EAGLES NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: The Running Backs

John McMullen

The sample size in the Doug Pederson era is now large enough to make certain assumptions.

And when it comes to the offensive backfield, the Philadelphia Eagles coach is going to default to a committee approach.

The first day of this series looked at the quarerback position.

Through free agency to date, the Eagles have suffered a net loss when Jordan Howard took a two-year deal in Miami and the organization itself decided not to tender Super Bowl LII hero and South Jersey native Corey Clement. 

Add in the retirement of Darren Sproles and the cupboard is somewhat bare after Miles Sanders, the presumptive RB1 after an excellent rookie season, and the undersized Boston Scott, who flashed plenty of juice when forced into action late last season.

The only other body on the roster at the position is late-season pickup Elijah Holyfield, the son of the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world Evander Holyfield.

The need seems obvious, an inside-the-tackle, move-the-chains type as a complement to Sanders similar to Howard was before a mysterious shoulder stinger essentially ended his 2019 campaign.

Sanders was actually No. 2 before the Howard injury but excelled in his absence, so the former Penn State star is and second-round pick from the 2019 draft is set as the RB1 with Scott fitting in as the third-down back, the heir-apparent to what Sproles once offered before the injuries derailed his last few seasons. The thunder to the lightning on hand could be found in the middle rounds of the draft later this month..

At 6-foot and 247 pounds, Boston College’s A.J. Dillon could be just what the doctor ordered there as a big productive back who was a three-year starter with a different brand of Eagles, amassing 4,382 yards and 38 touchdowns during his three college seasons.

He’s a proven finisher in the red zone and knowing Duce Staley, the Eagles would ask Dillion to drop 10 or so pounds in an effort to squeeze a little more explosiveness out of the package and start to implement at least the threat of catching the football on occasion.

That’s how Clement went from bruising star at Wisconsin to a contributor as a rookie despite going undrafted due to a perceived lack of speed.

“I put on a lot more muscle,” said Dillon of his bulky frame back at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I had 7.8 percent body fat, so I mean there's a lot of muscle behind it. It's not bad weight.”

As you might imagine Dillon has focused on bigger backs to mold his game after, starting with Le’Veon Bell, once an oversized back at Michigan State who lost some of the weight and developed into one of the more dominant backs in the NFL.

“I like to take bits and pieces from people's game," said Diloon. "I look at Leveon Bell's patience, Leonard Fournette, the way he runs a ball with speed ... it's an aggressive running style, Saquon's explosiveness, Steven Jackson back in the day with the Rams, that's how he ran to not really be denied yards. So, I mean, I'm constantly trying to develop, so I'm excited now have the opportunity to show teams that.”

If the Eagles do take the leap they will be getting “a player who can do everything on the field,” said Dillon.

“I've got size, obviously that's just God-given, but I have speed, I can catch the ball, pass protect. So I bring everything to the table.”

BUILDING THE PERFECT RB

Vision - J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State - An Alvin Kamara-type runner who runs confidently and has a feel for holes that are about to open.

Power - Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU - At just 5-8, Edwards-Helaire is built like a bowling bowl and often bounces off contact.

Get to the Edge - Anthony McFarland, Maryland - McFarland could beat anyone in the country to the edge at Maryland and could develop into a real weapon as a change-up at the NFL level.

Receiver - Eno Benjamin, Arizona State - The highly-productive Pac-12 back was used very effectively in the passing game at ASU and will have a leg up on most who have to learn their roles in different offenses.

Goal-line - A.J. Dillon, Boston College - Nearly 250 pounds and almost 40 touchdowns tells you all you need to know about Dillon pushing a pile.

Blitz Pickup - D’Andre Swift - So many young backs have to be taken off the field in obvious passing situations because they well get the QB killed when failing to pick up the blitz. What puts Swift over the top for most scouts as the No. 1 back in the class is his technique and competitiveness as a blocker.

EAGLES MAVEN TOP 10:

1. D’Andre Swift, Georgia

2. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

3. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

5. Zack Moss, Utah

6. Cam Akers, Florida State

7. Eno Benjamin, Arizona State

8. Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State

9. A.J. Dillon, Boston College

10. Rico Dowdle, South Carolina

Sleeper - Levante Bellamy, Western Michigan

Boom or Bust - Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

John McMullen covers the Eagles for SI.com. You can listen to John every day at 4 ET on ESPN 97.3 in South Jersey and reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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