Passing on J.K. Dobbins, Eagles may Look for RB in 2021

Ed Kracz

It has been a spring filled with some mild angst from Eagles fans about the running back position and thousands of words from various beat reporters have been written analyzing it.

The conclusion is always the same: The Eagles need to do more.

It could have been so much different had the Eagles done what they were reportedly thinking of doing in this past spring’s NFL draft, and that is draft running back J.K. Dobbins.

Instead, the Eagles selected quarterback Jalen Hurts with the 53rd overall selection. Dobbins was gobbled up two picks later the Baltimore Ravens with the 55th pick.

Imagine how exciting the storylines would have been this past couple of months writing and talking about the backfield of Miles Sanders and Dobbins. Throw in Boston Scott and possibly Corey Clement, and well, the backfield goes from a big question mark to a massive strength.

Dobbins is still just 21. While he carried a heavy load at Ohio State, he would have been the perfect complement to Sanders.

Perhaps the Eagles were counting on signing a veteran free agent for a bargain-basement price. Head coach Doug Pederson said on sports radio recently that they let one slip through their fingers, probably referring to Carlos Hyde.

Devonta Freeman wants more than the Eagles are willing to pay, LeSean McCoy may be more of a band-aid at this point in his 11-year career, and the trade options don’t seem all that appealing, plus to make a trade would require giving something up, whether that is draft picks or players.

The long-term answer will most likely come in next year’s draft, and next year’s draft could be complicated if college football isn’t played this fall. Even if it isn’t played until spring, evaluations would likely be condensed.

Would there be the annual NFL Scouting Combine? Would the draft be pushed back along with OTAs and minicamp? And if there isn’t a college season in the fall or spring, would the NFL waive the rule that says a player must be out of high school for three years in order to be draft-eligible?

NFL teams would likely rely heavily on the 2019 season for their evaluations, and there will be some good running back prospects from which to choose for the Eagles.

Now, you can bet your bottom dollar the Eagles aren’t going to spend a first-round pick on a running back. This isn’t your dad’s 1986 NFL when the Eagles grabbed Ohio State’s Keith Byars with the 10th overall pick.

The best of the bunch may be Travis Etienne from Clemson.

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote this in a June 22 scouting report:

“After studying Travis Etienne, I believe the Clemson star is better than any running back from the 2020 draft class. He surprised a lot of folks by deciding to return for his senior season instead of moving on to the next level after earning back-to-back ACC Player of the Year awards.”

But this year’s crop of runners, as Jeremiah points out, is bountiful (my word, not his).

Others who could perk the Eagles’ interest are:

  • Memphis’ Kenny Gainwell, a 5-11, 190-pound playmaker who averaged 6.3 yards per carry with 13 touchdowns and caught 51 passes for 610 yards and three scores in 2019.
  • Oklahoma State’s Chubba Hubbard, a 6-1, 207-pound specimen who made headlines recently when he spoke out against his coach Mike Gundy for wearing an OAN Network T-shirt. Hubbard went over 2,000 yards rushing last season after putting up 740 yards in 2018.
  • Oklahoma’s Kennedy Brooks, who is 5-11, 209 pounds and was teammates last year with Hurts and has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

None of these names would even be mentioned, though, had the Eagles picked Dobbins instead of Hurts.

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