Eagles Draft Preview: The Case For The Runningback

Howie
Eagles GM Howie Roseman

A lot has been made of what the Eagles are going to do with their 14th overall selection come draft day, April 27th. I, along with almost everyone in the city of Philadelphia, has argued the team absolutely has to go cornerback with their first pick, even their second pick. NFL Network analyst, Mike Mayock, described this draft class as “historically deep” and “teams can find first or second round cornerback talent in the third and fourth round.” Maycok is someone I really enjoy listening to when it comes to the draft. He knows his stuff and never exaggerates; so him saying this makes me really wonder if the Eagles will look to continue to build an unstoppable offense for Carson Wentz and turn to the defense later.

LF
LSU runningback and 2017 NFL Draft prospect, Leonard Fournette

Of course, by now, it’s known the Eagles signed both Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, upgrading the Eagles anemic wide receiving core from a year ago. They also bolstered their offensive line with signing Chance Warmack and re-signing backup Stefen Wisniewski, a guy who provides great veteran leadership and depth. The Eagles have only lost players on their defense; Connor Barwin signed with the LA Rams, half of their cornerback core has been released, and defensive tackle Bennie Logan signed in Kansas City. Just looking at that, you’d be fair to argue the Eagles should draft defensive help immediately. But what about getting Wentz an every-down runningback, much like how the Cowboys paired Ezekiel Elliot with Dak Prescott. Two names immediately stand out; Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. Fournette is built like a linebacker and would give the Eagles a power run game they have never really had. The thing is, I HIGHLY doubt he would be available at 14 when the Eagles make their selection. Anything is possible, but Fournette has the capability to be a superstar and with teams like the Panthers, Bengals, Jets, and Jaguars all having a running back spot open, and picking before the Eagles, one could assume Fournette will be off the board by then.

Let’s take a look at who might be available at 14 when the Eagles go to pick and that is Florida State runningback Dalvin Cook. I am usually against ever taking a runningback in the first round. If you look at the history of the Eagles runningbacks, they’ve selected one in the first round 31 years ago with Keith Byars. Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy were all 2-7 round picks respectively and when you look at it, those guys are some of the all-time leading rushers for the Eagles and in the upper echelon of the NFL’s rushers over the last 20 years. With that being said, the Eagles have always been able to find a runningback and develop him in time so would drafting one in the first round benefit? A guy like Dalvin Cook, who does have some off the field concerns, checks all boxes with size, speed, hands, blocking, vision and quickness. Cook has that “home run” ability when he takes off from the backfield and his combine numbers were almost all identical to that of Ezekiel Elliot. So, it would be fair to compare Cook to Elliot given the combine numbers, which makes taking Cook at 14 hard to pass up. The off the field concerns aren’t really jaw-dropping per say. Some arrests but scouts have said he seems matured from those situations based on the interviews they’ve done with him at the combine.

Cook
Florida State runningback and 2017 NFL Draft prospect Dalvin Cook

The Eagles (except for the Chip Kelly era) have never shied away from taking a flier on a guy with some red flags. Many instances it has worked, in others, not so much. When I look at Cook, I see a guy who could be exactly similar to Ezekiel Elliot in Dallas in that he would take a ton of pressure off of Carson Wentz and the offense. Cook is easily the 20-30 carries per game kind of guy and would pair nicely with last year’s fifth round choice Wendell Smallwood, giving the Eagles two backs who could be utilized at any given moment. Of course, it’s hard to justify ignoring cornerback and defense overall in this draft right away for the Eagles, but I believe what Mayock is saying is true; if you really can get quality corners in the second round and beyond, the Eagles might be wise in solidifying the last piece of their offense giving Carson Wentz every but of ammunition he needs. There are a ton of rumors circulating around wide receiver Jordan Matthews, center Jason Kelce, and linebacker Mychal Kendricks in trade rumors. If the Eagles trade one, two, or all three for more picks, that 14th pick used on Cook would look amazing if the Eagles loaded up on the defense after the first round. I’m one of the biggest advocates for building the defense especially cornerback, but I’m even more of an advocate for giving Carson Wentz all the weapons needed. The Eagles do have a solid nucleus on defense, one I believe they could add a lot of value to later, after selecting Florida State runningback Dalvin Cook with the 14th overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.

 

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