Much has been made of which direction the Eagles will go when they’re on the board with the 32nd overall pick. The Eagles, if you remember, hold the last pick in the first round because they won the 2018 Super Bowl championship. Sorry, I couldn’t resist throwing that in there ̄_(ツ)_/ ̄. As is usually the case with Super Bowl winning teams, there aren’t many glaring needs on the Eagles roster. GM Howie Roseman was surgical once again in free agency, quickly replacing the few pieces lost from the championship roster.
As it stands now, the Eagles biggest weaknesses are arguably the reserve offensive tackle, guard, and tight end spots- and even these are positions the Eagles might want to upgrade but don’t necessarily need to. OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OG Isaac Seumalo, and newly-acquired TE Richard Rodgers currently occupy those slots, and all have been fairly productive when called upon- save for maybe Seumalo. Point is, with the Eagles possessing such a deep roster, the obvious draft strategy to employ would be the best player available route. Eagles VP Joe Douglas has even stated that that is what the team intends to do:
“We’re never gonna be a team that drafts for need. We will always take the best player available. I think I said that a lot last year.”
With the way things are currently projected to go in the first round by most NFL analysts, the best player on the board when the Eagles are on the clock may well be a running back. There seems a major rift amongst Philly fans on their stance and taking a running back in the first, and I’m here to play the devil’s advocate for both parties. There are a lot of fair points on either side, so let’s make the case for and against the Eagles drafting a running back with the 32nd overall pick:
Take the Back
As I mentioned earlier, the Eagles don’t have many glaring needs on the roster, and running back may be the only position that makes an immediate impact if drafted in the first round. Additionally, the Eagles have 173 carries available after losing RB LeGarrette Blount in free agency. HC Doug Pederson likes to employ a running back-by-committee, and could certainly be looking to add another dynamic back to pair with Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement.
Adding a talent like LSU product Derrius Guice or former Georgia Bulldog Sony Michel would give the Eagles a deadly, three-headed monstrous rushing attack, and would add even more juice to the offense. The Eagles could very well center their offense around the ground game, as their franchise QB Carson Wentz recovers from injury, and adding another back who could handle 10-15 carries a game would certainly make that transition smoother.
Drafting a running back at 32 also makes sense from a financial standpoint. The move would give the Eagles a high-impact player on a cheap, controllable contract for the next five years. It would also likely prevent the Eagles from committing to Jay Ajayi long-term, whose future is in doubt due to a chronic knee injury. The prospect of adding
a bell cow running back and avoiding committing money to a player who may not be able to play out the contract may be too sweet a deal for Philly to pass up.
Pass on a back
The alternative – and seemingly more popular- route for the Birds would be to wait until the later rounds to draft a back and take a different position in the first. This method, just as drafting a running back at 32, has a lot of valid reasons.
Chief among those reasons would be the fact the Eagles already have a Pro Bowl running back on the roster in Ajayi, and a back deserving of a bigger role in Corey Clement. The aforementioned Ajayi injury may concern the front office, but he hasn’t missed a game due to injury since college, and has been incredibly productive in his young career. If Ajayi continues to suit up and ball out, it would seem somewhat foolish to draft a running back in the first round when you already have a Pro bowl talent who will be just 25 years old when the season begins.
Another reason the Eagles might be better off passing on a back in the first is the wealth of talent at the position in this draft. The Eagles could easily find a productive back in the fourth round- Royce Freeman or Nick Chubb for example- and address a different need at 32.
The Eagles also possess the best offensive line in the NFL, and could probably get the same type of production out a back drafted on Day 3 than a team like the Browns would get with a first round talent.
While I lean on waiting until Day 3 to draft a running back, I’m certainly not opposed to adding a supreme talent at the position in the first- given the Eagles lack of needs. The thought of an Ajayi-Guice-Clement lead rushing attack is certainly enticing, and could propel the offense to the next level.
I also wouldn’t be upset if the team passed on Guice or Michel in favor of drafting a different position or moving back in the draft to acquire more draft picks.
I’m all for the spirit of debate so feel free to comment on if you would draft or pass on a running back in the first. If you are pro-running back, comment the name of the back you’d want Philly to draft. If you’re anti-running back, comment what player you’d rather draft at 32.
Mandatory Credit: Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports