The Eagles need help on the offensive line. They need help in a couple of areas on the defense. The one area that is solid is the skill players, but that doesn't mean the team will ignore runners and receivers. Andy Reid is an offensive coach and he will always have interest in finding new weapons for his offense. This year will be no different.
It seems like Jerome Harrison will return as the backup running back. That was unsure for a while when we anticipated a normal free agent period. The CBA mess has made sure that won't happen so it looks like Harrison will have another year before he's able to hit the market. The Eagles still need to improve the depth at running back. Eldra Buckley is an effort guy, but he has marginal talent. I have a lot of respect for Buckley, but you're always going to be looking to replace a guy like him with someone more naturally gifted.
The Eagles have looked at a lot of running backs this year. I find it really interesting that there is no common denominator. Some guys are smaller, quicker types. Others are big power backs. We have underachievers and overachievers. Some are pure runners, while others are good receivers. There is no one common theme among them. Let's take a look at some of the players the Eagles are considering.
Daniel Thomas - Kansas State - 6'0, 228 --- I'm sure Andy Reid is particularly fascinated by Thomas. He was a quarterback in junior college. Thomas got to Kansas State and became a workhorse runner. He ran for 2,850 yards and 30 touchdowns in just two years. He also caught 52 passes. Thomas was used as a Wildcat quarterback and had a lot of success running from that formation. He also threw for a pair of touchdowns. Thomas is a big, physical runner, but he has good feet. He isn't just going to lower his head and bulldoze defenders. He can make guys miss and be creative. Thomas will go in the late 2nd or early 3rd. If he slides down in the 3rd I could see the Eagles being interested.
Kendall Hunter - Oklahoma State - 5'7, 199 --- Incredibly productive. Ran for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns in both 2008 and 2010. Hunter was hurt in 2009 and his numbers fell way off. He is short, but don't think of him as a small, finesse runner. He is elusive and can make some impressive moves. Hunter is strong enough to break arm tackles and fight for yards. He showed a lot of potential as a pass blocker at the Senior Bowl. Pass protection is something Eagles running backs must be good at. Hunter is also a solid receiver. He is the kind of high character, productive senior player the Eagles loaded up on last year. Should go in the 3rd round.
Taiwan Jones - Eastern Washington - 6'0, 194 --- Explosive junior runner. Ran sub-4.4 at his pro day. That speed shows up on tape. Give him some room and he will explode up the field. Jones has a thin build, but is deceptively strong. He doesn't go down on first contact. Reminds me a bit of Chiefs star Jamaal Charles. Jones would be an exciting addition to the Eagles arsenal. Shady McCoy breaks some long runs, but few go all the way. Jones isn't someone that is going to get caught from behind. I have him pegged for the 3rd round, but guys with his kind of speed can easily sneak into the 2nd.
DeMarco Murray - Oklahoma - 6'0, 213 --- He just finished up his 9th year at Oklahoma. At least it seems that way. Murray was a four-year starter. He played in 50 games and had almost 1,000 touches in his career. He never became the great player that I expected, but he did hit his peak in 2010. Murray had injury issues the first three years that slowed him down. He stayed completely healthy in 2010 and posted his best numbers. Murray is a good runner and very good receiver. He is outstanding on screen passes. He is a good kickoff returner. Murray ran 4.41 at the Combine. Get him in space and he can deliver a big play. Murray isn't very elusive, though. He's not going to make many defenders miss. I don't project him as a starter in the NFL, but I do think he can be an excellent number two runner. I think he'll go in the 4th round. Could go in the 3rd to a team that likes one-cut runners.
Jacquizz Rodgers - Oregon State - 5'6, 197 --- Game tape says Rodgers should go in the 2nd or 3rd round. His workout numbers say he should go 4th or 5th. Small guy and not a gifted athlete. Just a good football player. Rodgers is a workhorse runner. He never had less than 14 carries in his last two years. He ran for 3,877 yards and 46 scores in his career. Rodgers has good feet and vision. He is able to make guys miss in tight spaces. He has excellent lateral agility. He just lacks ideal speed for a guy his size. He only ran 4.64 at the Combine. You see that on game tape. I do wonder if the fact he's so used to being fed the ball would hurt him in the Eagles offense. We know that backup runners don't get an adequate number of carries. They must produce on limited touches. I think Rodgers will be a 4th round pick.
Alex Green - Hawaii - 6'0, 225 --- Really good player. I watched several Hawaii tapes to study various players and Green got better with each game. Good combination of size, speed, and ability. Green ran 4.53 at 225 pounds. That is impressive. He is a downhill runner, which fits the Eagles well. Line up in a spread set and let the runner find room between the tackles. Correll Buckhalter was good at this. Green would have to adjust to working from the I-formation. He would give the Eagles a big back that Reid has wanted for the last few years. Green isn't a workhorse runner. He only had 15 or more carries once in his career. He was still productive, especially in 2010. He averaged 8.2 yards per carry and ran for 18 touchdowns. He also caught 27 passes. Should go in the 4th or 5th round. Real good fit for the Eagles.
