EAGLES DRAFT PREVIEW: Running Backs

A closer look at why Philadelphia would benefit from adding a RB early in the 2021 NFL Draft, and what constitutes the perfect back
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PHILADELPHIA – There are six running backs listed on the Eagles’ roster, with just a smattering of weeks to go until the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29.

Until the Eagles added Jordan Howard on April 7, there had been five.

The expectation is the Eagles will add another one, though the signing of Howard may temper that expectation a bit.

He gives them another proven commodity with Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. The other three- Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins, and Elijah Holyfield – were never given a chance to prove themselves under the previous coaching regime. Maybe the new one will give them that opportunity.

Or maybe the Eagles should just go and get themselves a top-flight rookie runner.

Sanders missed five games last year with a variety of injuries. He struggled catching the football, the third year of his four-year rookie contract is about to begin, and Year Two ended without his first career 1,000-yard rushing season.

That’s not uncommon in Philly, however. The Eagles have had just 19 seasons where a running back has topped 1,000 yards in a season. Even the switch from a 14-game season to 16 games in 1978 didn’t help much, though 1,000 yards was eclipsed 16 times since the increase in games, which means it was done just three times prior to 1978.

Maybe with the NFL now moving to a 17-game slate starting this fall, the once-mighty barrier of 1,000 yards will be broached.

LeSean McCoy was the last Eagles RB to post more than a grand on the ground. He did it in 2014 when he ran for 1,319 yards. In fact, McCoy ran for more than 1,000 yards four of the 19 times it has been done in Philadelphia.

Wilbert Montgomery, Ricky Watters, and Duce Staley accomplished it three times each with Brian Westbrook and Steve Van Buren doing it twice each.

The other two to do it once were Herschel Walker and Earnest Jackson.

Finding a stud to pair with Sanders, which would allow Scott to be the changeup back, could make these stats ancient history.

Running the ball successfully matters in so many ways.

It bears reminding that the Eagles had the third-best rushing offense when they won the Super Bowl in the 2017 season, averaging 132.2 yards per game on the ground.

With three strong running backs, coupled with a quarterback in Jalen Hurts who’s going to get his share of yards on the ground, and this Eagles team could lead the NFL in rushing.

EAGLES RB DEPTH CHART: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins, Elijah Holyfield

BUILDING THE PERFECT RB

Vision – Najee Harris, Alabama: Great size at 6-1, 232 pounds, but also possesses finesse and plenty of wiggle in open space.

Power - Javonte Williams, North Carolina: He does not go down on first contact and at 5-10, 220 it’s no wonder. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote: “He's a terror behind his pads, creating yardage by battering and discarding tackle attempts.”

Speed – Pooka Williams, Kansas: In three years with the Jayhawks, Williams was a productive back, but he doesn’t do much to warrant making him any more than a day three pick at minimum. Speed and quickness are his biggest strengths, however. He ran the fasted time of any RB at his pro day, recording a 4.38.

Receiver – Kenny Gainwell, Memphis: He had 51 catches for 610 yards and three scores in 2020 while adding 1,459 yards and 13 scores rushing.

Goal-line – Travis Etienne, Clemson: At 5-10, 215 he is capable of delivering as punishment as he receives, especially inside the 5-yard line. He had 70 touchdowns in four years with the Tigers.

Intangibles – Michael Carter, North Carolina: Head coach Mack Brown raved about Carter’s leadership ability and added that when the social injustice issues were heated this past summer, Carter was the first player Brown went to for his opinion on what was going on and how best to handle it.

EAGLE MAVEN TOP 10:

Javonte Williams, North Carolina

Najee Harris, Alabama

Travis Etienne, Clemson

Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis

Demetric Felton, UCLA

Michael Carter, North Carolina

Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State

Kylin Hill, Mississippi State

Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech

Jaret Patterson, Buffalo

Sleeper – Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana

Boom or Bust – Travis Etienne, Clemson

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.

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