Thursday, April 14, 2011
Posted: 3:05 p.m.
By Reuben Frank
Fourth in a series of 10 stories previewing the Eagles needs going into the 2011 NFL draft. Today: Running BacksFullbacks. On Saturday: Linebackers.
Duce and Buck. Buck and B-Dub. B-Dub and Shady. Shady and ... who?
As long as Andy Reid has been with the Eagles, there have almost always been at least two very talented, very productive running backs on the roster. Duce Staley had Correll Buckhalter. Brian Westbrook did too, and then when Buck was hurt, the Eagles got by with veterans like Dorsey Levens. Westbrook groomed LeSean McCoy in 2009 and then last year McCoy blossomed as one of the NFLs top two-way backs with Jerome Harrison also putting up big numbers.
What do Staley, Westbrook and McCoy have in common? All were homegrown, Eagles draft picks, Staley in the third round in 1997, Westbrook in the third round in 2002 and McCoy in the second round in 2009.
Since McCoy is so young, its not time yet for the Eagles to use another premium-round pick on a tailback, but they do have to figure out whos going to back him up. Harrison, who the Eagles stole midseason from Tom Heckert and the Browns in exchange for the ineffective Mike Bell, filled in admirably as McCoys understudy, rushing for 6.0 yards a pop the highest in 50 years by an Eagles non-QB with 40 or more attempts.
But Harrison is not under contract, and although the Eagles would like him back, once the lockout is over, he may have the opportunity to sign with a team that wants him as more than just a situational guy. His 4.8 career rushing average is tied for eighth-best among active running backs with at least 300 attempts. Is he a starter? Probably not. But that might not stop somebody from giving him a big contract.
The Eagles havent had much luck drafting running backs lately. Other than Charlie Garner (1994 second-round pick), Staley, Buckhalter, Westbrook and McCoy, the last back they drafted who gained 1,000 career rushing yards was Heath Sherman in 1989.
Recent Eagles history is littered with guys like Tony Hunt and Ryan Moats. The last time the Eagles took a tailback after the third round who went to a Pro Bowl was Wilbert Montgomery 34 years ago. So the odds that the Eagles can steal a productive tailback in the middle or late rounds who will be a factor are minimal.
We would skip tailback in the draft and try to re-sign Harrison. If not? See below.
What about fullback? Owen Schmitt was quite a find in place of Leonard Weaver, and hell be back in 2012 while Weaver tries gallantly to resurrect his career after a devastating opening-day knee injury a year ago.
Whos already on the roster:
RB: Elda Buckley, LeSean McCoy, FB: Owen Schmitt, Leonard Weaver
Who has to stay:
Who has to go:
How bout this guy?
If the Eagles do decide to take a flyer on a late-round tailback, Marylands DaRel Scott could be their guy.
Scott is a likely fifth-round running back with electrifying speed and very good college numbers. But hes two years removed from his tremendous 1,100-yard sophomore season and has some injury questions. Scott rushed for over 2,400 yards and 17 touchdowns in four years with the Terps but battled injuries as a junior and was stuck in a back-by-committee last year.
Scott ran a 4.34 at the Combine, which may boost him out of the late rounds, but if hes still around when the Eagles two fifth-round picks roll around, hed be worth considering.
Scott is an accomplished receiver, which is mandatory in this offense. Hes a local product out of Plymouth-Whitemarsh High in Montgomery County and he played at a high level in a big-time program. Hes not a big back by any means but at 5-11, 205 pounds, hes no Ryan Moats either.
At best, Scott could be a solid rotational guy. At worst, hes another Bruce Perry. But if hes available, he could be a late-round steal.
Did you know?
Since 1964, the Eagles have drafted 62 running backs, and only two Wilbert Montgomery and Brian Westbrook have gone to a Pro Bowl as Eagles. Keith Byars went to one as a Dolphin and Charlie Garner went to one as a 49er.
Andy Reid running backfullback history:
Cecil Martin (FB) (1999, 6th round), Thomas Hamner (2000, 6th round), Correll Buckhalter (4th round, 2001), Brian Westbrook (3rd round, 2002), Thomas Tapeh (FB)(5th round, 2004), Bruce Perry (7th round, 2004), Ryan Moats (3rd round, 2005), Tony Hunt (3rd round, 2007), Nate Ilaoa (7th round, 2007), LeSean McCoy (2nd round, 2009), Charles Scott (6th round, 2010)
Reid's best pick:
Westbrook with the 91st pick in 2002.
Reid's worst pick:
Hunt with the 90th pick in 2007.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com
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