The 5-1 Dallas Cowboys are one of the big surprises of the NFL season, and their offensive line is the biggest reason why.
Dallas has the best rushing game in the NFL. They run it a lot (1st in the league in rushes per game) and run it well (5th in the league in yards per rush).
Jerry Jones has dedicated significant resources to his offensive line in recent years. He gave Tyron Smith a $110 million contract this summer. Three of the last four Cowboys’ 1st-round picks have been offensive linemen.
The most recent 1st-rounder, right guard Zack Martin, was the most controversial pick, at least for Jones.
Jones picked Martin No. 16 overall in 2014 when Johnny Manziel was still on the board. The Cowboys owner told ESPN in August that he was full of regret for not picking Manziel, and that taking Martin instead of gambling on Johnny Football went against everything that made him rich.
Six months later, it looks like picking Martin (or, more accurately, getting talked out of picking Manziel by the rest of the Dallas front office) was a wise decision.
Martin has been one of the best rookies in the league this year. Pro Football Focus, an analytics site that grades every NFL player each week, had him as the third-best right guard in the NFL going into Week 6. In Dallas’ huge win over Seattle, Martin was one of the best players on the field, according to PFF’s grades.
In early October Gil Brandt of NFL.com did a hypothetical redraft of the 2014 Draft. He had Martin going No. 5 overall, 11 spots above where the Cowboys got him, writing:
“I thought he was a really good player coming out of Notre Dame (No. 14 in my Hot 100), but he has exceeded expectations. His pass protection is excellent, and his presence on the interior of the Cowboys’ offensive line has helped them lead the league in rushing at 165.0 yards per game.”
Jones might hate the pick he made, but his team is better off for it in 2014.
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