American Football

2024 NFL Draft positions of need: Running back

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Wisconsin v Minnesota
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The devaluation of running backs has gone too far…but that doesn’t mean the Eagles need to draft one early.

Every team has different needs during NFL Draft weekend and, as you may have surmised from being a football fan for longer than 30 seconds, it informs each team’s board. The Philadelphia Eagles are no different and I have taken the liberty of selecting five position groups that could use some reinforcements from the college ranks heading into the 2024 season.

The next group up is: running back.

The Birds could be looking at a completely revamped running back’s room in the 2024 season as D’Andre Swift, Boston Scott, and Rashaad Penny are all unrestricted free agents this offseason. While Swift was fifth in the league in rushing in 2023 and made the Pro Bowl, I can’t imagine Philadelphia offering him the sort of contract he’d like. Penny had 11 carries last year after being signed last summer as, ostensibly, a contributing player so I’d guess he’ll be elsewhere next season too. Scott has been a success story for the Eagles in the RB3 role, especially when playing the New York Giants, but I’d guess they can find someone younger and better in the draft or free agency.

Kenny Gainwell still has one year on his contract, so barring something drastic happening he’ll be back to infuriate fans in the fall. Lew Nichols III was on the practice squad last season and could be there again this year. Who knows what Howie Roseman will do!?

Here are a trio of tailback options (not just early rounds) that the Eagles should consider when they are eventually on the clock. (All measurements are from player’s college bio)

Ray Davis, 5th Year Senior, Kentucky

Measurements: 5-foot-10 and 216 pounds
Career stats: 44 games (37 starts); 746 carries for 3,626 yards (4.86 ypc); 29 rushing TDs; 94 catches for 762 yards (8.11 ypc); 12 receiving TDs

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - Clemson v Kentucky
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Bio: Born in San Francisco, Davis attended high school at Blair (N.J.) Academy before committing to Temple. He earned Freshman All-American honors from PFF in 2019 and then played four more games with the Owls in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He transferred to Vanderbilt for his third year but suffered a season-ending toe injury in the third game of the season. He bounced back in 2022 to earn Fourth Team All-SEC (Phil Steele) and he was named a semifinalist for Comeback Player of the Year after rushing for 1,042 yards and five scores in 12 games. In his final season of college, Davis transferred again, this time to Kentucky, and had the best season of his career. He was a Second Team All-American (Sports Illustrated) and First Team All-SEC (AP, Phil Steele, USA Today) after scoring 21 total touchdowns, which ranked third nationally, and compiling 1,452 total yards. Despite only playing for one season with the Wildcats he etched his name on a number of all-time lists for the program. Per his UK bio, Davis grew up in the foster care system and he takes great joy in being “a light for children in foster care” through his football career.

Scouting report: Davis was one of my favorite players to watch this past fall due to his propensity for big plays and his nose for the endzone. While he isn’t necessarily the most explosive runner, he is quick and tough to tackle which can lead to those long runs/catches. He does not dilly-dally behind the line of scrimmage after getting the handoff, almost always making one cut and then heading up field. An area where he has most other running backs beat in this class is his pass catching ability. He runs wheel routes with Swiss watch-like precision and can beat linebackers in coverage with regularity. Davis could easily slide into Boston Scott’s role and thrive for the Birds. He projects as a late third round or fourth round pick.

Highlights:

Braelon Allen, Junior, Wisconsin

Measurements: 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds
Career stats: 35 games (24 starts); 597 carries for 3,494 yards (5.85 ypc); 35 rushing TDs; 49 catches for 274 yards (5.59 ypc); 2-of-3 passing for 33 yards and 1 TD

Bio: A four-star safety/linebacker prospect out of Fond du Lac, Wis., Allen enrolled early at Wisconsin for the 2021 season at the age of 17 with the thought that he’d end up on defense. In fall camp he was switched to running back (his other high school position) and ended his Badgers career as the ninth leading rusher in school history despite only playing three seasons. He was a Freshman All-American, and Second-Team All-Big Ten, in 2021 and he was also Second-Team All-Big Ten in 2022 and 2023. Allen, who won’t turn 21 until Jan. 2025, ranks fourth in UW history with 5.85 yards per carry and tied for sixth with 20 career 100-yard rushing games.

Rutgers v Wisconsin
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Scouting report: As a Wisconsin alum, I have watched every game Allen has played in college and I have some definite thoughts on him as a player. The first thing you’ll surely notice is Allen’s size. He’s built like a brick shithouse and he uses his build to his advantage to gain extra yards and plow through would-be tacklers. Allen is also faster, and more nimble, than you’d expect for a tailback of his stature but he isn’t going to have a ton of home run plays, especially in the NFL where everyone is fast. While he has improved in the passing game between his freshman and junior seasons, he is not what I would call a threat out of the backfield. He has decent hands but isn’t running any sort of complicated routes yet. His improvement in college leads me to believe that he can continue to get better, but it’ll be something he has to work at. He’ll also need to work on his average pass protection which you’d think would be better given his size, but I think he relies on that instead of proper technique. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has increased his gap scheme running plays over the past two seasons and Allen would be the type of back that would thrive under those circumstances. Allen has the potential to be a workhorse running back, but he’d be best in a tandem situation with a smaller, faster, pass-catching running mate. He’s probably an early fourth round selection.

Highlights:

Frank Gore Jr., Redshirt Junior, Southern Miss

Measurements: 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds
Career stats: 47 games (40 starts); 759 carries for 4,022 yards (5.30 ypc); 26 rushing TDs; 75 catches for 692 yards (9.23 ypc); 4 receiving TDs; 17-of-35 passing for 368 yards (10.51 ypa); 7 TDs/1 INT

Bio: The son of five-time Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore, Sr., Frank Gore, Jr. is native of Miami and was ranked as a low 3-star prospect in high school. He played mostly running back, but also filled in as quarterback in both high school and college, showcasing his versatility on the field. As a freshman, Gore was Conference USA second-team and all-freshman and then he earned C-USA honorable mention in 2021. Southern Miss moved to the Sun Belt in 2022 and Gore was named All-Sun Belt First Team at all-purpose player and Second Team at running back. He also gained 329 yards (an NCAA bowl record) on the ground in the LendingTree Bowl. In his final season he was All-Sun Belt Second Team as a running back and all purpose player. He was named the MVP of the 99th East-West Shrine Bowl after rushing for 87 yards (which included a 49-yard touchdown) at the beginning of February.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 01 East-West Shrine Bowl
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Scouting report: It is worth noting that his measurements at the Shrine Bowl (5-foot-7 ⅛ and 199 pounds) were considerably smaller than his Southern Miss bio, but it doesn’t seem to have affected his production any. He was clocked as running a 4.50 40-yard dash which isn’t track-star speed, but is also above average for the position. He’ll have a chance to improve on that number at the NFL Combine at the end of the month. Gore is a solid receiver and could even be split out wide in certain situations. As the son of a talented former player, Gore has the smarts of a player much more experienced and he does a good job of diagnosing where the hole will be when running towards the line of scrimmage. While his size works against him in some areas (he’s not great at pass protection for instance) his low center of gravity makes it harder for defenses to knock him off balance with the first hit. He is a high upside swing that a team might take in the fifth or sixth round.

Highlights:

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