In the last 40 years, the Eagles have drafted two running backs in the first round.
That’s a long run, so to speak. They selected Keith Byars with the 10th pick in 1986. They picked Michael Haddix with the eighth pick in 1983.
Mock drafts, like Twitter, aren’t the real world but they sure are popular. Many mock drafts have the Eagles doing the unthinkable, for them, by drafting a running back with either the 10th or 30th pick.
Public sentiment indicates the Eagles will need a starting running back next season. Why? Because Miles Sanders will be a free agent on March 15 and the Eagles probably aren’t going to pay what he thinks he deserves.
That’s the Eagles’ way when it comes to running backs. They historically haven’t prioritized the position enough to make a substantial financial investment in it.
SCOUTS LOVE ROBINSON
But one back in particular is on everyone’s radar — Texas’ Bijan Robinson. And for good reason. He gained 1,580 yards and scored 18 touchdowns in 2022.
He’s powerful at 6-foot, 220 pounds. He won the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, and was an unanimous All-American.
When you look at Robinson’s highlights, you see him repeatedly breaking tackles — 104 on the season according to Pro Football Focus. He is fourth all-time in rushing yards at Texas with 3,410 yards on 539 carries. He had 33 rushing touchdowns, tied for eighth all-time.
SIMILAR TO SAQUON
Robinson’s comparable will get Eagles’ fans attention: Saquon Barkley. He’s a player fans will covet.
Daniel Jeremiah is NFL Network’s senior draft analyst. He talked about the Eagles and Robinson on a recent conference call.
- “The most consistently highest-rated player in the draft,” Jeremiah said. “Everybody says that Bijan Robinson is not only the best running back in this class, he’s one of the five best players in this draft. He’s elite.”
When you hear that, maybe the Eagles will consider Robinson for the 10th pick, if he’s still available. If they really want him, they can’t take a chance he’ll still on the board at No. 30.
The Eagles have other needs — cornerback, safety, linebacker, both lines — but maybe nothing as immediate as replacing a 1,269-yard runner in Sanders, if it comes to that.
NFL doctrine says you don’t need to spend first-round capital on a running back. No running backs were selected in the first round in 2022. In 2021, the first running back taken was Alabama’s Najee Harris, at 24 by the Steelers.
The Eagles had the NFL’s fifth-best rushing attack and the third-best offense. Kenny Gainwell ran well in the playoffs. Is he a durable, feature back, or an occasional back?
Robinson sounds like a do-it-all back who can have a profound effect on an offense.
“[Robinson is] one of the best backs we’ve seen in the last several years,” Jeremiah said. “When you look at that offense with Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, then all of the sudden you drop Bijan Robinson into that mix? Holy moly. That would be fun to watch.”
ESPN recently rated draft-eligible running backs. It thinks just as highly of Robinson as does Jeremiah. ESPN considers Robinson the top runner and fifth-best player overall.
- From ESPN: “Robinson is the total package as a running back prospect. He plays with amazing patience but can also lower his shoulder with a 220-pound frame and create space for himself.
- “Robinson’s contact balance and vision in traffic are some of the best I’ve ever seen … He’s also a very good receiving threat out of the backfield [314 receiving yards]. There are few players more talented than Robinson in this year’s class.”
Jeremiah compared the Eagles’ situation with the 49ers’ when they traded for running back Christian McCaffrey.
- “I look at them [Niners] as a team that traded resources and obviously dedicated a lot of money towards Christian McCaffrey, and I saw what Christian McCaffrey did in that offense where they already had a bunch of good players and how he took it to a whole other level,” Jeremiah said.
NFL Network reported that Robinson will participate in workouts this week at the combine in Indianapolis.
ESPN analyst Todd McShay said Robinson was his “favorite pick in this entire mock draft,” according to the Burnt Orange Nation blog.
“Bijan Robinson, to me, is the next Saquon Barkley,” McShay said. “He can do everything you want in terms of forced missed tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield, pass protection.”
The Eagles could surprise the NFL, and themselves, by picking Robinson.