Felix Jones vs. Rashard Mendenhall

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
1:00
PM ET
The sudden retirement of running back Rashard Mendenhall brings to mind what might have been with the Dallas Cowboys in the 2008 NFL draft.

Mendenhall
Mendenhall
Jones
The Cowboys selected Felix Jones with the 22nd overall pick out of Arkansas. Jones was supposed to be a complement to bruising running back Marion Barber.

Mendenhall went next to the Pittsburgh Steelers and there was a thought he was a better running back. Yet, Mendenhall was drafted to become an eventual starter while Jones was selected as a backup.

You never select first-round picks as backups but that's what the Cowboys received in Jones, who battled numerous injuries in his four seasons with the team.

With Mendenhall retiring, I’m sure Cowboys fans wished they would have had his 4,236 rushing yards with 37 touchdowns instead of Jones’ 2,912 yards and 11 touchdowns on 617 carries.

Last season, Jones rushed for nine first downs on 48 carries with, ironically enough, the Steelers.

Mendenhall retires at 26, the same age as Jones, where it’s supposed to be the prime age of a running back's life. Instead we're reading Mendenhall tiring of the NFL lifestyle and yearning to do something more meaningful with his life on a personal level.

Mendenhall fought through injuries himself in his NFL career and was more productive than Jones. It's easy to second-guess the Cowboys' decision to get the Arkansas running back because of the lack of production obtained.

Jones displayed some skills that he could become a starter in this league given the chance, but his body couldn’t hold up on a consistent basis. In 2010, Jones rushed for 800 yards with 228 coming in the last three weeks of that season.

After that you figured maybe Jones could emerge as a full-time starter but poor health never gave him a chance, so he moved on to Philadelphia and then to Pittsburgh, where he currently resides.

Jones isn't ready to retire, but his career could have been viewed differently if selected in any other round than the first one.

The Cowboys picked Jones for his ability to make defenders miss with his speed and elusiveness; the Steelers grabbed Mendenhall as the future every down back.

There were more successes with Mendenhall than Jones but now with one of them retiring, the other doesn't seem like his career will go much further.
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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