With the 2022 NFL Draft a few months away, let’s take stock of the Eagles roster, the talent of the draft class, and where it leaves the team in terms of how to address needs. This will be a position-by-position review with draft outlook incorporated. Let’s take a look at the running backs.
The Eagles led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2021 and set franchise records on the ground. Which is amazing when you consider they weren’t running the ball consistently until midseason. Anyway, the Eagles finding their identity midseason as a dominant rushing team was a huge reason they sneaked into the playoffs. With one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and a dangerously mobile quarterback, the Eagles are well equipped to run the ball often, with great efficiency and in a variety of ways.
As for the running backs, the Eagles backfield was a bit of a carousel this season. Jordan Howard was the Eagles most dependable runner on any given carry, but injuries plagued him this year as they have since his tenure started in Philadelphia. Miles Sanders was the Eagles most explosive runner and had some brilliant performances late in the season, but he, too, was plagued by injuries and has missed eight games in the last two seasons. Injuries aside, Sanders has all the makings of a lead NFL back, but he has yet to be a consistent runner and tends to leave yards on the field.
Behind those two guys are Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell. Scott has been a steady role player since getting to Philadelphia, but is better off as the second or third back in a committee. Kenneth Gainwell had a promising rookie season where he showed versatility as a runner and pass catcher. However, his weaknesses as a pass blocker kept him off the field when the other Eagles backs were healthy.
There have been seven straight NFL drafts with at least one running back going in the first round. The 2022 class could break that streak. That is not for lack of talent, but certainly for lack of first round quality players.
The big names in the class will be Kenneth Walker III, Breece Hall, Zach Charbonnet, Kyren Williams, and Isaiah Spiller. All are excellent players, but they don’t immediately project as do-it-all three down backs which hurts their cases for being drafted on day one.
All it takes is one team to love a player to draft him high, of course, but it is hard to imagine that happening unless one of these players blows the world away at the NFL combine.
The relative “weakness” of the running back class actually bodes well for the Eagles. Take a look at the Eagles backfield and the most sensible way to address it is find a Jordan Howard replacement. Howard’s consistency on the field was crucial to getting easy yardage and his bruising style paired perfectly with Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts’ more slippery dynamics. Howard’s health prevents him from being a long term answer as the “thunder” in the Eagles backfield, but there are power backs in this class who could fill that role as mid round picks.
The question will be”how high do the Eagles want to draft a new member of their running back committee?” Kenneth Walker and Breece Hall feel like perfect fits in the Eagles backfield with the combination of their size, hard running, and ability to break away from defenses. Hall even has a clear upside as a pass catcher. Those two will probably be the first running backs off the board, so the Eagles will need to determine if they want to aim high at the running back position, or attack the mid and late rounds hoping their offensive line can make any solid back look excellent.