Will Eagles find a Miles Sanders replacement early in draft?


INDIANAPOLIS — Could this finally be the year the Eagles draft a running back in an early round?

Yeah, we ask that question every year.

And then GM Howie Roseman drafts a big ol’ offensive or defensive lineman in the first round and we put that question back in the drawer for 11 months.

But at least this year there are some reasons to entertain that question. Because the Eagles have a really good roster that just got them to the Super Bowl. Their Pro Bowl running back is a pending free agent. The also have two first-round picks this year.

And NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah says this crop of running backs in the 2023 draft is “really solid.”

In fact, Jeremiah on a national conference call last week said he has 13 (!) running backs with top three-round grades this year.

While that doesn’t mean 13 running backs will get drafted in the first three rounds, it does mean that it looks like a really good crop. The last time 13 running backs went in the first three rounds was 1995. So that’s not happening. But that means there could be a chance for running back-needy teams to find their guy perhaps even later.

“Those are starter level players, which means not all those guys because of the value of the position are going to go in the third round,” Jeremiah said. “Some of these guys are going to go in the fourth and fifth round this year. You are going to get good players.”


The prize of this year’s running back crop is Bijan Robinson from Texas. The 6-foot, 215-pound running back had a monster junior season for the Longhorns, rushing for 1,580 yards with 18 touchdowns. That followed up a 2021 season with over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Jeremiah said in his chats with NFL front office members opinions are split about a lot of positions and a lot of players. Not about running back and Robinson.

“Everybody says that Bijan Robinson is not only the best running back in this class, he is one of the five best players in this class. He is elite,” Jeremiah said. “Then you then transition to, ‘OK, where does he go?’ Then all of them say, ‘I have no idea. I have no idea.’”

It’s obvious that the running back position in the modern NFL has been severely devalued. But if Robinson somehow lasts deep into the first round, the Eagles would have to think about it as they sit there with pick No. 30.

“I know, I know, I know Howie doesn't take running backs,” said Jeremiah, who once worked in the Eagles’ front office with Roseman. “I know Howie doesn't take linebackers (either). But when you look at that offense with Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, and all of a sudden you drop in Bijan Robinson into that mix, holy moly. That would be fun to watch. He is a special, special player. One of the best backs we've seen in the last several years.”

Of course, this is where we remind you of the Eagles’ history and point out that the Eagles haven’t taken a running back in the first round since Keith Byars in 1986.

And since Roseman became general manager in 2010, the Eagles have selected eight running backs and all but one of them have been Day 3 picks:

2021: Kenny Gainwell (5th round)
2019: Miles Sanders (2nd round)
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)

The Eagles used the No. 53 pick on Sanders back in 2019 and he has now played out his four-year rookie deal. He wants to be back but it stands to reason that the Eagles will want a cheaper option to pair with Gainwell going forward.

And let’s think about the scenario that Robinson is gone at 30 but the Eagles like one of the running backs likely to go early in the second round. Jeremiah talked through the possibility of the Eagles’ trading out of 30, picking up a mid-round pick and then finding their running back. (The Eagles don’t have any picks in the 4th, 5th or 6th rounds this year.)

A few names Jeremiah pointed out: Tyjae Spears from Tulane, Kendre Miller from TCU and Israel Abanikanda from Pitt.

“That's one of those scenarios where if you are trying to collect an extra third, fourth round pick, I think this year there's real value,” Jeremiah said. “Especially if it marries up with one of your needs.”


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