Allen Bradford - USC - 5'11, 242 --- Underachiever. Gifted player. Bradford is big at 242 pounds, but has the feet of a shifty runner and the speed of a smaller guy. He ran 4.58 at the Combine. He ran for more than 200 yards in a pair of games in 2010. There are times when Bradford looks like a stud running back. Other times he disappears. Was he just chronically under-used by the coaches? Was he not performing well enough in practice to warrant playing time? Injuries did affect him. Bottom line is that Bradford has the potential to be a good rotational runner in the NFL. What is his draft value? I think he could go as high as the 5th round or maybe not drafted at all. Very intriguing guy. Watch highlights of his game vs Washington and you'll swear he should be a star player.
The Eagles are always looking for pass catchers. With DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Riley Cooper already in place the team can't realistically spend a high pick on a receiver. The Eagles are targeting mid and late round prospects to come in and compete with Chad Hall for the fifth spot. One thing the team seems to want is a receiver with returner skills. DeSean is a major weapon, but ideally you'd be able to mix him in as the punt returner in critical situations (right Giants fans?), but not have to count on him to handle the job full time.
Ronald Johnson - USC - 5'11, 199 --- Emerged as a senior and posted solid numbers. I think Johnson would be good as part of a receiving corps. He's not a guy that needs to catch 10 passes to be at his best. Has a somewhat thick build which would help him in the slot. Solid combination of speed and quickness. Has good run after catch (RAC) ability. Good returner. I think he's a 4th round player.
Dwayne Harris - East Carolina - 5'10, 203 --- Uber-productive career. Had more than 500 total touches. Caught 268 passes and has the receiving skills to be an excellent slot receiver. Physical player. Harris isn't bothered by working the middle and playing in traffic. Knows how to get open and has good hands. Lacks ideal speed, but his game is more about quickness. Good returner. Another guy likely to go around the 4th.
Jeremy Kerley - TCU - 5'10, 189 --- Good receiver, outstanding returner. Could be a good slot receiver in the NFL. Similar to Harris in that he's a quick guy who knows how to run routes and get open. Kerley has good RAC ability. He was the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year each of the last two seasons. Kerley averaged 13.8 yards per punt return for his career. He ran two back for scores. He also averaged 27 yards per kickoff return. Good showing at the Senior Bowl. Only ran 4.62 at the Combine. That hurts his value. Will go in the late 4th or 5th.
Aldrick Robinson - SMU - 5'10, 184 --- Robinson might lack ideal size, but he is a speedy, athletic guy. Ran 4.43 at the Combine and had a 40-inch vertical jump. That athleticism shows up on tape. Robinson averaged just over 18 yards per catch for his career. He posted big numbers, 181-3314-30. He's got the speed to run by defenders. Robinson also has the RAC ability to turn short catches into big plays. He's a polished receiver. He has limited returner experience, but has the ability to develop those skills. Should go in the 4th or 5th.
Austin Pettis - Boise State - 6'3, 205 --- The Eagles haven't shown specific interest in Pettis, but I think he's a guy they have to be interested in. Why? He caught 24 touchdowns in the last two years, a lot of them in the red zone. Pettis isn't a vertical receiver. He doesn't have great RAC ability. He's someone that knows how to get open in traffic and then can make tough catches. He has excellent hands. Pettis has average speed, but exceptional quickness and body control. Think of him as a Jason Avant type. Probably a 5th round target.
Cecil Shorts - Mount Union - 6'0, 205 --- Shorts was a dynamic player at the D3 level. He scored 22 touchdowns this past season. He had 1 as a runner, 18 as a receiver, 2 on punt returns, and 1 on a kickoff return. Shorts has good size and is a solid athlete. He lacks ideal speed, but has good quickness and change-of-direction ability. He has the versatility that Reid would love in a number five receiver. Shorts can run, catch, return, and even throw passes (5 of 7 in 2010). The big question is how he would adjust to NFL competition. Pierre Garcon, also from Mount Union, handled the transition fine and has been terrific for the Colts. Shorts probably goes in the 5th round.
One player I get a lot of questions about is Greg Little, the receiver from UNC. He was suspended by the NCAA for all of 2010. Little is huge at 6'3, 231. He is versatile and athletic. He has big time potential. I think Reid would be very interested in him, but Little is likely to go in the 2nd or 3rd round. I just can't see the Eagles spending that high a pick on a receiver with the players already in place. Should Little slide a bit, he could become a target.