The 2019 Eagles Draft Encyclopedia: Running Backs

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Now that the Eagles’ season has come to a close, the next time we will see that beautiful feathered logo pop up on our screens will be the 2019 NFL Draft in late April. Mock drafts will be abound and speculative journalism will be at all all time high as fans and teams alike try to sift through the throngs of eligible draftees to find the next great star.  This series will be an intro for those looking to get a grasp of some of the better options that will be available for the Birds during the draft. As always, draft projections are never perfect, and even the most thorough analyses can let future Pro-Bowlers slip through the cracks. So, if you feel that I’ve missed someone, gotten it wrong, or would just like me to do a write-up of your favourite under-the-radar prospect, let me know in the comments below!

Heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, Philadelphia holds six selections not including compensatory picks which have yet to be calculated. According to the most recent compensatory projections list by Over The Cap, the Eagles are set to receive three compensatory picks: a 4th-round pick for Trey Burton, and two sixth-rounders for Beau Allen and Patrick Robinson. The Birds were able to replace Beau Allen with the Haloti Ngata signing, and may lose one of their two 6th-round compensatory picks because of it. As of now, their draft positioning is as follows:

First Round Pick 25 (25)
Second Round Pick 21 (53)
Pick 25 (57)
Fourth Round Pick 25 (121)
Compensatory Pick
Fifth Round Pick 25 (153)
Sixth Round Pick 25 (185)
Compensatory Pick
Compensatory Pick

You’ll notice this series begins with running backs and not with quarterbacks. With Nick Foles likely headed to another city this off-season, it is not unreasonable to think the Eagles may take a Q to learn and develop behind Carson. However, I think it is a high possibility that the team retains Nate Sudfield and looks to take an undrafted rookie or steal away a young practice player from another franchise instead of drafting a 3rd option under centre. The reason being: they do not own a seventh round pick and with this not being the strongest class of quarterbacks, teams will be more likely to reach for talent and projects at that position earlier in the draft.

RUNNING BACKS

Philadelphia has had a first round back mocked to them in each of the last three seasons, to no avail. This year’s draft seems no different. In fact, it might be the case that no running backs are selected in the first round. Alabama’s Damien Harris is seen by many as the most NFL-ready prospect, however it is his teammate Josh Jacobs and board-riser David Montgomery of Iowa State that are most likely to be picked on day one. Whereas it’s not a top-heavy draft class for running backs, it is a deep one and teams will have no trouble finding late round value for their backfield. Regarding the Eagles themselves, the way in which Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ head office approach Jay Ajayi’s free agency will have a massive impact on the running backs in play. Nevertheless, the team is always looking to add talent to their backfield rotation, and no possibility is forlorn. If we have seen Ajayi in midnight green for the last time, could this be the season Philly drafts their back of the future? If so, who might it be? Because the Eagles are always a wild-card in the rookie running back market, I have included a ton of possible selections for your perusing.

 

Damien Harris – Alabama

Walter Football Rank: 1

CBS Rank: 1

DraftTek Rank: 1

Draft Wire Rank: 3

The Draft Network Rank: 4

Range: First to Second Round

Size: 5’11”, 221 lbs

Breakdown: Harris is an easy back to like, with spectacular vision and anticipation. Love for the game of football oozes out of this man. He has the size of an NFL runner, his footwork is pristine, he rarely oversteps and has above average balance when going into contact. Fitting the prototypical Alabama back mould, he’s hard runner with good football character and IQ. Faster than most give him credit for, he’s still not known to beat defenders with sheer speed. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling out of his fellow prospects, but will join a team ready to play.

Pros: Clearly well-coached as a runner and has spent time honing his craft. Will run you over given the opportunity. Decisive with his cuts, a north-south runner and won’t lose a lot of yards dancing in the backfield. Averaged 8.1 yards per carry in 2018 and 7.1 the year before. Average pass blocker, but his high effort level and size will save his quarterback a few times. Characteristic of the Alabama offence, he wasn’t asked to catch the ball out of the backfield very often — 22 receptions and 204 yards in 2018. However, he has the ability to turn short passes into long gains and could easily develop as an underrated receiver at the next level.

Cons: Not the best athlete on the board, most of his success has come due to intelligence and effort. Lack of athletic ability may stunt his development and limit his ceiling in the pros.  He hasn’t made it through a full season at college, and durability over the span of an NFL season will be a concern for some after getting a bulk of Alabama’s carries for the last few seasons. This is especially true considering his contact-friendly play style. Alabama has a history of producing great college backs with limited success in the pros.

