Today, the Eagles learned their NFL draft fate. In a coin flip that decided who of the Eagles and Indianapolis Colts would be picking 14th in this year’s NFL Draft, it was Philadelphia who were the winners. While the gap from 14th to 15h in the Draft is minimal and the coin flip decision hardly the most important moment in Eagles history, the result does hold a lot of weight. Why? Running backs.
Both the Eagles and the Colts are looking to strengthen their backfield this offseason. Indianapolis are looking to add a young back to compete alongside (Eagles Icon) Frank Gore, while the Birds face a plethora of questions surrounding the long-term future when running the ball.
This NFL Draft Class is incredibly deep at running back. An anonymous scout had this to say about the stunning class to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller.
“This is a historic running back class. Not just with the first-rounders, but with the overall depth. I think we’ll have around 30 draftable running backs in this class—which probably translates to like Round 5 or higher on your board. That’s an unreal number. And the variety is nice, too. Power runners. Speed backs. It’s a great class. Best I’ve seen.”
It’s not exactly hard to see why there is such excitement surrounding the running backs. Just months after Ezekiel Elliott took the league by storm, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffery headline a class that is brimming with tough runners and dynamic threats..which spell good things for both the Eagles and Colts.
With both teams needing a running back..it all comes down to draft strategy. The Eagles have already made it clear that they’ve adapted a “best player available” mentality and will be unwilling to take unnecessary risks to fill a hole if there is a player destined to be a star, sat on their draft board. With this in mind..it could give the Eagles some leverage.
If in a hypothetical scenario, someone like Dalvin Cook, the 1,500 yard rusher from FSU was still on the board at 14..would the Colts take him had they won the coin flip? The answer may be more swayed toward yes than if it was posed to the Eagles, who are facing a much more balanced draft approach.
The Colts are in dire need of edge rushing help. Robert Mathis is retiring, Trent Cole is set to test free agent waters and Erik Walden is coming off a huge year and could see a lucrative market emerge.
It’s coincidental then, that the Eagles have been reportedly shopping the likes of Mychal Kendricks, while Connor Barwin’s future remains uncertain. The Eagles need sustainability on the outside to support Brandon Graham in 2017..but their cap space is hardly luxurious. Knowing that Connor Barwin carries a cap hit of $8.35M in 2017 could sway the Eagles into shopping him should a restructuring attempt fail for whatever reason.
Of the teams said to be interested in Barwin, the two offering the most “substantial” returns are said to be Green Bay and Indianapolis, according to numerous sources. A trade for the 30-year old veteran could be seen as a salary dump move, meaning his value decreases drastically..but mid/late-round picks have been in conversation.
So as it stands, the Eagles hold a draft pick that could see them swipe away what may be considered a vital future cog in the Colts franchise..and an edge rusher that could return to a 3-4 and still perform at an impressive level.
As enticing as the class of first round running backs are, the draft is so incredibly deep that it’s hard to imagine the Eagles being too disheartened at potentially losing out on drafting Dalvin Cook or a similar talent.
The Eagles have interviewed twelve running backs during the course of the NFL Combine and aside from Dalvin Cook, not one of them is projected to go in the first around. They all however, seem to share similar traits. Tough runners who are dynamic as both a receiving back and a power runner. If the draft is littered with such players..moving back one spot in order to take the “best player available” wouldn’t hurt.
Then, there’s the returns. From wide receiver Donte Moncrief, to cornerbacks such as Darius Butler and Patrick Robinson, the Colts certainly have some pieces that could interest the Eagles without stinging their remaining salary cap space. The question is, what would they be willing to give up in order to fill two needs at once?
The only downside would be that the Colts also have pressing needs in similar areas. Aside from running back, the Colts desperately need defensive help, both on the outside and in the trenches..as well as solidifying the offensive line to protect one of the most valuable quarterbacks in Football, Andrew Luck. The Colts have struggled to surround him with talent..and if the Eagles were to trade back one spot, the Colts could strike just as quickly, snapping a player from an alternate, but also shared need.
If the Colts wanted to secure the future of their backfield behind Andrew Luck, with Frank Gore getting no younger..they may be tempted to draft someone as incredibly talented as Dalvin Cook if still on the board. The team who could stand in their way..is also a team who has that same need.
With the draft pick and an abundance of edge rushers..including a veteran that the Colts are already interested in, there is no doubting that the Eagles could swing a hefty trade between now and the night of the draft. It just becomes a case of what the stipulations would be and just how much the Eagles could get in return by simply moving back one spot and trading away a player who is already seeing a market form around him.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports