Don’t be shocked if the Eagles draft a running back with their first-round pick.
Sorry, I had to. Yeah, that’s not happening. I understand that the Eagles value roster competition and the idea of drafting the best available player, but they wouldn’t take a running back right off the bat.
Later in the draft? Well, that’s a different story.
Behind LeSean McCoy, the Eagles’ two backup running backs in 2013 — Bryce Brown and Chris Polk — combined to run for only 412 yards. Granted, McCoy was healthy all year and was rarely taken off the field. But the other two had their chances, too.
Even after two seasons, Brown remains an intriguing prospect. He was once the No. 1 overall high schooler in the country, one spot ahead of backup quarterback Matt Barkley. He has some potential to unlock, but McCoy has obviously gotten in the way. When chances do come though, moments have rarely been seized by Brown. On 75 carries in 2013, he ran for zero or less yards 15 times.
Polk has battled injuries throughout his Eagles career, but played fairly well when he had chances in 2013. He ran for an average of 8.9 yards per touch on 11 carries last season. He’s fresh off shoulder surgery, which hopefully has healed some of his problems.
Both guys have yet to prove their worth as a bruising, third down back. For this, the Eagles could be in the market for one late in the draft. Or a guy who’s more polished. Or a playmaker. Ah, who knows.
Here are some names to keep an eye on come draft day.
James White, Wisconsin
Don’t let his 5’9″ frame fool you — White is not afraid to pick up tough yardage by running between the tackles. He can catch passes out of the backfield and block as well, which is something that Chip Kelly appreciates. While at Wisconsin, White split carries with Melvin Gordon (who ended up staying in school). His workload has been lighter than some of the other guys in the draft.
De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Kelly loves guys who are good in space and can make plays. He probably also loves guys he once coached, too. If Thomas slips to the middle rounds, don’t be shocked if the Birds pull the trigger. Thomas is a playmaker. For starters, he would help out in the return game from the start. Chip would find a way to utilize him on offense among the bevy of weapons Nick Foles already has.
James Wilder Jr., Florida State
Now, here’s the prototypical big back the Eagles could target. Wilder is massive (6’2′”, 229) and runs like it. He will never be a primary back at the next level, but he could step in to take short yardage carries and absorb a lot of hits. Like White, Wilder Jr. also wasn’t worn down a ton in college. Florida State operated with three running backs last season, and Wilder Jr. only carried the ball 81 times.
Philadelphia clearly isn’t in the market for a franchise running back. However, head over to cover 32’s main page later today and check out the top 10 running backs in the 2014 NFL draft to see how the rest of the group rounds out.