Change Of Direction?
Roseman Hints At Potential Deviation In Draft Approach
As the NFL Draft fast approaches, the abundance of rhetoric, posturing, and mock drafts has begun to wind down.
The Eagles, who currently possess two of the top 30 picks for next Thursday’s first round, masterfully draft-proofed their roster in free agency, focusing on optionality while potentially introducing a degree of surprise.
One would be hard-pressed to identify a more listless unit on the Eagles’ roster at the moment than linebacker. And perhaps no position group yields more questions than running back.
It’s worth noting that the Eagles – every team, actually – are months away from playing meaningful football, and further maneuvering is sure to alter perception.
Still, regardless of your belief in projected second-level starters Nicholas Morrow and Nakobe Dean – the latter of whom logged just 34 snaps as a rookie last season – the depth beyond that duo is uninspiring, largely comprised of special teams standouts who’ll be clinging to the roster fringes throughout the summer.
Comparably, the running back room boasts a relatively ordinary bunch, hinging on the health of snake-bitten free-agent signing Rashaad Penny and the anticipated development of third-year pro Kenny Gainwell.
For perspective, Penny has missed 37 games in four seasons and Gainwell mustered only 121 carries in two seasons behind Miles Sanders.
The common thread unifying the two most undervalued position groups annually in Philadelphia is that they’ve been historically neglected early in drafts, despite the Eagles have arming themselves with ample roster flexibility entering the draft.
Their decision to retain many veteran core members also suggests that the Eagles have pushed all chips into the middle once again while their Super Bowl window remains open, fueling some specualtion that personnel chief Howie Roseman could take a swing for the fences early in the draft and go against his conventional draft philosophy for once.
“I think the most important thing when you’re picking in the first round, certainly when you’re picking 10, is that you get a unique player,” Roseman said during his Thursday media availability. “I think that there are so few unique players in any draft that if you start picking by position and not based on the quality of the talent, then you really get a chance – so if you pick by position and you pick a player who’s not any good, then it’s not a good pick anyway.
“I think the most important thing for us here is that we utilize this opportunity to get a unique player for our team. Certainly not planning to be picking at this point in the near future. We understand how important it is to get this right, and how do you get it right is you make sure you get a unique player.
Did Roseman just drop a big hint?
“I think the most important thing for us here is that we utilize this opportunity to get a unique player for our team.”
If you’re taking the team’s executive vice president of football operations at his word – sometimes a perilous proposition – there are two early first-round prospects who particularly fit that bill.
Former Texas running back Bijan Robinson, among the handful of pure blue-chip talents in this class, qualifies as the most prominent example.
Robinson, frequently mocked to the Eagles at No. 10, not only sports a rocked-up frame equipped to withstand the rigors of a 17-game schedule.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound runner is also an explosive accelerator, natural pass-catcher, nimble in space and is an authority on finishing runs.
The 21-year-old is primed to step into a role as a three-down running back at the next level, and his versatility and pending splash plays would instantly add another dimension to the Eagles’ high-octane offense.
The Eagles could possibly move out of No. 10 to secure Robinson’s services.
His addition would also allow Penny and Gainwell to thrive in abbreviated roles, eventually forming a prolific thunder and lightning tandem with the latter in 2024.
The other prospect worthy of breaking the team’s long-standing backfield aversion is Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs, who could be in play if the team clenches onto its late first-round pick.
The 5-foot-9, 199-pound Gibbs is a smooth, gliding runner with superior vision, open-field elusion and lightning-quick speed to take it the distance on a given play.
A lethal dual-threat, Gibbs’ nifty receiving prowess and ability to function as a moveable piece on an NFL offense adds to his appeal.
And although Gibbs doesn’t project to be a three-down runner at the pro level, the electric element he brings alongside quarterback Jalen Hurts might be enticing enough to violate the team’s long-standing precedent next Thursday.
Everyone knows the Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since 1979.
“I think that if you start saying, ‘Hey, we can only get a unique player, but it’s got to be this position,’ you really narrow your options right there,” Roseman concluded.
“So just trying to be as open-minded as possible about what that looks like and making sure that whoever we pick is somebody that we think can really impact the game.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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