How he fits: He’s not what the Birds generally look for in a backfield option and there are likely to be other candidates with a better fit available later on. Nonetheless, there have been reports that the Eagles had interest in Jordan Howard, and Harris provides a similar skill set. At the end of the day, I think the draft capital needed to secure Harris for rotational use will be too rich for Howie. However, if he falls to the late second round, it’s possible the Birds would snatch him up. Harris is what the backfield rotation doesn’t have — a big bruiser that can tote the rock against a stacked box. He would be an immediate upgrade over Wendell Smallwood in that area. In actuality, a backfield rotation probably suits Harris best, similar to LeGarrette Blount’s role on the 2017 Eagles team.

Signature play:

 

Josh Jacobs – Alabama

Walter Football Rank: 2

CBS Rank: 5

DraftTek Rank: 6

Draft Wire Rank: 1

The Draft Network Rank: 1

Range: First to Second Round

Size: 5’10”, 216 lbs

Breakdown: Versatility and big play potential is the key for Josh Jacobs. He ran the football, he caught passes, he returned kicks — you name it. He’s a high energy, high effort player and can provide an immediate spark to an offence. Jacobs is often compared to New Orleans Saints’ back Alvin Kamara. They are the same size and have a similar build and skill set, but Jacobs brings a bit more physicality in lieu of shiftiness.

Pros: Received less than 100 carries in all three seasons with the Tide and will have a lot of tread left on his tires. A bigger back with good route running ability and hands — rare in the 2019 class. Moved around the formation and can run routes from many different positions. Can run you over or run around you, puts defenders in a tricky spot. Will fight for extra yards and is tougher to bring down than most expect due to great balance and surprising strength. Physical lead blocker,

Cons: Hasn’t proven he can handle the bell cow role for an offence, may need to join a rotation. Will need a role similar to that of Kamara in New Orleans. Lack of opportunities has limited scouts’ ability to find faults. His first few years will likely be a learning process. See Harris blurb above, re Alabama running backs. Has great vision, but will look to bounce runs and will be susceptible to tackles for loss.

How he fits: This is a prospect — similar to Joe Mixon two years ago — that Eagles fans fall in love with early on in the process. While he fits the offence to a t, unless the team is willing to part with it’s first round pick, it’s likely that Jacobs is unavailable by the time the Eagles are on the clock. He has risen up draft boards rapidly, especially in the last month. In his initial mock draft, NFL Media Analyst Daniel Jeremiah has Jacobs being taken as high as 5th overall to Tampa Bay. SB Nation writer Dan Kadar has the Eagles scooping him up at pick number 25, which schematically makes a lot of sense. A bad combine could hurt his stock, but would it be enough? If he is sitting there at 25, which I don’t expect he will be, might this be the year Howie is hard-pressed to upgrade the backfield early in the draft? With the shape of the class, I feel he’ll assume he can get value later in the draft if he does decide to grab a running back.

Signature play: Had to include a second play showcasing his return ability.

https://gph.is/2BynOnE

 

David Montgomery – Iowa State

Walter Football Rank: 18

CBS Rank: 2

DraftTek Rank: 2

Draft Wire Rank: 2

The Draft Network Rank: 2

Range: First to Second Round

Size: 5’11”, 216 lbs

Breakdown: Montgomery’s talent is centred around his fantastic contact balance and a tenacious edge. He isn’t overly shifty, but has a wide base and smooth hips, allowing him to make nuanced cuts that should translate well to the NFL. His go to move is a subtle jump cut that puts defenders in bad positions to wrap him up. With a thick lower body, he’ll run through most would-be arm tacklers. For many, he is the top back in the draft. An above average combine could cement this status.

Pros: Forced a nation-best 99 missed tackles. The year before he tallied 109 — a Pro Football Focus record. Did well against ranked competition, despite less-than-stellar blocking: 21 carries, 82 yards vs. Oklahoma; 29 carries, 182 yards vs. TCU. Footwork is outstanding and he will make defenders look silly one-on-one. Makes cuts purposefully and does a good job staying behind his blocks.

