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Mel Kiper 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Bijan Robinson to Cowboys Ahead of Tony Pollard FA

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 25, 2023

MANHATTAN, KS - NOVEMBER 05: Texas Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson (5) before a Big 12 college football game between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas State Wildcats on November 5, 2022 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, KS. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys may not look far to supplement a backfield that could be in flux this offseason.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projected the team to select Texas running back Bijan Robinson with the No. 26 overall pick in his most recent 2023 mock draft.

Robinson ran for 3,410 yards and 33 touchdowns and caught 60 passes for 805 yards and eight scores in three years with the Longhorns. He's the No. 4 overall player on Bleacher Report's big board.

The Cowboys could potentially be in the market for a running back, with Tony Pollard hitting free agency and questions swirling over the future of Ezekiel Elliott.

Pollard out-performed Elliott, finishing with a team-high 1,007 rushing yards and averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Elliott's 876 yards and 3.8 yards per carry were career lows. The latter also turns 28 in July.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday the Cowboys could potentially use the franchise tag on Pollard, which would lock him in for a projected $10.1 million next year.

The 2022 Pro Bowler suffered a fractured left fibula in the team's 19-12 season-ending loss to the San Francisco 49ers, which could change the front office's calculus. In the event Dallas intends to retain him on something approaching a market-level salary, keeping Elliott as well might be tricky.

Elliott is due to count for almost $11.9 million against the salary cap in 2023. The Cowboys could have upwards of $20 million tied up at the running back position if they maintain the status quo. Not to mention, Elliott appears to be trending in the wrong direction.

Dallas does have a path to easily part ways with the three-time Pro Bowler. Designating him as a post-June 1 cut would save $10.9 million while giving the team dead money hits of $5.8 million in 2023 and $6 million in 2024.

Whether Elliott or Pollard was the odd man out, Robinson would be a cost-effective replacement and could potentially make an immediate impact in the offense.