Hindsight is often 20/20, but if there’s one decision so far in the Doug Pederson era that may have changed (or prevented) their current running back predicament, it’s the Donnel Pumphrey draft pick in 2017.
The Eagles traded a fourth AND a seventh round pick to jump up in the draft and take the running back out of San Diego State at No. 132 overall — and just a year and a half later, Pumphrey isn’t even on the roster. Or any NFL roster, for that matter.
Sure, his college credentials were legit, Pumphrey amassed 6,405 rushing yards and 62 touchdowns — maybe or maybe not breaking the all-time NCAA record, depending on who and when you ask —, not to mention his 1,039 receiving yards and five more scores.
But at the NFL Scouting Combine, he measured in as lightest (176 lbs.) and fifth shortest (5-foot-8) among the group, despite running the fourth fastest 40-yard dash (4.48), didn’t have the type of build that has been successful at the next level.
And he didn’t do much in the months leading up to his rookie season to prove otherwise — pissing BLG off in the process:
“Pumphrey did virtually nothing to stand out this summer. He didn’t deserve to make the team; the rookie even admitted he was surprised he survived final cuts down to the 53-man roster. Out of the six running backs currently with the team (five on the 53 and one on the practice squad), Pumphrey is clearly the sixth best.”
He ended up buried on the depth chart, behind LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, and rookie Corey Clement, but ended up on the team’s IR instead after tearing his hamstring in practice in early-September.
After seeing a host of rookie running backs become the stars of their team in 2017, Pumphrey seemed to have developed some once healthy and had a fairly fine offseason heading into his second year.
And then, just ahead of the team’s first preseason game, Pumphrey was sidelined yet again, this time with a lower body injury. Following that first game, Pederson called the injury unfortunate, and alluded to the future of the running back with the Eagles.
“It’s hard for young players, quite honestly in this league, to make rosters.”
Just over a week later, Pumphrey told the media that he felt completely healthy and understood that any playing time he’d get in the preseason could ultimately serve as an audition for other teams.
He was released ahead of the final 53-man roster and wasn’t even brought back in to develop on the team’s practice squad — ouch.
Pumphrey ended up signing with the Detroit Lions as a member of their practice squad, before ultimately being cut in late-September. He’s now gone unsigned for two weeks, and his options for the 2018 season are dwindling.
The Pumphrey pick was so frustrating. Ultimately less so since, you know, the Eagles won the Super Bowl, but still a really bad pick. And not just because of the results. It was a bad process. https://t.co/vU9eNMrpKC pic.twitter.com/zarayDsK2i— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 4, 2018
And, don’t forget, the 2017 NFL draft class was loaded with running back talent. It’s the class that featured guys like Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, James Conner, and Tarik Cohen. Notable running backs drafted after Pumphrey included Marlon Mack, Wayne Gallman Aaron Jones, and Chris Carson.
Even Kareem Hunt was a viable option, as explained (ranted) about at the time:
“Those who say the Eagles didn’t have a shot at drafting Hunt are wrong. The Chiefs traded up to No. 86 to take him by trading No. 104, No. 132, and No. 245. The Eagles easily could have given up No. 99, No. 139, and No. 230 to move up. Note that Rasul Douglas was selected at No. 99 while the Eagles packaged No. 139 and No. 230 to move up for Pumphrey.”
(Douglas has shown some potential but the coaching staff has been reluctant to give him playing time even with Jalen Mills struggling.)
The Eagles didn’t complete whiff on the position as they did snag Corey Clement as an undrafted free agent, but imagine what the backfield would look like today if Howie Roseman and crew went a different direction and actually selected a running back who at least projected to be a viable NFL player.