Cons: Two straight years of 250+ carries. Has not shown an NFL-level top gear and won’t gas defences with speed. Not a proven factor as a receiver out of the backfield — 22 receptions and 157 yards in 2018; 36 receptions and 296 yards in 2017. Faced lesser competition in college. Despite strong showings against top schools, this is always something scouts consider.

How he fits: Due to his skill set and the Eagles reluctance to take running backs early, Montgomery won’t be in play for the Eagles unless he falls to the late second round, This isn’t an impossible scenario, just unlikely. What Philly decides to do with Jay Ajayi will play a huge factor in this selection, as Montgomery would step into the rotation on first and second downs as well as third-and-short situations. He may get the chance to prove he’s a better receiver than given credit for, the same way Corey Clement proved his doubters wrong. The Eagles dearly missed LeGarrette Blount this season and could be in the market for a back that wears teams down. Whether or not Philly spends a pick on the Iowa State product will depend on if they see enough upside. If he does drop to one of the Eagles’ second round selections, this may be a player that Howie sees as too good to pass up. Two years of being a bell-cow and posting 1,000 yard seasons will appeal to the front office.

Signature play: Two for the price of one. The first is a great example of his hustle and heart, the second shows that sweet, sweet footwork.

https://twitter.com/PaulAlanNFL/status/1086395056821493760

 

Bennie Snell Jr. – Kentucky

Walter Football Rank: 3

CBS Rank: –

DraftTek Rank: 5

Draft Wire Rank: 4

The Draft Network Rank: 13

Range: Second to Third Round

Size: 5’11, 223 lbs

Breakdown: Bennie Snell Jr. is a big, physical back that wins at the point of attack with a low centre of gravity and a substantial pop from his upper body. He reads holes really well and makes good decisions with the football. Not really an elusive runner, but he does make small cuts to set up his blocks and capitalises on running lanes. He has very quick strides for a big back and is more nimble than most men his size. For the laymen, he figures to be a more athletic, but less polished Damien Harris.

Pros: The most prolific runner in the history of Kentucky football, which competes against a tough slate of opponents. Able to carry the load, a bell-cow in his freshman year and never looked back. NFL-ready body. Thick frame, strong lower body, relentless effort, will not be taken down easily. Effective pass blocker, diagnoses blitzes and stays with his blocks. Returned kicks in his freshman year, fared admirably. Big and tough enough to be featured in a power-run scheme and smart and decisive enough to read zone blocking. Fun personality, will become a fan favourite.

Cons: He’s not noticeably slow, but he lacks a breakaway speed that makes teams salivate. Not the best pure athlete available at his position. Showcases limited burst, can be slow to hit holes. Heavy workload over three years in college — 737 total carries. Not a great route runner, had only 29 receptions at Kentucky. Has some wiggle, but will have trouble making NFL defenders miss on a consistent basis. More effective running in between the tackles, limited outside.

How he fits: Personally, I think this is a great fit for the offence. The team can feel comfortable betting on upside and until Snell develops, he can be an effective between-the-tackles thumper for the rotation. The question really is when he will be available. On average, he’s getting a third round grade, which seems fitting; but he’s as high as third on some RB rankings and with a puddle as opposed to a pool of starting-calibre backs, the well could dry up quickly. Is a late second round pick too rich for Snell? I think the fit may help Howie overlook the projection. Keep an eye on the Kentucky product throughout the draft process. The Eagles are fans of players with proven production in college.

Signature play:

https://twitter.com/Scott_Charlton/status/1066495422749962240

 

Justice Hill – Oklahoma State

Walter Football Rank: 4

CBS Rank: 4

DraftTek Rank: 3

Draft Wire Rank: 9

The Draft Network Rank: 12

Range: Second to Fourth Round

Size: 5’10”, 190 lbs

Breakdown: Hill is a shifty, elusive back who is great in open space. He figures to be a third-down back for at least a few years while he learns the ins and outs of the professional run game. An above average route runner, Hill also has the ability to make defenders miss with the ball in his hands. He personally reminds me a lot of Wendell Smallwood. High compete level and effort, but just not an above average athlete at the professional level.

Pros: Great receiver out of the backfield — crisp routes and reliable hands. Despite size and heavy workload, does not have a history of injury and has proven durable. Due to size is a less-than-stellar pass blocker, but will make up for it with effort and intelligence. He has a chance to take it all the way any time he touches the ball. Broke the Big 12 record for most consecutive games with a rushing TD with 12.

