Through this entire 2017 NFL Draft process, I have watched and scouted hundred of prospects and narrowed down my final Philadelphia Eagles big board to about 125-150 prospects I feel are worthy of an Eagles draft pick.
Scheme fit was a very big factor when I narrowed my list down. An elite 3-4 nose tackle may be a high draft pick, but makes little sense for what the Eagles need. Fit is everything when it comes to the draft. If you draft a good player who isn’t a scheme fit you make life so much harder for both the coaches and the drafted player. Most of the time in those situations the player doesn’t work out.
The running back group is the first positional group I am going to break down. Normally I start with quarterback, but their is zero value in the Eagles drafting another quarterback. It would take reps away from Carson Wentz this summer and with Nick Foles now inserted as the backup it’s unlikely they even keep three total quarterbacks. Why draft a player who won’t make your final roster in year one?
Here are my top running backs in the 2017 draft:
Before I release my rankings, let me just explain why Leonard Fournette is off my list. Fournette is a good prospect, but he’s purely a north-south power runner without much wiggle, receiving skills or experience in pass protection. The Eagles are a versatile west coast offense that values running backs that can play three downs, catch the football and have lateral agility.
The Eagles also run a lot of zone running plays that require more than just straight line speed so what he does well is not what best fits this Eagles offense. The kids is talented and he will probably go in the top 20, but the value in Doug Pederson’s offense is really low.
1) Joe Mixon/Oklahoma- You can’t talk about Mixon as an elite draft prospect without first addressing his character. I did a lot of research on this kid and that video of him punching a women from 2 1/2 years ago is really bad. It’s a PR nightmare for the team that drafts him. He’s also managed to stay out of trouble since that incident and has been receiving counseling and speaking out against violence since that mistake. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a huge character risk, but he hasn’t done anything since that would tell you that he has a bad pattern of poor decisions.
Okay, now to what he actually can do on the field. This kid is an elite player and will probably be my number two overall prospect. He’s what I call a five tool running back. He has explosion, elusiveness, power, receiving ability and is solid in pass protection. He’s also proven to be durable and protects the football.
His tape is right up there with Ezekiel Elliott, there’s just less of it, and he actually tested better athletically than Zeke did(better 40, better vertical with 8 extra pounds). He has outstanding patience and vision for such a great athlete, he looks like a wide receiver when he runs routes outside of the backfield(and catches like one too), he finishes every run with power and he’s a threat to take every run the distance. He is the ideal running back in today’s NFL and that’s why he was easily my number one back.
2) Christian McCaffrey/Stanford- I actually did a bit of a 180 on this kid. He’s one of the smallest backs in this class(202 pounds) so I worry about him being a good inside the tackles runner, but my god is this kid elusive and quick. He ran a 6.57 3-cone drill at the combine. To put that number in perspective, Julian Edelman ran a 6.62 3-cone at his pro day in 2009 and Edelman is viewed as one of, if not the quickest player in the NFL.
That 6.57 time shows up on tape as he is a nightmare to contain in open space. He’s a natural receiver that no player will be able to cover at the next level. As far as his ability as a runner, he’s patient and does possess breakaway speed to go with his elite quickness, I just worry about him on short yardage downs.
3) Dalvin Cook/Florida State- Cook is a tough eval with a lot of risks. He has 13 career fumbles and scouts are worried that past shoulder injuries won’t hold up in the NFL. His situation in that way is very similar to Ameer Abdullah who has struggled to secure the football and stay on the field. That’s the concern with Cook, especially because he’s too talented not to go in the top 30.
Now when he is healthy and not coughing up the football he is an explosive back and dangerous receiver who is very good at letting his blocks set up and knowing when to turn on that extra gear. He’s comparable to David Johnson in a much smaller frame(5’10, 210).
4) Kareem Hunt/Toledo- Hunt isn’t quite as explosive as the backs ranked ahead of him, but he’s just a solid across the board as an every down back. In 855 career touches as a four year starter he had just one fumble, as a freshman, which he recovered. He was the focal point of his team’s offense in every game he played at Toledo and he consistently protected the football and produced on the field.
