More Sports:

April 10, 2020

Eagles 2020 NFL Draft preview: Running back

Eagles NFL
040920ZackMoss Daniel Dunn/USA TODAY Sports

Utah RB Zack Moss is a 5'9 ball of knives.

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be taking a look at each of the Philadelphia Eagles' positional groups. We'll determine if the Birds are likely to select a player at that position with one of their eight picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, as well as note some players who make sense.

On Thursday, we started at quarterback. Today, we'll look at running back. First, the depth chart:

RB1 RB2  RB3
Miles Sanders Boston Scott Elijah Holyfield 

Yep, that's it. The Eagles currently only have three running backs on their roster. During 2019 training camp, they had eight, and they usually carry at least four, sometimes five, on their regular season roster. My conclusion? They're probably going to add more running backs.

We aren't far removed from the 2018 season, when the Eagles probably had the worst running backs in the NFL. In 2019, the additions of Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders fixed that, but Howard is gone, and the Birds are one Sanders injury away from being right where back they were in 2018.

While Elijah Holyfield will have a chance to show what he can do in training camp, the Eagles could really use a physical runner who can complement the dynamic Sanders and the shifty Boston Scott.

Because the Eagles have done nothing so far to address their woeful wide receiving corps, the rest of their team needs, like running back, have been under-discussed. They still have to add multiple backs. My guesses:

  1. They'll draft one, though it's hard to imagine them taking one any sooner than the third round, seeing as Sanders was a 2 in 2019.
  2. They'll add one or two UDFAs.
  3. Depending on how many rookies they add, they may also have to add a veteran back after the draft.

Some running backs who make sense for the Eagles

Antonio Gibson, Memphis (6'0, 228)

Gibson is a versatile playmaker for Memphis, working out of the slot, as a running back, and as a kick returner. He is stoutly built, and he has some juice.

Gibson is something of a late bloomer as a senior JUCO transfer who really hadn't produced until the 2019 season. He played more as a wide receiver than he did as a running back. His receiving numbers: 

Antonio Gibson Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201899 16.5 
 201938 735 19.3 

He also added 33 carries for 369 yards (11.2 yards per carry) and 4 TDs as a runner, and a 28.0 kick return average (1 TD) in 2019.

Teams will have to figure out what they want to do with Gibson, who ran a 4.39 40 at the Combine at 228 pounds. In Philly, I think you put him in the easiest spot to succeed, which in my opinion is at running back, where the transition to the NFL doesn't take as long, and Gibson will be covered by linebackers instead of slot corners in the passing game.

Projected round: 3

Zack Moss, Utah (5'9, 223)

Moss is 5'9 ball of knives who finishes his runs. A look:

For a power guy, Moss had a good yards per carry average over his last two season, though there could be concerns about Utah putting a lot of mileage on Moss' odometer the last three seasons. His career numbers:

Zack Moss Rush Yards YPC TD 
 201684 382 4.5 
 2017214 1173 5.5 10 
 2018179 1096 6.1 11 
 2019235 1416 6.0 15 

Moss could be an out-of-the-box replacement for Howard, and perhaps even an upgrade.

Projected round: 3

A.J. Dillon, Boston College (6'0, 247)

At 6'0, 250, Dillon is the biggest running back in this draft, and in his three years at Boston College, he put up big numbers in the run game, mostly because of his high number of carries:

A.J. Dillon Rush Yards YPC TD 
 2017300 1589 5.3 14 
 2018227 1108 4.9 10 
 2019318 1685 5.3 14 

That heavy workload could hurt Dillon's draft stock, as could his low yards per carry. For the Eagles' purposes, Dillon makes sense as a "between the tackles" runner. A highlight reel:

While obviously an inside runner who would complement Sanders nicely, Dillon also reminds me a little of LeGarrette Blount, for obvious size reasons, but also because he is surprisingly nimble for a 250-pound man.

Projected round: 4

Joshua Kelley, UCLA (5'11, 212)

Kelley was impressive at the Senior Bowl, showing off some burst, running through contact and getting to the second level. He also looked confident as a receiver. At the Combine, that burst was confirmed, when he ran a 4.49 40. Over the last two years, Kelley has produced a pair of 1000-plus yard seasons in Chip Kelly's offense, but on a low yards per carry average (for a college prospect): 

 Joshua KelleyRush Yards YPC TD 
 2018225 1243 5.5 12 
 2019229 1060 4.6 12 

That low YPC average could make him available into Day 3, but in my view, he can play. A highlight reel:

In addition to being a tough inside runner, Kelley is a back who can do a lot of the same things as Miles Sanders, though maybe not with the same explosiveness, but can be something of an interchangeable piece.

Projected round: 5

Lamical Perine, Florida (5'11, 211)

Perine comes from a family of running backs, which includes NFL players such as Washington RB Samaje Perine, and Jaguars LB Myles Jack, who doubled as a running back in college.

Perine doesn't have great speed, but he runs with patience and vision, using mini jump cuts to pick his way through traffic, and finishing with power. A highlight reel:

Perine has split time in the backfield at Florida with other runners, so his odometer is reasonably low. In four seasons, he had 493 carries for 2485 yards (5.0 YPC), and 16 TDs. As a receiver, he has 72 catches for 674 yards (9.4 YPC) and 8 TDs.

He isn't particularly flashy or deficient in any areas, which would make him something of a boring pick (at least for a running back), but he would make sense as a dependable No. 2 who can be had on Day 3.

Projected round: 5

Follow Jimmy & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @JimmyKempski | @thePhillyVoice

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader