April 19, 2023
Whether you think the Philadelphia Eagles should select Bijan Robinson with the 10th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft or not, we can all agree that it's pretty unlikely to happen, right? So if not Bijan, then who?
In the leadup to the 2023 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles' biggest needs — defensive tackle, edge rusher, defensive tackle, etc. — have been covered at length. Here we'll cover some of the running backs that make sense for the Eagles on Day 2 and Day 3 of the draft.
• Zach Charbonnet, UCLA: Charbonnet is a north-south runner who breaks tackles and finishes runs. He has good vision and doesn't often leave meat on the bone. He can also play on passing downs because he is thought of as a good pass protector, and while you're not going to pretend he's Brian Westbrook by lining him up in the slot, he will make catches as a checkdown guy who can then gobble up yards after the catch.
Charbonnet was productive in two seasons at UCLA after transferring from Michigan. 202-1137-13 in 2021, 195-1359-14 with a 7.0 YPC average in 2022.
• Tank Bigsby, Auburn: With a name like "Tank," you might expect Bigsby to be a 240-pound between the tackles banger. That's not his game. He is an elusive, shifty runner with a fun highlight reel and added value as a kick returner.
• Isreal Abanakanda, Pittsburgh: "Izzy" is stoutly built at 5'10, 216, but with some explosiveness (4.44 40 at Pitt's pro day) and a nose for the end zone (20 TDs in 2022).
Abanakanda will probably an early down back early in his career, as he didn't have much receiving production at Pitt, and can use more work is pass pro, but for the Eagles' purposes that's fine in the short term.
• Chase Brown, Illinois: Brown topped 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons. In 2022, he finished fourth in the nation with 1,643 rushing yards, though he had an insane workload to get there, carrying 328 (!) times in 12 games, or 27.3 times per game. He also had 27 receptions for 240 yards and 3 TDs.
Brown is a really good athlete, and is a willing participant in pass pro. His extreme number of touches in 2022 creates an interesting debate. On the one hand, he has shown that he can be a durable back despite a high workload. On the other hand, he already has a lot of mileage on him before he has even entered the NFL.
• Kendre Miller, TCU: Miller is a thicky-built power runner who averaged just under 7 yards per carry over his career at TCU. With just 361 career carries, Miller has low mileage, unlike Brown above. In addition to his tackle-breaking ability, Miller has shown speed and burst. He did not work out at the Combine due to a knee injury.
• Roschon Johnson, Texas: Johnson had an interesting college career. He was originally recruited as a quarterback, but moved to running back after Texas suffered a number of injuries there prior to the 2019 season. He had a good freshman season, but lost carries in 2020 and beyond after Bijan Robinson arrived at Texas and became the clear lead back. Johnson is thought of as a smart, unselfish player who might have put up bigtime rushing numbers at another program. He does a lot of little things well and could give the Eagles valuable snaps immediately in a rotational role.
• Sean Tucker, Syracuse: Tucker rushed 246 times for 1,496 yards (6.1 YPC) and 12 TDs in 2021, breaking Syracuse's single-season rushing record. He added 20 receptions for 255 yards and 2 TDs. In 2022, he wasn't as effective, rushing 206 times for 1,060 yards (5.1 YPC) and 11 TDs. He has a track background and good initial acceleration, but he missed the Combine and Syracuse's pro day with an undisclosed medical issue, making his draft projection difficult.
• Eric Gray, Oklahoma: Gray had a big senior season, carrying 213 times for 1,366 yards (6.4 YPC) and 11 TDs, while also chipping in 33 receptions for 229 yards. He has good vision and can make defenders miss, but he does not possess great top speed (4.62 at OU's pro day).
• Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky: Rodriguez is a banger who averaged 6.2 yards per carry over his career at Kentucky. He is a one-cut, north-south runner who will move piles and gain yards through contact. The downside is that he's not much of a receiver, as he only has 20 career catches, and he probably won't be a threat to break off long runs in the NFL. Great late round fit, in my opinion.
• Mohamed Ibraham, Minnesota: Ibrahim is a compact, physical runner who seems to like contact, and finishes his runs, often with authority. He also has good vision, and knows what holes to hit as blocking develops in front of him. In that respect, he has a chance to be a good short yardage guy. On the downside, he only has 19 career college catches and he's slow. (He skipped testing drills at the Combine, likely knowing it wouldn't go well.)
I should probably cover Jahmyr Gibbs here as well, who many would like to see the Eagles draft at pick No. 30. I covered Gibbs in a recent mailbag, but for those of you who didn't read that, I'll explain why he's not on the list of running backs above.
To begin, I like Gibbs quite a bit. He's a home run threat with excellent 4.36 speed, he's a weapon in the passing game who can line up all over the formation, and he even returns kicks. He has a chance to become a dynamic weapon in the NFL.
However, his career season high for carries is 151, which he had in 2022. He averaged just 12.6 carries per game. On the one hand, he has low mileage, which is great. On the other hand, he's small (5'9, 199), and there's no concrete evidence that he can handle the rigors of being a lead back in the NFL.
In many ways he's similar to Kenny Gainwell, who came on at the end of the 2022 season, and who the Eagles very clearly like. While Gibbs may have more talent and might ultimately have the better NFL career, he would essentially make Gainwell a redundant player. Should the Eagles pass on a player because they already employ Gainwell? In my opinion, no. But my sense is that the Eagles might.
I don't see the Eagles selecting Gibbs at 30, or with a trade back. I do think that a team that doesn't already have a dedicated a third-down back could have early interest, but probably not until Round 2.
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