Brian Baldinger is all football, all the time. The former Eagle and current NFL Network analyst knows the game, breathes the game, thinks the game. More than anything else, Baldinger actually works, breaks down film and gets out to see as many college games as he does pro games, unlike many so-called draft experts claim to do this time of year.
So, when “Baldy” speaks, people tend to lean in and listen.
He recently looked at what the Eagles could possibly do with their No. 10 and No. 30 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft with BGN. This is how Baldy broke it down when asked what he would do in Howie Roseman’s position when the clock is ticking for real on Thursday night.
“What I would do is take Bijan Robinson at 10, and I’m not in love with Bijan or taking a running back that high, because I think he’ll be there at 10, and take (Florida 6-foot-5, 330-pound offensive guard) O’Cyrus Torrence at 30 and put him between (center Jason) Kelce and (right tackle) Lane Johnson,” he said. “I would keep that offense humming. I would keep that offense scoring 28, 30 points a game with their $51-million-dollar quarterback and no break down with the offensive line. O’Cyrus is a good player. Lane wants to play next to a big guy like (former Eagle Brandon) Brooks and (Isaac) Seumalo. He doesn’t want to play next to (Cam) Jurgens, a 300-pound center. They’re not going to get any movement.
“I feel if you took Bijan and O’Cyrus, provided O’Cyrus is there, he may not be, those are two positions of need. The Eagles have Rashaad Penny, and Boston Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell, for whatever roles that you want to use them in, and you keep the offense scoring. You address everything else (in the draft) on defense. I know the Eagles don’t have a lot of picks (six total, two first-round, a second, a third and two seventh-round picks). Seumalo is much better than people gave him credit for. He didn’t make mental errors. He comes from a football family. He had less than five penalties last year.
“The Eagles couldn’t afford him. He played between 330-335 pounds, and you never had to worry about the guy. And he was large. Jurgens isn’t 310. He’s a pumped up 300. He’s purely a center. Lane and Kelce know that better than anyone.”
For those who don’t value running back, Baldinger points out that New York Jets’ rookie running back Breece Hall was in the MVP discussion last year until he blew out his ACL in Week 7 at Denver. The Jets were 5-2 when Hall went down. They won two games the rest of the season. Even though Hall missed the last 10 games, he still finished as the Jets leading rusher with 463 rushing yards on 80 carriers and had 218 yards on 19 pass receptions—and led the Jets with 5 touchdowns in an offense run by Zach Wilson.
Now imagine a player of Hall’s caliber in Bijan Robinson playing behind a quarterback like Jalen Hurts.
“There is only a couple Emmitt Smiths, or LaDainian Tomlinsons, or Nick Chubbs, who got hurt in college, that are out there who go throughout a season without getting hurt,” Baldinger said. “Elite running backs all miss games. Aaron Jones is an unbelievable player, though for how good he is, you better have a complimentary back with him. That’s the first thing.
“Watching Bijan, the two best teams he played against were Alabama and TCU. He ran 33 times for 86 yards. He is a generational back, but I played with generational backs like Tony Dorsett and Eric Dickerson. They made yards when I missed my block. To me, Bijan has those big plays, he’s out there on the perimeter and makes big plays that make up for all of the negative runs. I don’t see him bouncing off people the way I see Nick Chubb bounces off people. I don’t see the contact bounces. I see him going down. With that being said, I do recognize the breakaway speed. He doesn’t do a whole lot better than I see Breece Hall. Bijan could be Ezekiel Elliott back there. He will have big days for the next couple of years behind that Eagles’ offensive line.
“The Eagles just made this investment with Jalen. I love Jalen. The Eagles must give him the most help possible. The Eagles’ defense will slip with who they lost, but they should keep the offense as strong as possible.”
When asked (by me at the Maxwell Awards dinner in March) who the toughest player he faced last season, Alabama’s Will Anderson said “Bijan Robinson.”
“He blocks, he runs, we had to get as many hats on him as we could to take him down,” Anderson said, “and a tough guy to get around, too.”
Baldy does like Robinson’s versatility. “He has great hands,” he said. “He’s a good kid, you don’t have to worry about Bijan. Nolan Smith could be there at 10, and he’s the same guy the Eagles have on the edge in Haason Reddick. Knowing Howie and how he thinks, I feel he’s going to take Bijan and depart from what he normally does, which would be to take someone like Nolan Smith there.”
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.