NFL Draft 2021: Eagles' options at running back

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Dave Zangaro
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Exploring Eagles’ options at RB throughout the 2021 draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles already traded down from 6 to 12 and still have 11 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.

While they might not make all 11 picks, they will have plenty of options during the three days of the draft, which begins on April 29.

Here’s a reminder of their 11 picks:

1st round: No. 12 (trade with MIA)

2nd round: No. 37 (own pick)

3rd round: No. 70 (own pick)

3rd round: No. 84 (trade with Colts)

4th round: No. 123 (trade with MIA)

5th round: No. 150 (own pick)

6th round: No. 189 (own pick)

6th round: No. 224 (compensatory pick)

6th round: No. 225 (compensatory pick)

7th round: No. 234 (own pick)

7th round: No. 240 (from 49ers as part of Marquise Goodwin trade)

The Eagles bring back Miles Sanders and Boston Scott for the 2021 season. That’s a pretty good combination but the Eagles might want to try to upgrade that RB2 spot and give Sanders a complement.

Here are their options:

At No. 12

Sorry. Just not seeing it.

In the middle rounds

Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis (5-8, 201): The Colts over the last few years have really used Nyheim Hines as a dual-threat weapon, so we know that Nick Sirianni would have a use for a back who can catch out of the backfield. And Gainwell can definitely do that. A really fun player to watch, Gainwell opted out in 2020 but had over 1,400 yards rushing and over 600 receiving in the 2019 season. He’s not known as a great blocker but has traits that will likely make him a late-second or third-round pick.

Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana (5-10, 201): Without the combine, we’ve seen some “funny” numbers coming from pro days but even with that understanding, Mitchell’s 4.33 at Louisiana’s pro day pops. Because Mitchell has obvious speed and has shown an ability as a pass-catcher. The Eagles could use those qualities in a rotational back. He’s a fun player.

Michael Carter, UNC (5-8, 201): He shared the backfield at UNC with Javonte Williams, who will likely be a second-round pick. Carter won’t go that early but could go anywhere from Rounds 3-5. He was a very productive college player, rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons but also has ability as a receiver. He caught 82 passes in college. He’s obviously a tad undersized but could become a valuable part of an NFL team’s rotation.

Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State (5-10, 206): Jefferson has a compact frame and leaves Oregon State with nearly 3,000 rushing yards. NFL.com compared him to Jordan Howard, who was once a good complement to Sanders. Maybe Jefferson could be the younger version of that.

Late-round sleeper(s)

Pooka Williams, Kansas (5-10, 170): If the Eagles want to use one of their 7th-round picks (or call him after the draft), this is a way to get plenty of speed without giving up a ton to get it. Williams ran a 4.42 at his pro day and also caught 66 passes in three seasons. He’s obviously undersized and has dealt with a few injuries, which is a concern. He was also charged with domestic battery in 2018 and entered a diversion program. Those are concerns but the Eagles drafted Jalen Mills in 2016 in the seventh round after he had some off-the-field concerns and that worked out.

Spencer Brown, UAB (5-11, 208): We’re probably talking about a 7th-rounder or priority free agent, but Brown began his college career with a 1,300-yard season and a 1,200 yard season. Since then, we’ve seen his number dip but in 2020, he averaged 4.8 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns. Brown was prolific in college and had 41 rushing touchdowns in 46 total games. Brown’s not afraid of contact but also has decent speed. Wasn’t asked to catch the ball much at UAB, so he’ll have to prove he can do it in the NFL.

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