The Eagles used their fifth-round pick on a very exciting addition for Nick Sirianni’s offense, drafting running back Kenneth Gainwell out of Memphis with pick No. 150.
Gainwell (5-8, 201) should be a perfect fit for the Eagles’ new scheme and a great complement for Miles Sanders.
But before you start comparing Gainwell to other backs in the NFL, know that he doesn’t.
“Not at all,” he said on a Zoom call Saturday. “I’m a rare breed. I’m a different one.”
While Gainwell opted out of the 2020 season, he had a tremendous year in 2019. That season, he rushed for 1,459 yards with 13 touchdowns. But perhaps just as importantly, Gainwell caught 51 passes for 610 yards and 3 touchdowns.
We already know that Sirianni likes to use his running backs as receiving threats and Gainwell has the potential to fill a similar role to the one Nyheim Hines has filled in Indianapolis for the last few years.
Gainwell could end up being an explosive player in the NFL.
“I plan on them using me as much as they can,” Gainwell said. “Offense, special teams, wherever they need me. I’ll be ready to play it all.”
With just one full season as a starter at the collegiate level, Gainwell also doesn’t have a lot of wear. He had just 235 total carries at Memphis.
Gainwell, 22, was the final player in Daniel Jeremiah’s top 100 players. The NFL Network analyst had Gainwell ranked as the No. 78 overall prospect.
Here’s what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote about Gainwell:
“One-year starter with underwhelming size but overwhelming production. Gainwell is a challenging study as a slasher with average burst and speed but excellent change-of-direction talent. His propensity for taking on monster contact as an inside runner should be a concern based on his frame. He does an excellent job of reading blockers/defenders and makes buttery smooth cuts to change his rush track while keeping his feet ready if another quick cut is needed. His willingness in pass protection and talent out of the backfield should help him find a home as a backup running back with third-down value.”
Gainwell is from Yazoo City, Mississippi and is the cousin of Eagles Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox. Cox tweeted on Saturday afternoon to congratulate his much younger cousin. Cox and Gainwell are believed to be the first Eagles teammate cousins since Jamar Chaney and Brian Rolle nearly a decade ago.
But even before Cox became an Eagle in 2012, Gainwell was an Eagles fan. He grew up watching Donovan McNabb and then Mike Vick play for the Birds.
He’s also a fan of former Eagles running back Darren Sproles, who is actually two inches shorter than him.
“Growing up, I used to love Darren Sproles,” Gainwell said. “That’s my favorite, favorite running back. That kind of put the inspiration on me. Short guys, fast guys. That’s what they use. That kind of motivated me.”
Gainwell is the fourth Memphis running back to get drafted in the last several years, following Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard and Antonio Gibson. Gibson was drafted by Washington in the third round last year and had an impressive rookie season, putting up over 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
The Eagles have had some ups and downs in the fifth round in recent seasons. We’ll see about last year’s fifth-round pick John Hightower but the Eagles have found some decent contributors in the round in recent seasons like Nate Gerry, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Wendell Smallwood. But they’ve also had some misses like Clayton Thorson, Taylor Hart and Earl Wolff.
Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast: