As Thursday nears, speculation continues to grow and swirl on social media, sports talk radio and throughout the media as to who the Eagles will pick with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
It seems as if things have broken off into factions.
There is the Bijan Robinson camp, the talented Texas running back who many believe is a generational talent that could be too hard to pass on at 10. He is a three-down back that many experts compare to Giants’ star Saquon Barkley, whose quad-zilla build provides a nice blend of speed and power.
The problem with seeing the Eagles take Robinson is their history. They have not taken a running back in the first round since they took Ohio State’s Keith Byars with the 10th overall pick in the 1986 draft. That was almost four decades ago.
The last time they chose a running back with their first selection was in 1992 when they selected Alabama’s Siran Stacy with the 48th overall pick. Stacy, who’s 54, played one season and was out of football.
There is another side that feels Nolan Smith, the Georgia edge rusher who is listed as 6-foot-2, 238 pounds and missed a portion of the Bulldogs’ 2022 national championship repeat season with a pectoral injury, is a consideration. Smith has almost the same physical dimensions as the Eagles’ other edge rusher, Haason Reddick, who is 6-1, 240 and is coming off his best season as a pro with a career-best 16 sacks.
Barrett Brooks, the long-time host of Eagles Postgame Live on NBC Sports Philadelphia, is well connected to the college football world as an ESPN analyst for the Big 12.
“The Eagles don’t covet running backs, their history shows that, and here is the other thing, and I’m going to tell you the truth, I think Bijan Robinson is going to be gone by the time the Eagles pick at 10,” Brooks said. “He won’t be there. Atlanta has the No. 8 pick and it seems like the Falcons would take him, and he’ll benefit that offense.
“It’s why I lean toward the Eagles taking Nolan Smith. He would be my pick even if Bijan is on the board. Jalen Carter from Georgia will be gone. Tyree Wilson, the rush end from Arizona, will be gone. Next up will be Nolan Smith. He’s an inch taller than Haason Reddick. He weighs the same as Haason Reddick. Haason ran a 4.5 at the NFL Combine. Nolan Smith ran a 4.3 in the 40. He’s strong enough to set the edge on the run.
“We saw what the kind of pressure Haason put on offenses last season. Why not bring in another player like Haason Reddick to generate pressure on quarterbacks from the other side?
“You can go second or third round for an offensive lineman, and have as much success as you would in the first round because the Eagles have a very good coach, Jeff Stoutland, who gets these guys up to speed very fast. You go to Stoutland University, you’re going to get paid. He stresses fundamentals and look what he’s done with Isaac Seumalo. He can transform an average offensive lineman into a very good player.”
Brooks’ argument against Robinson is that quality running backs can be found later. Brooks stresses that Robinson is a special talent—and the best of the current class of running backs. When he looks at the Eagles’ offense, Brooks sees a team that works opposite of what other teams do offensively. The Eagles pass to open up the run.
“It’s why most of the Eagles’ running backs got their yards in the second half of games,” Brooks said. “They built leads and ran the ball. I would not take Bijan if he was available at 10. The Eagles have too many needs to fill than at running back. The Eagles have far more holes to fill on defense. They won last year with a great offense. They also won by putting pressure on the quarterback.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.