The Dallas Cowboys Most Overlooked Addition

Oct 24, 2015; DeKalb, IL, USA; Eastern Michigan Eagles running back Darius Jackson (6) rushes the ball against the Northern Illinois Huskies during the first quarter at Huskie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 24, 2015; DeKalb, IL, USA; Eastern Michigan Eagles running back Darius Jackson (6) rushes the ball against the Northern Illinois Huskies during the first quarter at Huskie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys made a few curious draft decisions that have dominated post-draft coverage. Here is one big-time player that’s being overlooked by far too many people…

It’s not often anything flies under the radar in Cowboys Nation these days. It seems the smallest little move by the Dallas Cowboys warrants a full-on investigation, analysis, and verdict almost immediately. Yet, one roster addition is finding itself overlooked and that’s a big mistake.

In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected a premiere blue-chip athlete at running back. His size and strength are through the roof. His speed, agility, and quickness are second to none. His production is solid, showing proficiency in both the running and receiving game. He’s simply an advanced analytics beast.

He is, of course, Darius Jackson.

Lost in the bright lights of Ezekiel Elliott — the Dallas Cowboys’ first round pick. And buried beneath the controversy of Jaylon Smith, the high-risk high-reward LB in the second round, was the selection of a little known running back from Eastern Michigan.

Darius Jackson, 6’1” 220lbs, was quietly selected in the sixth round by the Dallas Cowboys. The team, seemingly already loaded at RB, just invested further in perhaps their strongest position group on the roster. The move understandably caused a collective scratching of the head by many in Cowboys Land.

“The Cowboys already have Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, and Lance Dunbar. This guy’s never even going to make the 53-man roster,” we rhetorically proclaimed.

But as many lower-drafted but highly-skilled players have proven before, anything can happen in an open competition. And an athletic freak like Darius Jackson only needs a chance to prove he has a place on this roster.

The raw statistics of Darius Jackson are more than respectable. In 2015, Jackson ran the ball 208 times for 1,088 yards, giving him a 5.23 yards per carry average. He tacked on another 201 yards receiving along with 16 total touchdowns. Those aren’t unworldly but pretty darn solid numbers. But like most scouting, the raw numbers only tell a portion of the story.

Game film and advanced analytics like SPARQ, tFreak, and SLA tell so much more. And in Darius Jackson’s case, they tell of a story of elite athleticism.

The game film on Darius Jackson is clear – when Jackson gets the opportunity he thrives. He wasn’t force-fed the ball but when he was given the chance, he dominated. The first thing that jumps out about Jackson is his size. He plays big for a 6’1” 220lb back, which is both good and bad. He runs higher than most NFL RBs (think Eddie George, Adrian Peterson, and Darren McFadden).

He likes to keep his head up, looking down field and planning ahead. He has a subtle shiftiness to his game that lets him avoid big hits and break arm tackles. Combined with his raw power and you have a RB who excels in collecting yards after contact.

Jackson is gets north and south as well as he gets east and west, meaning he’s an ideal fit for the Dallas Cowboys zone blocking scheme that patiently flows laterally and then cuts decisively downfield. He’s a natural zone runner that can contribute to the Dallas Cowboys on Day 1.

He bulldozes, burns, and jukes would-be tacklers making him a nightmare for opposing secondaries. His lightning fast speed (40 yd: 4.35, 10 yd: 1.56, 3 cone: 6.82) makes him a homerun threat from anywhere on the field and his arsenal of moves makes him unpredictable to defenses.

The advanced analytics more than support his talent, and they even offer a glimpse of what he could one day become.

"“He runs fast, he jumps high,” Jason Garrett said. “He was a productive player, but you feel like hopefully with coaching or some experience, he can turn into something you really like.”"

Something everyone should like is Darius Jackson’s pSPARQ score. pSPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction, and quickness relative to his position group) essentially rates overall athleticism. Jackson’s score of 149.4 scored him in the 98.8 percentile and made him the third highest rated RB in the draft.

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Digging even deeper into the analytics side of things is his tFREAK score. tFREAK, which focuses more on his physical size and build, places Jackson in the middle of the pack. This important to keep in mind since his film can often be misleading given the level of competition he faced. In other words, he sometimes looks bigger than he really is based on the sometimes smaller stature of those around him.

Finally, the SLA (created by Ethan Young) brings it all together blending the well-known SPARQ score with Ethan’s other brainchild, the tFREAK, to create one all-encompassing analytics score. Darius Jackson’s SLA of 87.80 places him above fellow rookies Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Kenneth Dixon, and CJ Prosise (just to name a few) and rates him 3rd overall in this RB draft class.

None of this is to say that Darius Jackson is a better RB than the aforementioned, but it does clearly point out that on a size and athleticism scale, Jackson is truly elite.

If his film was garbage this wouldn’t even be worth mentioning but since the film backs up the analytics (or do the analytics back up the film?), we can feel extremely excited about this unassuming and oft overlooked, draft pick.

What does the future hold for young Darius Jackson?

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If you’ve been paying attention – very big things await. As the position group stands now, someone is not going to make the 53-man cut. Zeke is the obvious lead dog but after that, it’s an open competition.

With Lance Dunbar expected to start the season on the PUP list (Physically Unable to Perform), Dunbar won’t initially count against the roster. But the reaper will eventually come calling and the film and analytics suggest Darius Jackson isn’t going anywhere.