Cons: Had a heavy workload at Oklahoma State, including over 200 carries in his first two years. As a runner he is shifty, but will mostly try to beat defenders based on sheer speed, which will be difficult to continue in the NFL. Somewhat of an all-or-nothing play-maker. Similarly, his vision has come into question. He will look for space to a fault, can be impatient and will often take negative yards unnecessarily. Physicality at the point of attack comes more from speed than strength and will be bottled up by stronger backers.

How he fits: Some scouts will tell you he fits quite well. Arguably, he does fit the mould of current and previous Eagles backs. However, with players like Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement on the roster, how likely is it that the team takes another project player of the same ilk? He’s got more speed than all of the backs in the current rotation, but he would really be in a log jam for touches. As the Birds don’t have a third round pick this year, they could look to take a chance on Hill with one of their fourth round picks. It’s more likely he’s off the board in the mid to late third round. Unless the Oklahoma State product runs a blazing fast 40-time, spending a late second round pick on him seems too rich. Tarik Cohen was a nice surprise for the Chicago Bears after taking him in the fourth round — this seems about the right value for Hill as well. His college production will be a bonus for the Eagles.

Signature play: 

 

Darrell Henderson

Walter Football Rank: 14

CBS Rank: –

DraftTek Rank: 17

Draft Wire Rank: 7

The Draft Network Rank: 3

Range: Third to Fifth Round

Size: 5’9″, 200 lbs

Breakdown: Probably the most elusive back in the class, Henderson is a breakaway runner with incredible balance and fantastic feet that can dipsy-doodle around defenders until the cows come home. At 200 pounds, he has a nice frame and can carry defenders who try to tackle him high. This is a guy that can stop on a dime and cut shapes out of the grass due to his wonderful feet.

Pros: A two year starter, but only had one season — his last — with over 200 carries. Nevertheless, has had incredible production despite a relatively light workload. Effective receiver in spite of limited opportunities. Not a natural hands-catcher, but athletic ability lends to route running and could develop into a real threat out of the backfield. He has displayed patience, and will find gaps against a loaded box, but it’s not his forte.

Cons: Runs high, will be susceptible to big hits — if defenders can catch him. This, along with a deceptive, off-balance running motion allows defenders to trip him up fairly easily. Really needs space to be at his most effective. Didn’t have a lot of opportunities to run from under centre. Memphis ran a ton of read-option, therefore had limited production from single back formations. Not a good pass blocker and size doesn’t help.

How he fits: This one is hard to figure. Philly fans and front office alike will fall in love with his elusiveness. The potential for home run plays off of screens and dump offs will also cause some mouths to water. On the other hand, the Eagles backfield is ripe with backs who can make stuff happen from screens. Therefore, Henderson’s lack of ability in pass protection, and limited production as a route runner may be a knock against him in Philadelphia. As a runner there’s no denying his ability to make defenders miss, nor hit pay dirt. He would make a great addition to the rotation, providing an electric spark that we just don’t have from our other backs — save for Sproles. Not having a third round pick may make the Memphis runner unavailable to the Birds. I don’t think he’s a second round pick. If he falls to the fourth, it is a possibility.

Signature play: 

 

Elijah Holyfield – Georgia

Walter Football Rank: 12

CBS Rank: 7

DraftTek Rank: 7

Draft Wire Rank: 8

The Draft Network Rank: 8

Range: Third to Fifth Round

Size: 5’11”, 215 lbs

Breakdown: The son of Evander, Georgia prospect Elijah Holyfield is an absolute hammer. Don’t let the tag fool you though, he’s got some speed and wiggle to boot. He’s got a nasty jump cut and is regularly one of the more athletic players on the field. The big man runs with tenacity and has a mean streak that jumps off the screen. Log-jammed behind Sony Michel and Nick Chubb last season, he’s still a pretty raw product, but his ceiling is high and he has the requisite traits that teams love.

Pros: Fantastic contact balance, not afraid to take defenders head on. Chiselled upper body, loves the weight room. There’s a possibility he could still add weight to his frame, which would be a scary prospect. Championship pedigree bound to turn some heads in terms of work ethic and athletic potential. Not a lot of tread taken off his tires and will come into camp fresher than most. Averaged 6.5 yards per carry in 2018.

Cons: One year starter with a limited sample size. Won’t always follow his blocks, looks to do a lot by himself — may improve with more playing time. Used as a pure runner at Georgia, and is not a proven factor in the passing game. Will take some unnecessary hits, which is in his nature. Durability hasn’t been a problem, but the NFL is a different monster.

