The Eagles have been without a steady running back since LeSean McCoy. While their committee approach has worked well over the past few seasons, and will likely continue into the future, the bodies in that committee have rotated in and out way too much.
The lack of a real difference-maker in the backfield wasn’t glaring last season, but you could see their offensive potential was limited because of it. There seems to be a feeling among fans and analysts that this is the offseason where the front office looks to remedy that.
With Corey Clement, Josh Adams, and Wendell Smallwood being the only backs currently under contract, the team would be crazy to head into 2019 without making an addition or two—it should be noted that Sproles is still making up his mind on retirement.
With free agent running backs being signed left and right, and the Eagles unlikely to sign any of the backs remaining in order to preserve our compensatory picks, the draft is the most likely route for Howie to add someone.
It’s unlikely that the team uses their first round pick here—Howie has always been against using a high pick at the position—however, there’s a strong chance that the front office looks to use one of their two second round picks (no. 53, no. 57) to find their running back of the future. It’s worth noting that both LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook were drafted in the second and third rounds.
David Montgomery, Iowa State
One running back who could go in the second round who has been linked to the Birds is David Montgomery. Montgomery was the first player to meet with the Eagles at the combine, and he would fit well in their offensive scheme.
He was featured heavily over three seasons at Iowa State, amassing a total of 2,925 yards and 26 TDs. He has a bowling ball frame and the tough running style to match. His ability to control his body and absorb contact is a trait that can’t be taught, and he combines that with sound footwork and impressive lateral quickness. After watching his tape it’s easy to imagine him in this offense.
What’s perhaps most impressive is ability to immediately contribute in the passing game. He’s a decent route-runner with strong hands, and his frame and power allow him to hold up well in pass protection.
The only thing he’s lacking is the top end speed to rip off big runs, but that’s pretty nit-picky considering how well rounded of a prospect he is.
Miles Sanders, Penn State
Another prospect who comes to mind is Miles Sanders. Sanders spent much of his career in Happy Valley behind Saquan Barkley, but that obviously had a lot more to do with Barkley’s talent than an indictment on Sanders’ ability.
Sanders has compensated for his limited tape (one year starter) with a noteworthy showing at the combine. He posted a 4.49 40-yard dash, 20 reps on the bench press, and the quickest 3-cone drill time at 6.89 seconds (a whole 0.06 seconds ahead of the second fastest).
Those numbers underscore Sanders’ explosive, athletic profile. His great footwork and loose hips allow him to change direction effortlessly, and he uses an array of quick cuts to make his defender miss. He’s a fun back to watch, but could certainly use some more development before taking a bigger role in the NFL.
He’s not as polished as Montgomery in pass protection, but he’s shown that he has the tools to contribute in this area. As far as pass catching goes, he’s a solid route runner who has the potential to grow into a top-end pass catching back given his burst and quickness.
He’s not as obvious of a fit in our running scheme as Montgomery, but that has a lot to do with his need to develop. A limited tape combined with his obvious athletic traits makes him a high-upside player—probably more so than the other players on this list—but he’s also less polished than most other prospects.
Darrell Henderson, Memphis
Another back who makes who make sense to the Birds in the second round is Darrell Henderson. Last season Henderson ran for 1909 yards, and 22 TDs on 214 carries—that’s a cool 8.9 yards per carry.
His body type is similar to Montgomery, but his running style is more of a blend between both the backs I previously mentioned. He’s a little less physical, but has a more dynamic running style with more big play ability.
Henderson is a smooth back whose low center of gravity allows him to maintain balance through contact. He ran a 4.49 at the combine and runs that fast on tape. What’s most impressive about him is his ability to maintain top speed while changing direction and absorbing light contact. This can be chalked up to his world-class body control and flexibility. In my opinion, this trait makes Henderson a sleeper to go in the first round.
He’s a shifty back who can make defenders miss in a variety of ways. When you watch Henderson’s tape you can see why he’s so dangerous in space, and it’s easy to understand his gaudy numbers given his skill and the level of competition.
If Henderson sounds like a better runner than Montgomery and Sanders that’s because he likely is better. The reason his draft value appears similar to those two is because he doesn’t offer much in the passing game (at least initially) and he won’t be a positive in short-yardage situations (despite a physical profile that suggests he might).