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Five possible draft replacements for DeMarco Murray in Dallas

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With DeMarco Murray set to sign a five-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys could use a first-round pick on a running back for the first time since taking Arkansas' Felix Jones with the No. 22 overall pick in 2008.

Joseph Randle remains on the roster, and Dallas could sign a free-agent back. Still, running back remains a definite draft possibility for the Cowboys.


» Draft winds: Rumors connecting prospects to teams


Here are five running backs who could interest the Cowboys early in the draft. Dallas picks 27th in the first round.

1. Todd Gurley, Georgia

Even though he is rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in late November, Gurley is seen as a potential first-round pick, and he certainly would be tempting if he were available when the Cowboys make their first-round selection. Gurley (6-foot-0 5/8, 222 pounds) is both physical and fast, and he also is an effective receiver. He even returned some kicks for the Bulldogs. Having Randle on hand -- not to mention a big-time offensive line -- would help ease Gurley's NFL learning curve if he ends up in Dallas. Gurley is the No. 13 player on NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's list of the top 50 players available. All four NFL Media analysts who have done mock drafts -- Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks, Charles Davis and Lance Zierlein -- have Gurley going in the first round. Brooks and Zierlein have him available when the Cowboys make their selection; Davis and Jeremiah have him off the board before that.

2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

He is the other running back considered worthy of a first-round pick. Gordon (6-0 5/8, 215) had a monster 2014 season, rushing for 2,587 yards -- the second-highest total in FBS single-season history to Barry Sanders' 2,628 in 1988. Gordon, who had six 200-yard games in '14, also rushed for 29 TDs. Some question his pass-blocking abilities, and he is relatively untested as a receiver (22 career receptions, or 43 fewer than Gurley). At the same time, Wisconsin didn't throw a lot and also didn't ask much of its backs in pass protection. It's hard to ding a guy for not doing something he wasn't asked to do. Regardless, you draft Gordon for his running ability, and he could be enticing to Dallas were he available at 27. Jeremiah has Gordon as his No. 12 player and says Gordon "should be ready to contribute on all three downs in Year 1." Three analysts -- all but Zierlein -- have Gordon going in the first round in their most recent mock drafts, and Brooks has him going to the Cowboys.

3. Tevin Coleman, Indiana

Coleman is not worth the No. 27 overall pick, but he certainly would be worthy of the No. 60 pick; the Cowboys select 28th in the second round, which would be 60th overall. But would Coleman be there? Coleman (5-11 3/8, 206) wasn't able to work out at the combine, as he is recovering from a foot injury; his pro day is April 15. Coleman is an explosive runner who was the offensive focal point for IU in 2014, when he rushed for 2,036 yards and 15 TDs. Coleman had four 200-yard games and three three-TD outings in 2014. He has some receiving ability, too. Brooks has Coleman as his No. 3 running back, while fellow analyst Mike Mayock has Coleman at No. 5.. Former Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel recently revealed he believes Coleman is the No. 1 running back in this year's draft.

4. Duke Johnson, Miami

Johnson is another guy who could be enticing when the Cowboys pick in the second round -- assuming he is there. He is not a big guy (5-9 1/8), but he does weigh 207 pounds -- Johnson is fond of saying he is short but not small. He was an extremely productive receiver for UM as a true freshman in 2012 and as a junior in '14, but needs improvement in pass protection. Johnson is the No. 4 running back for Brooks and Mayock. The Cowboys haven't drafted a player from Miami since 1993.

5. Jay Ajayi, Boise State

Ajayi (5-11¾, 221) could be there at No. 60. He lacks top-end speed, but still rushed for 1,823 yards and 28 TDs in 2014; he also caught 50 passes in '14 and 72 in his final two seasons with the Broncos. He is Jeremiah's No. 39 player. "He is at his best on inside runs, where his combination of vision, power and short-area quickness is effective," Jeremiah writes. "On outside runs, he lacks elite speed to the perimeter, but he has the elusiveness to make defenders miss when he squares up to the line of scrimmage." Davis said he likes Ajayi better than former Boise State first-rounder Doug Martin. Ajayi is from Plano, Texas -- a suburb of Dallas.

If the Cowboys choose to go for a later-round back, potential picks include USC's Javorius "Buck" Allen, Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne, Minnesota's David Cobb (a Texas native) and South Carolina's Mike Davis.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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