How he fits: The Eagles will no doubt be weary of his limited time as a starter, but the athleticism and potential may be too much to overlook. He’s not generally the type of back that Philly looks for, and as such I think it would be a long shot. Likewise, a run-heavy team is bound to take his physicality as a premium. If he were to drop to the 5th or 6th round — possibly due to a disappointing combine, or something of the nature — and the Eagles had not yet taken a running back, he could be an option. If I were pressed, I would say he’s likely not a large blip on Howie’s radar. Nevertheless, he’s got some Blount in him, and perhaps 2018 made the organisation realise how valuable that is to their title contention.

Signature play:

 

Devin Singletary – Florida Atlantic

Walter Football Rank: 7

CBS Rank: 5

DraftTek Rank: 8

Draft Wire Rank: 12

The Draft Network Rank: 5

Range: Third to Fifth

Size: 5’9″, 200 lbs

Breakdown: SLEEPER ALERT. Devin “Motor” Singletary is a personal favourite. While running the football, he reminds me of a bigger, slower Darren Sproles. He can stop and start on a dime and has an unconventional running style that can make defenders look stupid. His footwork is blazing fast and he has a good, low centre of gravity. His vision is fantastic and he hits a hole with purpose.

Pros: All-time leading rusher at FAU. Led the nation in rushing touchdowns in 2018, had 67 over his college career and 33 in 2017. He forced 96 missed tackles on 264 carries in 2018 (2nd in the nation) and a total of 201 over his three-year career at FAU. From all accounts he is a respectable, professional, hard-working young man. Usually cuts towards his blocks, not away from them — comfortable finding holes in traffic. Will be only 22 years old at the time of the draft, with three years of starting experience. Much harder to bring down than his size suggests. Returned punts in his freshman year and averaged 21.8 yards per return.

Cons: Lack of premier competition will be held against him. Very heavy workload in college. While he does a good job of avoiding big hits, his small frame will cause concern for some. More shifty than fast, it will be interesting to see what his 40-time looks like. Relied on less as pass catcher as his career went on. He will sometimes try to do too much as a runner.

How he fits: Seeing how effective Sproles was on draw plays late in the season really makes me believe this would be a great fit. Singletary seems to be more of a natural runner than the other smaller backs available in the draft. He could learn a whole heck of a lot from Sproles; who could be the perfect tutor for him. Due to his usage in college, he would benefit from joining a rotation. To me, he looks essentially like everything the Eagles thought Donnel Pumphrey would be. He will have to improve his route running and pass catching, but there aren’t any red flags that show he shouldn’t be able to. This would be a great pick up for the Birds in the fourth round, if teams don’t get wise to his potential. And yet again: the Eagles are fans of players with proven production in college.

Signature play: Just because I like him so much, here’s a full video.

https://twitter.com/CollegeT0wn/status/1030889365000605697

 

Myles Gaskin – Washington

Walter Football Rank: 8

CBS Rank: –

DraftTek Rank: 9

Draft Wire Rank: 6

The Draft Network Rank: 15

Range: Third to Fifth

Size: 5’9″, 191 lbs

Breakdown: Exploits cutback lanes with quick cuts and a natural feel for back side pressure. He will hide behind his blocks until the last second and win races with burst and nuanced footwork. Has incredible bend and will find and hit holes that other backs simply can’t. His vision is impressive and really his best asset.

Pros: Small frame, but can take a lick and keep on ticking. Insanely consistent production over the last four years — the first Pac12 player to register four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Not the fastest runner in the class, but will gas defences with speed and punish defenders who take bad angles. Game-changing play ability and the patience to know that it will come eventually. Had limited run as a receiver out of the backfield, but has the tools to become productive in that regard.

Cons: Won’t break very many tackles by lowering his shoulder. Four years in a row with over 200 carries is bound to take a toll. He’s the most worked back coming into the draft. Size will be a factor in pass protection and power-style running schemes. Despite being a pretty decisive runner, he won’t always take what he’s given. Will probably have to join a rotation at the professional level.

