AUSTIN (KXAN) —According to ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., running back Bijan Robinson won’t have to go very far to begin his professional football career.

In his first mock draft of the first round this year, Kiper slotted Robinson as the No. 26 overall pick to the Dallas Cowboys.

MORE THAN THE SCORE: Stay up to date on sports stories like these, and sign up for our More than the Score sports newsletter at kxan.com/newsletters

Kiper called Robinson, “the best back in the class,” and his rationale for thinking he’ll end up with the Cowboys is rooted in Jerry Jones’ penchant for drafting big-time runners.

“This just makes sense, right? Team owner Jerry Jones loves star running backs, going back to his days of drafting Emmitt Smith in Round 1 in 1990,” Kiper wrote in his mock draft on ESPN.com. Kiper also used Tony Pollard’s leg injury and pending free agency, plus Ezekiel Elliott’s contract which would allow the Cowboys to release him and not pay almost $11 million in salary before next season, as reasons why Jones could go get the 2022 Doak Walker Award winner.

Elliott said he’d be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team, but his decline in production may steer the Cowboys elsewhere.

“Robinson also is a great pass-catcher, so he’s more than just a between-the-tackles runner,” Kiper said. “He could also take some of the pressure off quarterback Dak Prescott.”

That sounds like music to Cowboys fans’ ears.

Robinson tallied almost 1,900 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns for the Longhorns this season, leading them to an 8-4 record before he declared for the draft and opted out of the Alamo Bowl. Texas lost to Washington in the bowl game 27-20 without Robinson.

Bucky Brooks on NFL.com thinks the Chargers will grab Robinson with the No. 21 overall pick. While they’ve got an every-down back in Austin Ekeler, Brooks thinks the Chargers, “could look to become a tougher offense,” by drafting the hard-running Longhorn. Daniel Jeremiah, also with NFL.com, sees Robinson going No. 27 overall to the Buffalo Bills.

Clearly, this is far from final. The NFL Draft begins April 27 and there’s the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, plus team workouts for potential draft picks, still to go.