Will Brinson: Zeke Elliott Could Lead League In Rushing His Rookie Season

Jerry Jones showed great restraint in 2014 by not drafting Johnny Manziel, but he may have shown too much restraint last Thursday, electing not to trade up to draft Paxton Lynch.

The Cowboys reportedly offered Seattle second- and fourth-round picks (No. 34 and 101 overall) for the 26th pick, but Seahawks general manager John Schneider reportedly wanted second- and third-round picks (No. 67). Jones said no. Denver traded up and got Lynch.

Could this be the non-move that haunts the Cowboys for years?

“No doubt about it,” CBSSports.com senior NFL writer Will Brinson told Marc Malusis and Maggie Gray, who were filling in as hosts of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But if the deal breaker was whether to give up a third versus a fourth, then I don’t think everybody was lockstep on agreeing that Paxton Lynch was the future.”

The Cowboys used their first four picks on Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, Nebraska defensive tackle Maliek Collins and Oklahoma defensive back Charles Tapper.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Brinson said. “I love what the Cowboys did. Zeke Elliott, I don’t think he has a ceiling – and I’ve been saying this for a couple days now. I think he’s going to have an incredible year. I think he’s going to lead the league in rushing in his rookie season. I don’t think it’s crazy to say he could go over 2,000 total yards. He’s an underrated pass-catcher, great in pass protection, he’s going to help keep Tony Romo healthier, and he’s going to make that defense better because they’ll work the time of possession. Granted, you went with Jaylon Smith, who’s not a win-now type of guy but potentially a win-in-two-years type of guy. If you go Paxton Lynch and use two of your first three picks on him, all of a sudden you’re playing for four or five years down the road – because you’re hoping Tony Romo is capable of playing three or four years – and that’s just a weird compromise.

“So I don’t mind them not doing it,” Brinson said. “They add Maliek Collins and Jaylon Smith with those picks instead and then they come back in the fourth and get Charles Tapper. To me, they made their defense a lot better, (especially) given what what they’ve got to deal with for these suspensions. These guys can help get them to the point where (Randy) Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are coming back.”

Also, let’s not forget that the Cowboys drafted Dak Prescott in the fifth round.

“I don’t think anybody can definitively say that Paxton Lynch is going to be a substantially better quarterback over the long haul than Dak Prescott,” Brinson said. “They’re both raw, they both have good tools. I think a lot comes down to where you land and how your coaching goes. I think Paxton Lynch landed in a fantastic system and set-up with Gary Kubiak and the way he likes his athletic quarterbacks to get on his edge and throw the deep all. But I also think Dax Prescott sitting there learning behind Tony Romo could develop into something interesting down the road.”

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