Eagles Wake-Up Call: ‘Backs Are Where It’s At

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

INDIANAPOLIS — Before setting off on a two-hour, 45-minute voyage of a conference call with reporters this week, Mike Mayock took 30 seconds to provide an overview of the draft class that is set to descend on Indy for the Scouting Combine.

“I think [it’s] particularly deep at running back,” he said. “Although it might not be quite as deep at wide receiver as a year ago, it’s still going to be a very good wide receiver class. Correspondingly, it’s going to be very thin at quarterback and safety. And I think the rest of the positions are solid.”

Mayock certainly isn’t the only analyst/scout that is high on this running back class. The buzz isn’t quite as loud as it was for the historic wide receiver crop last year, but it’s at a pretty good hum.

According to NFL Draft Scout, two backs – Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley – carry first-round grades. And there’s a sizable group of quality options behind them. Mayock mentioned David Johnson (Northern Iowa), T.J. Yeldon (Alabama), David Cobb (Minnesota), Jay Ajayi (Boise State), Tevin Coleman (Indiana), Duke Johnson (Miami) and Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) as backs that will draw interest starting in the second round.

There are some parallels to be drawn between the Eagles’ situation last offseason and the one they are in now. Last year, they were scheduled to pay DeSean Jackson $10 million, had $16 million committed to the position overall and still had to account for impending free agents Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. While not the overriding factor, the decision to part ways with Jackson and reconfigure the receiving corps was done with the knowledge that they could replenish at wideout come May.

This year, the Eagles currently have a notch over $16 million of cap money invested in LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, and have a decision to make when it comes to restricted free agent Chris Polk. Knowing that young, cheap running back talent is to be had in this draft, how do you proceed?

It would be very bold to remove McCoy from the picture and rely on a rookie to step in and adequately fill his shoes. But it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if they target a potential successor in this draft.

While there are backs aplenty, Mayock mentioned quarterback and safety as two of the thinner positions this year. The Eagles will have to pull the trigger early or do some expert mining to get a good one.


A look at some of the top safety prospects heading into the Combine.

“I wouldn’t be super-excited about investing in [Maclin].” National media weighs in on the Eagles.

“Being associated with something this disgusting is repulsive.” The latest on Nate Allen.


Marcus Mariota has decided to throw at the Combine despite the fact that he’s coming off a shoulder injury.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News believes a draft-day trade between the Jets and Eagles makes perfect sense.

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan is positioned to pull off a smart, blockbuster, draft-day trade thanks to a fast-talkin’, smoothie-lovin’ offensive guru 90 miles down the road who can’t wait to land the quarterback of his dreams.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s yearning for Oregon star Marcus Mariota could pave the way for a mutually beneficial deal that would upgrade the Jets at quarterback and provide premium picks to help rebuild a wayward franchise.

On the surface, a deal between the Jets and Eagles makes plenty of sense if Mariota is available when Maccagnan & Co. are on the clock with the No. 6 overall pick on April 30. Upon closer inspection, it’s the ultimate no-brainer unless the Jets brass is in starry-eyed love with the Heisman Trophy winner.

Andrew Brandt of MMQB on the business that will be conducted this week.

Far removed from the workouts, the real business of the combine takes place in conversations between agents and team executives, all gathered in a confined location for the only time of the year. These meetings are most often about existing players on the team, with conversations regarding: 1. Extensions (what players/agents want); 2. Reductions(what teams want); or 3. Cap renegotiations (neutral).

There is also a fourth type of meeting: the uncomfortable one where an agent requests a new or upgraded contract while the team sees no need. These seeds of dissatisfaction are often planted at the Pro Bowl, and the combine is time for “the ask.”  Agents threaten—directly or indirectly—that if there is no team reaction at the bargaining table, steady drips of offseason discontent will drift from the player to the media and the locker room.  Teams have different emotional and financial reactions to these complaints.


The Scouting Combine begins. We’ll have you covered all week.