How he fits: Scheme fit and Gaskin’s athletic traits are pretty obvious. Four straight 1,000 yard seasons at Washington is sure to resonate with the front office. The Eagles have also been willing to take a chance on diminutive backs in the past. The team would draft Gaskin for the same reasons they took Pumphrey; which seems like lifetimes ago. Gaskin has more upside in my opinion, and a better pedigree should make fans more comfortable with this selection. However, another swing and a miss on an undersized highly productive college back would really sting. Myles’ stock is all over the place, having a tag of a 2nd to fourth round pick for some, but others thinking could be a candidate to fall. Unless there is a run on backs in the second round — a plausible scenario — I don’t think Gaskin is a second rounder. After Philip Lindsay’s success in Denver, I feel teams will be more willing to overlook size and stature in 2019. If teams shy away from the Washington back because of his use in college, I could see the Birds being quite happy to scoop him up in the fourth or fifth.

Signature play:

Also:

 

Bryce Love – Stanford

Walter Football Rank: 5

CBS Rank: –

DraftTek Rank: 15

Draft Wire Rank: 10

The Draft Network Rank: 21

Range: Second to Fourth

Size: 5’9″. 196 lbs

Breakdown: Love is pure speed. He won the Lombardi Award in 2017 as college football’s best player. For many, he was also the top ranked college player coming into the 2018 season before suffering through injury. He’s quick, agile, and can make any defender miss at any given time. He’s a smooth criminal in space and only needs a small crease to turn a short gain into a touchdown.

Pros: Has the ability to take it to the house on every touch. Savvy with his cuts, and is often two steps ahead of the approaching defender. Had only 49 receptions in four years at Stanford, but has all the tools to compete as a receiver out of the backfield. Potential to be a force on outside zone and sweeps. Has long speed and burst, which should translate to the NFL if Love is fully healthy.

Cons: Small frame with injury concerns — lower body injuries may have limited his athletic ability. Can be timid waiting for lanes to open up and does not always hit lanes at top speed. Not a reliable pass blocker. Limited contact balance and, when going at top speed, first defender will often be enough. Won’t always follow his blocks and tries to make too much happen when blocking breaks down — to varied results. Accordingly, inside running ability is limited.

How he fits: Love would likely need some time to get back to full health and could be an electric option for the Eagles in the Darren Sproles role in a years time. The concern is if he will ever return to his 2017 form. With the troubles the Eagles’ medical staff had this year, I’m not overly confident that taking an oft-injured play maker is in the team’s best interests. Howie may disagree. The offence deploys a pretty intricate blocking scheme, one that requires an intelligent runner who is willing to follow his blocks. As exhilarating a player Love is, the run game simply won’t work unless he can learn the ins-and-outs of the x’s and o’s. If he can learn to follow his blocks and hit the hole with speed on a consistent basis, Love could be the second-coming of Shady McCoy in Philly. Due to his injury concern there’s a likely possibility he could fall and be in play for the Eagles in the fourth round. On the flip side, if Love shows he is fully healthy come combine time, he could go as high as the second round. It’s not an impossibility that Howie takes a swing on him in the second, but I wager it unlikely.

Signature play:

 

Rodney Anderson – Oklahoma

Walter Football Rank: 20

CBS Rank: –

DraftTek Rank: 10

Draft Wire Rank: 5

The Draft Network Rank: 10

Range: Third to Sixth

Size: 6’1″, 219 lbs

Breakdown: If he was able to stay healthy, this would be a completely different write-up. He may be the most talented all-around RB in the class. Anderson has a great blend of speed, size and a little wiggle. With a natural feel for the holes he fits well into any run scheme, but is best on outside zone runs.

Pros: Ticks boxes in almost all running back categories. Big body, good contact balance, nasty stiff arm, loose hips. Good receiver out of the backfield and shows fairly natural hands. Sets up his blocks well and hits a hole with confidence. Runs behind his pads. Has a second gear when rounding the corner.

Cons: Coming off an ACL tear, the third major season-ending injury of his career. Because of how dangerous Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield were, never really faced a stacked box. Long body makes him susceptible to big hits to the legs — does not help with injury concerns. Not a talented nor overly willing pass blocker. Will press the line of scrimmage, but could serve to be a bit more patient with his runs. Average burst through the hole, and won’t exactly make defenders whiff.

