DALLAS — Every NFL team has an underrated player, and the candidate for the Dallas Cowboys won't come as a surprise.
According to Cynthia Frelund from NFL.com, the most underrated player on the Cowboys is fourth-year running back Tony Pollard. Frelund came to her conclusions using a battery of metrics that factored where the player was drafted — second round or later preferably — how long they had been with the club, and their salary relative to their position compared against the rest of the NFL.
With Pollard entering the last year of his rookie deal, his $797,582 salary for 2022 ranks 174th among running backs, but his contributions to the Dallas offense have hardly been hidden in the back of the classroom.
"Pollard’s 6.4 yards per rush outside the tackles in 2021 ranked second among backs with at least 50 attempts, per Next Gen Stats," Frelund writes. "His success as Dallas' No. 2 back helped earn him PFF's second-highest grade (90.3) among all running backs. Given questions along the offensive line, there is a strong and logical case to be made for Dallas to feature more plays with both Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott on the field."
Although not exactly a foolproof statistic, the math was simple: in games when Pollard averaged above 5.0 yards per carry, the Cowboys were 6-1 in 2021. If Pollard had 10 or more carries, the Cowboys were 7-1. The statistics aren't a magical formula as much as they are an indication that the Cowboys can close out games if Pollard gets going.
Pollard also has an added element that makes him effective out of the backfield. The 25-year-old's impact in the passing game was more prolific in year three as opposed to his first two seasons. The 6-foot, 209-pounder caught 39 passes for 337 yards on 46 targets for 8.6 yards per reception. Although Pollard failed to score as a receiver, his production in 2021 was more than what he gathered through his first two seasons (43 catches for 300 yards).
"Tony is a multi-positional player," coach Mike McCarthy told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine on March 1. "So, we just got to keep spreading him out, and I think we have a tremendous, tremendous attack with both him and Zeke [Elliott].”
Elliott is a known quantity both for the Cowboys and their opponents. As Pollard enters the last year of his deal, the Cowboys can benefit by saddling up their complementary running back so that by 2023, when Pollard is on a new contract, he won't be seen as undervalued across the league.
Do you think Tony Pollard is ready for a spot in the limelight in 2022? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.