With the 132nd pick in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft, The Philadelphia Eagles select Donnel Pumphrey, Running-back… San Diego State University. When the selection was made, a mixture of confusion and elation filled the rooms of just about every Eagles fan. On one hand, the birds need a true every down bruiser of a back, a complete contrast to Pumphrey’s style, and on the other, they just drafted one of the most successful players in college history (in the 4th round).
No matter which way you looked at it, the truth of the matter was clear. Donnel Pumphrey is a legitimate playmaker and no matter where they put him, he will be a stud. The SDSU product is blessed with the pure speed to beat defenders around the edge and break a long run at any moment from anywhere on the field.
At 5’9, 180 lbs, it was hard to believe for many that Pumphrey could make a difference in the Eagles run game, but his college success may prove to differ. A first team All-American in 2016, he rushed for 6,405 yards on 1,059 attempts and 62 touchdowns, with a longest of 93 yards. His skill set doesn’t end there coming out of the backfield, in his 41 starts, he added 99 receptions, for 1,039 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Showing his true potential as a threat in the passing game.
From day one of the Eagles Organized Team activities, Coach Pederson, showed glimpses of what could come for the young back. From the moment he took the field, he turned heads of the media members present, fielding punts and proving that would be used as so much more than a runner. Pederson had the great idea to use him in the slo to help create a matchup problem for defenses.
The moment he was drafted it seemed the comparison for Pumphrey, was future Hall-of-Famer and current teammate, Darren Sproles. The obvious reasons stood out from jump, as Pumphrey seems to do everything Sproles can do and is built similarly. But Doug Pederson expanded on that comparison a little more after OTA’s concluded on Friday.
“There has been a lot of guys. You talk about our rookies: [CB] Rasul Douglas has shown some strides here in the last couple practices and [RB] Donnel Pumphrey on offense, being able to move him around a little bit and put him in that kind of Darren Sproles mold, offensively.”
In all honesty when you really study the tape, there’s another player comparison comes to mind, Brian Westbrook. The former Eagles star is a legend in the City of Brotherly Love, and for good reason. He spent his time there being moved around the offense and special teams, destroying defenses in the process. Pumphrey has a similar skillset in that he is a real threat to score from anywhere on the field (Much like Sproles), can add true value in the passing game, and is a pure runner. Partnered with his great vision to help create at the second level of the defense, Pumphrey’s smooth cut back ability add a certain nastiness to his style of play. A style of play that stood out to Eagles Offensive Coordinator, Frank Reich.
“He’s looked good. Really, you can just tell. Obviously all that productivity he had in college. He came in and it’s like, okay, here’s a guy, you know, he was a stud in college with all of his productivity. How is he going to fit into a pro system? Can he do it all? He had so much yardage from the backfield – how productive can he be if we move him around and as a pass receiver? And it’s early. You don’t get too excited about it just yet, but I am excited about his ball skills. I’m excited about his route-running skills. I think he’s on the right track.”
What goes underrated is his ability to take and deliver a hit. His style of running seems to be considered a “third-down” type of back, but the truth is, he never seems to shy away from the big hit. In this year’s senior bowl, he opened some eyes in this area as he lowered his helmet upon contact as opposed to making a run out of bounds when given the opportunity. At other times, he showed his ability to bounce off tacklers, break hand grabs and never seemed to go down on the first hit.
With newcomer LeGarette Blount taking the reins as the lead back, Pumphrey will not have the pressure of being the workhorse he was in college. However this doesn’t mean he wont be a big contributor for the birds offense. With all the additions in the pass game, there will be times that defenses are forced to cover Pumphrey with a linebacker or slower safety , which could cause some real problems for coordinators.
With his playmaking ability, it isn’t hard to imagine Pumphrey being a monster in the Birds’ west-coast offense. No matter where he is situated, “the little engine that could” simply has to be accounted for. While defenses are shaking in their boots trying to cover WR’s Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews and TE Zach Ertz, all while putting enough defenders in the box trying to stop the bulldozing Blount. Pumphrey could benefit the most as defenses will be forced to follow him with a lesser defender…which in turn, could be a beautiful thing to see.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Christopher Szagola/Cal Sport Media via AP Images