How he fits: His skill set translates well to what the Eagles want to do with the football — or really any team for that matter. Knowing the team’s reluctance to lock Jay Ajayi up long-term knowing his history with knee injuries, it’s doubtful that the Birds want to swing on another talented back with extensive injury history. In fact, the likeness of Anderson to Ajayi has been pointed out many times. In that light alone, he would be a great fit in Doug Pederson’s offence, if he could stay on the field. We saw this year what happens to the run game when availability is its biggest detriment. He also reminds me of DeMarco Murray who, in spite of his time with Chip Kelly in Philly, was a very successful NFL running back. Similar to Love, I don’t feel confident that our medical staff can get Anderson back up and running at his fullest potential.

Signature play:

 

Wes Hills – Slippery Rock

Walter Football Rank: 9

CBS Rank: –

DraftTek Rank: 26

Draft Wire Rank: –

The Draft Network Rank: 33

Range: Fifth to UDFA

Size: 6’2″, 218 lbs

Breakdown: A big, punishing back with a wide base and a good nose for open space. Hills is a pain to bring down and will wear down a defence.

Pros: NFLPA Bowl MVP.  Great vision, can pick apart defences with patient running style. Lowers the shoulder with ferocity and a tough man to bring down one-on-one. Will bounce off tackles and displays great contact balance with the ability to keep his feet churning. Fights for extra yards. Had good games against tougher opponents — 248 yards and 4TDs against Cal.

Cons: Two years of 200+ carries. Beat up on Division II opponents, but lack of competition will raise some flags for some teams. Runs a bit wild and outside of his body which slows his pace in the open field. Does not have great burst through the hole, not particularly explosive. Runs out of steam on long runs, won’t run away from defenders at the NFL level. Not an accomplished receiver.

How he fits: I included Wes Hills because he’s a Senior Bowl invitee with a good chance at being on draft boards. The Eagles love their Senior Bowl players, and while they haven’t had a one-on-one with him yet, they’re bound to do their research. He may slip through the cracks, but knowing the Eagles, it’s likely they give him a long look late in the draft or as an undrafted rookie free agent. He’s a New Jersey boy and lost his rushing title to Corey Clement in high school — got to love local produce. The question with small school guys is how many teams did their homework? If a free agent back comes to Philly in the off-season, Hills could be a nice little number to let develop on the practice squad and be made available later in the season.

Signature play:

 

Final Analysis

Will the Eagles Draft a Running Back? After struggling to run the football this season, I think the Eagles must address the backfield either in free agency, the draft, or both. With a limited amount of cap space — negative cap space as it stands — it will be difficult to land one of the top free agent running backs, or bring back their own. Seattle’s Mike Davis would be a good option as an early down hammer, and Baltimore’s Ty Montgomery might get a look as another versatile option out of the backfield. There are a ton of options available for cash-strapped teams. Therefore, what the Eagles do in early march will have a massive effect on how they address the backfield in the draft. If they are unable to secure a free agent they feel they can rely on, this might be the year we finally see Howie swing on a top-flight back.

What Round? As exciting as the prospect of having a first-round calibre player in the backfield rotation is, history sets a damper on the actual probability. The key here will be how many teams move up to select quarterbacks in the first round. Abnormally, most of the teams in the top ten have a quarterback of the future, and may be willing to move down in the draft for QB-hungry teams. If that is the case, a trickle down effect will push a lot of talented defenders down the list. This will open up a few possibilities for the Birds if they were in the hunt for a new RB.

Number 1: trade down and secure more second day picks. Howie Roseman has a history of letting the draft come to him and has not been afraid to secure capital if he doesn’t see the man he wants falling to him. This would give the team plenty of chances to secure a top 10 back on the second day of the draft. Teams looking to get back into the first round may be willing to part with valuable second day selections for a chance to steal a top-25 player.

Number 2: stay put, draft a back. If QBs start flying off the board early, it is likely one of the jewels of the running back class — here’s looking at you, Josh Jacobs — falls to the late first round. Also, with two second round picks, Howie may feel confident he can steal a solid contributor early on the second day.

All-in-all, I think the safest bet is that the Eagles use their first three picks on bolstering the trenches and adding to their defence. The team has been quite comfortable giving carries to under-the-radar options and will most likely wait until the fourth round — in which they have two selections — to select a running back. If the draft goes as expected, which it rarely does, there should be ample options for backs with a good “fit” on the third day of the draft. Philadelphia may even be able to swipe a small-school option with one of their sixth round selections.

Did I get it wrong? Did I miss your favourite prospect? Do you have a late round gem to keep an eye on? Let me know in the comments!

 

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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