position.

In some ways we forget just what was said about the 2008 running back class.

In Mel Kiper Jr.s 2008 draft report, the top rated running backs in order was Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall and Jones.

Here's what Kiper said about the Top 3.

On McFadden: "With his natural athleticism, determination and versatility, he is one tremendously talented performer who should turn heads immediately in the NFL this fall. You just don't have many RB's in the NFL that are capable of taking it 40-plus yards at any time."

On Mendenhall: "It's amazing how highly he's regarded right now, when you stop to consider that he had just 126 total carries in his first two seasons in the Big Ten." Later on, Kiper writes, "He'll keep offenses in the NFL on schedule, since he heads north-south at all times and is rarely in danger of being tackled for negative yards."

On Jones: "Like Reggie Bush, he can't take much of a pounding, so he's not going to step in and be a workhorse or feature back. With a complimentary performer in place, Jones presents one heck of a change of pace."

However, Chris Johnson, who was the 24th pick of the first round, has better career numbers than the top three with 703 carries for 3,588 yards and 27 touchdowns.

You could say the following players, Jonathan Stewart, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Steve Slaton and Johnson are better than Kiper's Top 3 players.

Which brings us to Jones.

Did the Cowboys make a mistake in drafting Jones, No. 22 overall in 2008?

Some would say yes, just based on what happened after Jones was drafted.

Five players drafted after Jones have more yards and carries than him.

And seven of the last eight running backs overall that were drafted between Jones and Tashard Choice, a fourth-round pick, who was selected at No. 122, have more yards and carries than Jones.

So what gives?

At the time the Cowboys were deciding between Mendenhall and Jones.

"More Felix than anybody," coach Wade Phillips said. "We discussed all the backs that year and how we wanted them and we picked the guy who would help us the best."

The Cowboys picked a player who would be a good No. 2 to Marion Barber. Jones was supposed to be a third-down back and a change of pace to make the defense off balance.

In three seasons, Jones has just 168 carries and only 25 receptions.

Jerry Jones said Friday afternoon he wants the Cowboys to give Felix Jones more carries, but not if it means messing up the entire offense.

Jerry Jones understands the issues here espeically this weekend with the Cowboys taking on the Titans, the team Johnson plays for.

"We feel that Felix has the ability to challenge the defenses and make the defenses think about what he's doing just as we're thinking about what Chris is doing, and believe yo me we're thinking about it," Jerry Jones said. "When you have to focus in on a back like Johnson then you have to adjust and take away from some other players at other positions. Well, we got other players at other positions that we would like a chance to get the ball to. So all of it puts a spotlight on Felix and Felix gives us a chance to have some of the kinds of plays that Chris Johnson does."

Jones could have a longer career than Johnson because running backs to take a pounding don't last in today's NFL. Jones can also do more things. He's a better blocker than Johnson and if given the chance is better at catching the ball. Johnson's speed and ability to make people miss gives him an overall edge on Jones right now.

In the short term, the Cowboys look like they made the wrong choice at running back. In the long-term, maybe Jones might pan out afterall.

"He was a smaller guy [and] nobody could catch him," said Phillips, who also liked Johnson coming out of the draft. "So, it was a great draft class. You can say Felix hasn’t done well and I think he has."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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