He’s a three down back with outstanding hands, is solid in pass protection and really tough to take down in the open field. He’s strong enough to power for those extra yards and he’s quick enough to make you miss.
5) Jamaal Williams/BYU- Williams is a one cut and go power back with a nasty attitude. He took a beating this past season at BYU as the offensive line was very inconsistent in run game. He seemed to feed off that and eventually he would break through for several big runs.
He’s a physical runner with good feet. He’s patient enough to let the play develop and quick enough to make his cut and hit the hole. He doesn’t have great speed, but he always gives you a couple more yards than what the play allows for.
6) Donnel Pumphrey/San Diego State- I’m going to get killed for putting a back this small(5’8, 176) this high, but I think he will find a big role in the NFL. On tape he looks like a miniature version of Dalvin Cook. He’s quick, he has a good burst when the hole opens up and he always seems to take the right running lane. He’s got elite vision and that’s a big reason why he is the all-time leading rusher in FBS history.
7) Marlon Mack/South Florida- I admit I like this kid more than most. He’s super raw, very inexperienced in pass protection, but his speed and explosion through the hole is pretty amazing. You give him a crease and he can turn it into a 20 yard run pretty quickly.
He’s probably too similar to Wendell Smallwood for the Eagles to consider drafting semi-early, but I think he projects as a better player. He makes guys miss more and has more ability after first contact.
8) James Conner/Pittsburgh- Because he’s a bigger back he gets labeled as just a short yardage back, but when you put on the tape you see a back capable of taking on many roles. He’s got outstanding feet for his size, he’s a good receiver out of the backfield and what really impressed me was his vision. He does a good job of reading his blocks and not forcing the big run.
9) De’Veon Smith/Michigan- The best extra yards back in this class. He fights for extra yards on every play like the game depends on it and is usually successful. He’s not a burner by any stretch, but he will make you miss in space. Smith is sturdy in pass protection and is also a good receiver out of the backfield.
10) Brian Hill/Wyoming- A bigger back who doesn’t wow you with his speed or explosion, but his vision will allow him to have success in this league .
11) Jeremy McNichols/Boise State- The exactly opposite of Brian Hill. McNichols has a ton of speed and can make you miss in the open field, but he doesn’t have a ton of patience and tends to bounce far too many runs to the outside, even when it’s not there.
12) Samaje Perine/Oklahoma- Because this class is so loaded Perine doesn’t even crack the top 10. In a lesser running back class, he’s much closer to the top 10. He’s a big back who is surprisingly agile for his size, he just lacks any big play ability at the next level.
13) Chris Carson/Oklahoma State- A one cut and go power back with good vision. He’s not tested a ton as a receiver or in pass protection and his speed is an issue for him to secure a bigger role.
14) Matthew Dayes/NC State- A three down backs with outstanding hands and a dangerous cutback in open space. He’s a poor man’s LeSean McCoy and that isn’t the worst thing to be labeled as.
15) Elijah McGuire/ULL- A versatile back who is more fast than he is quick. A good one cut back and underrated receiver.
16) Alvin Kamara/Tennessee- An elite athlete who is extremely raw. Some scouts will tell you he’s a first round caliber prospect, but running back has never been a position where athleticism automatically allows you to succeed. So much of this position is about vision, patience and knowing which lane and angle to take as a runner.
17) Dare Ogunbowale/Wisconsin- This kid is the ultimate receiving back to mix in your offense. He has natural hands, he’s quick and you can use him as a receiver out of the backfield or out of the slot. At 213 pounds he’s also a lot stronger than most of the so-called “receiving backs”. I don’t think he will become a 1,000 yard back, but the team that drafts him will love his value on passing downs.
18) Tarik Cohen/NC A&T- The human joystick who looks a lot like Dante Hall as a runner. What he does best won’t work as an every down back nor is he big enough to serve that role, but he’s a nice offensive weapon to mix in and a potential elite return man.