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2015 NFL Draft: La'el Collins Signs With Dallas Cowboys, Isolates Rams Running Game Philosophy

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With the LSU OL headed to the Cowboys, NFL fans are going to have a blunt lesson in the running game provided by Dallas, Philadelphia, Buffalo and St. Louis.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

La'el Collins is signing with the Dallas Cowboys as a UDFA on a three-year deal.

Rams fans shouldn't have too much heartburn over it. The Rams were never really in play to sign him, and it's hard to condemn them for not spending a draft pick on him when every team in the NFL did the same thing.

More interesting to me is this four-way storyline about how the running game fits in modern NFL football.

Dallas has set up arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. It's worth bearing in mind that the Cowboys were pummeled for their selection of center Travis Frederick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He's amid a group including LT Tyron Smith, G Zack Martin and RT Doug Free with Collins seemingly taking over the LG spot over Ronald Leary. In building up the line, the Cowboys helped their 2011 3rd-round selection, DeMarco Murray, reach the pinnacle of the NFL rushing world, outpacing the RB with the second-most yards in 2014, Le'Veon Bell, by nearly 500 yards. Of course in March, new Eagle QB Sam Bradford helped recruit Murray to Philadelphia leaving the Cowboys for a five-year deal. It sets up a very direct causality when we see what the Cowboys achieve in the running game next year.

Meanwhile, the Eagles had already made a key move in establishing the value of RBs in the 2015 NFL by trading LeSean McCoy to Buffalo. McCoy himself has been a very productive back for years. Comparing Murray's 2015 season in Philadelphia's to McCoy's tenure there should give us a sense of RB value; I'd argue, though, that McCoy's performance in Buffalo will give us more.

All of this I point out for Rams fans to keep a keen eye on the Todd Gurley pick. I think I made my personal opinion clear on it... If Dallas is able to achieve near what Murray gave them in 2014 without him, it's a clear shot against the value of an RB in the context of an overall running game. If McCoy heads to Buffalo and doesn't give them much overall that they weren't getting from C.J. Spiller and Boobie Dixon, they'll be wondering what the point of the trade was having given Kiko Alonso to Philly.

And for the Rams, it puts them in an odd position of validating a #10 pick on a RB coming off an ACL injury with an unproven (and let's be honest, yet-to-be-constructed) offensive line with a  relatively successful second-year RB holding the job down until that #10 pick proves well enough to go.

The La'el Collins signing means something for the Cowboys. For the Rams, it has little to do with Collins himself and everything to do with philosophy...which is the last thing Jeff Fisher has left to sell Rams fans on going into 2015.