The Eagles led the league in rushing in 2013, but really, LeSean McCoy literally carried the load throughout the entire season. Bryce Brown and Chris Polk combined for 86 carries and 412 yards on the season, which was just over 25-percent of the production that McCoy offered in Chip Kelly's first year as head coach. McCoy can be a workhorse back but should not have had to be glued to the field as much as he was this past season. Perhaps Kelly did not trust Brown to carry the ball frequently or thought Polk was just better served as a big-threat change-of-pace back or neither and he wanted McCoy out there forever. Whatever the case, the Eagles need a strong No. 2 option at running back in 2014.
Wisconsin's James White is the type of running back that Kelly covets. He can run, catch and block very well. While he is just 5-foot-9 and 206 pounds, his ability is similar to that of DeAngelo Williams (who is of similar build). White has a terrific background, including his stint at high school football factory St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He also a cousin of (sort of) former Eagles wide receiver Sinorice Moss and long-time Redskin, Santana Moss.
White was recruited to Wisconsin out of high school and was put into action immediately. As a freshman, White played in 12 games, rushing for 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns with a 6.74 yard per carry average (second in school history). He led the team in all-purpose and rushing yards along with finishing second in rushing touchdowns, kick return yards and total offense. He was the consensus Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
As sophomore, White continued to split carries with current Broncos running back Montee Ball. His production dipped as he finished the season with 713 rushing yards and six scores. The Ball and White (or White-Ball) pair continued in 2011 with White again finishing under 1,000 yards. As a junior, he produced 806 rushing yard and 12 touchdowns as mostly a change-of-pace back.
White got to make the offensive backfield his own as a senior. A second team All-Big Ten selection, White rushed for 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns. He started 12-of-13 games and finished his college career at No. 4 on the Wisconsin all-time rushing list and is third in the rushing touchdowns. He also collected 73 receptions for 670 yards and three touchdowns in his four years as a Badger.
He was invited to the Senior Bowl, where put on a show. He rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown to go along with 15 receiving yards. White was considered the best running back in Mobile by Josh Collacchi, who was at the Senior Bowl practices.
White is a patient runner with solid vision. Despite his size, he fights for yardage and has no problem going up the middle. A willing blocker, White is proficient in blitz pickup and will finish in protection.
Surprisingly good in the redzone for his size, his speed and ability to bounce outside makes other teams respect the edge on short-yardage situations. He is quick to find and hit holes but does set up his blocks well. A shifty runner with a shimmy to his style, White is very good at evading tackles. He shows okay hands when catching passes but has definite YAC ability.
Obviously, most teams would appreciate it if White was taller. At 5-foot-9, it may scare off some teams and he obviously needs to add a few pounds (Williams is 218 pounds, so that may be a solid benchmark). White is more quick than fast. He is fast, but his ability to be elusive is more prominent on tape than his long-end speed.
While he does block well, there are times where he gets pushed substantially in pass protection. Again, adding weight will help with that. Like most of (if not all, looking at you Trent Richardson) the running backs in the last three draft classes, White is good but not great as a prospect. He does not have that special trait that makes you want to draft him early, but really that is just nitpicking. His size will likely have him pegged as a productive change-of-pace back in the NFL.
The Eagles are not going to spend a pick on a running back early and they should avoid it regardless. This draft is very good with depth at running back in the mid-to-late rounds and White will likely be there on Day 3. I have him as a fourth round pick but CBS Sports has him as a fifth round selection. The Eagles easily could take White in one of those rounds and have him compete with Brown, Polk and Tucker for the backup job.
He appears to be a more comfortable runner and blocker than Brown and a better receiver than Polk, which is the type of profile Kelly will likely look at. Obviously, Kelly is a measurements guy which could render this scenario moot. Still, White is probably one of the better three-phase running backs in the draft along with Arizona's Kadeem Carey, Arizona State's Marion Grice and West Virginia's Charles Sims.
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