Did Eagles’ Brass Tip its Hand at RB?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - History is written by the winners and because of that, there is always a bit of revision to it.
The 2017-18 NFL season ended with the Philadelphia Eagles hoisting the Lombardi Trophy so few remembered what happened back in April when the team's fingers were crossed in the hope Christian McCaffrey would be available at No. 14 overall, something short-circuited by the Carolina Panthers.
The expletives then flew in the second round when Minnesota traded up two spots in front of Philadelphia to snare Dalvin Cook, the spectacular Florida State runner Joe Douglas had pegged as the team's bell-cow back in Plan B.
The consolation prizes were hardly bottom-of-the-barrel stuff: promising defensive end Derek Barnett and a potential difference maker at cornerback in Sidney Jones.
At RB, however, Philadelphia first settled for a poor man's (some might say, broke man's) McCaffrey by trading up in the fourth round for undersized project Donnel Pumphrey before smartly going the Band-Aid route after the draft by signing LeGarrette Blount, and then supplementing that at the trade deadline with Jay Ajayi.
“Maybe the perception is the draft is the last time you have a huge opportunity to improve your football team and what we’ve committed is that we’re going to attack in the draft, we’re going to attack in June, we’re going to attack at the trade deadline,” Eagles executive Howie Roseman explained at his pre-draft availability last week. “After the trade deadline it’s hard to do, but this is not the end of talent acquisition season.”
The Eagles ultimately proved they could reach the promised land with a RB-by-committee approach but it doesn't change the fact that they would love a versatile three-down option as both McCaffrey and especially Cook project to be.
“When we got together after the draft last year, the running back class that we thought was really strong going in, we thought that maybe there would be an opportunity that we’d get one of those running backs,” Roseman admitted. “Maybe a different guy than Pumph.”
Getting targeted information from NFL personnel people in that kind of environment is akin to getting blood from a stone so that was a clear sign of two things -- the Eagles aren't exactly moving forward with the assumption Pumphrey is going to help and they still want to add a significant piece to a backfield currently headlined by Ajayi and former undrafted free agent Corey Clement.
“Great running backs are difference makers,” Douglas said. “We see that in today’s NFL – special guys that can come out of the backfield and hurt you in the pass game. If it’s the right player I don’t think we’re opposed to taking running backs at any point.”
The 2018 class at the position is again deep with Penn State's Saquon Barkley, the only one assuredly out of the Eagles' reach.
Picking at No. 32 overall, it's probably a longshot that Philadelphia could be in a position to draft LSU's Derrius Guice as well but there are talented options with bridge first- and second-round grades like the Georgia duo of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, as well as Southern Cal's Ronald Jones.
Michel and Jones especially would fit what the Eagles want.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen