The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since Keith Byars out of Ohio State way back in 1986, but that isn’t stopping them from bringing in the near-consensus top running back in this year’s draft.
According to NFL reporter Adam Caplan, Josh Jacobs is expected to be in Philadelphia for a visit next week.
While this certainly doesn’t mean the Eagles are going to draft Jacobs, they do get just 30 official pre-draft visits and they’re using one on the one running back who might be a first-round pick later this month. Jacobs is considered to be the top running back in this class by most and has been a trendy mock draft selection for the Eagles at No. 25.
But would the Eagles really take him in the first round?
It’s not completely out of the question. While the franchise hasn’t traditionally valued the running back position this highly, it’s not like they have a top-15 pick this season. And Jacobs is really good. If Doug Pederson ever really wants a true three-down, never-leave-the-field running back, Jacobs is his guy. Still, it seems more likely the Eagles use their 25th overall pick on a different position and add a running back later. My money, based on recent history, would be on the Eagles’ taking a defensive lineman.
But with the Jacobs’ visit on the schedule, it’s a good time to look back at the Eagles’ history with running backs in the draft since they took Byars with the No. 10 pick in 1986. Because even if the Eagles don’t use their first-round pick on a running back, they’re likely going to take one at some point this year.
It’s also worth noting they took four (!) running backs in that 1986 draft. Times have certainly changed since then.
From 1987 through 2018, the Eagles took 27 running backs from the second to the 12th round. Yes, drafts used to be longer than seven rounds.
Here’s a breakdown:
2nd round: 3
3rd round: 5
4th round: 3
5th round: 2
6th round: 3
7th or later: 11
And here’s the complete list and the round in which they were selected:
2017: Donnel Pumphrey (4th round)
2016: Wendell Smallwood (5th round)
2012: Bryce Brown (7th round)
2011: Dion Lewis (5th round)
2011: Stanley Havili (7th round)
2010: Charles Scott (6th round)
2009: LeSean McCoy (2nd round)
2007: Tony Hunt (3rd round)
2007: Nate Ilaoa (7th round)
2005: Ryan Moats (3rd round)
2004: Bruce Perry (7th round)
2002: Brian Westbrook (3rd round)
2001: Correll Buckhalter (4th round
2000: Thomas Hamner (6th round)
1997: Duce Staley (3rd round)
1995: Kevin Bouie (7th round)
1994: Charlie Garner (2nd round)
1994: Mark Montgomery (7th round)
1992: Siran Stacy (2nd round)
1992: Tony Brooks (4th round)
1991: Jame Joseph (7th round)
1991: Chuck Weatherspoon (9th round)
1990: Judd Garrett (12th round)
1989: Robert Drummond (3rd round)
1989: Heath Sherman (6th round)
1988: David Smith (8th round)
1987: Bobby Morse (12th round)
There are some hits there and some misses. Of the 27, seven have never played a snap in the NFL. The highest pick among those seven is Pumphrey, whom the Eagles actually moved up to take in the fourth round in 2017. There’s still an outside chance Pumphrey could one day play in the league; he’s still just 24, but things haven’t gone well.
The five players who got over 3,000 rushing yards in their careers were all drafted in the third round or higher:
McCoy: 10,606 (and counting)
But drafting a player in the top three rounds, certainly doesn’t guarantee success either. The Eagles have had some notable third-round mistakes like Tony Hunt, Robert Drummond and Ryan Moats.
The most productive players (rushing yards) drafted in the fourth round or later:
Lewis: 2,101 (and counting)
Smallwood: 850 (and counting)
This is all obviously an inexact science, but the Eagles have found differing levels of value throughout the draft. It’s certainly no coincidence that they haven’t drafted a running back in the first round for decades. But if the Eagles think Jacobs is the best player available at 25, maybe they take him. I wouldn’t bet on it, but crazier things have happened. Or maybe they’re preparing for a trade-back scenario; if they want Jacobs and think they could take him somewhere in the second round, that could be on the table too. Or a trade up from 53 if Jacobs makes it into the second round.
At least they’re taking a closer look and keeping themselves open to the possibility.
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