Philadelphia Eagles: What the Birds Need In the NFL Draft

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Philadelphia Eagles:  What the Birds Need In the NFL Draft
(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

It has been 23 years since the Philadelphia Eagles drafted a running back in the first round. Can you name that back?

Keith Byars in 1986.

So to think that the Eagles will draft a runner in Saturday's NFL Draft is absurd, right?

Wrong.

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported a few days ago that the Eagles were looking to move up in the draft to select Georgia's Knowshon Moreno.

It wasn't the first time you heard the Eagles were interested in Moreno.

Ray Didinger, a pro football Hall of Famer and sportswriter, also thinks the Eagles should get Moreno.

ESPN Draft "expert" Mel Kiper, Jr. has the Eagles picking Moreno with their first round pick, and if I'm not mistaken, Todd McShay also has the Birds taking the running back. In all likelihood, the Eagles will have to trade up to draft Moreno.

The Birds aren't the only team interested in Moreno. 

San Diego will pick him if he's there at pick 16.  The Chargers' general manager A.J. Smith recently compared Moreno to Walter Payton.

So who are the candidates for the Eagles to trade up with?

It has been reported that the Saints want to get out of the 14th spot, so a deal with New Orleans is possible.  Even Jacksonville at eight could possibly be a trade partner.

In my opinion, the Birds have to address their backfield in this year's draft.

Brian Westbrook is going to hit that barrier that seems to slow all running backs—turning 30 years old and coming off knee surgery.  The questions surround the Eagles biggest playmaker.

To make matters worse, Philly does not have a serviceable backup to Westbrook.  Correll Buckhalter bolted for a chance at the starting job in Denver and Lorenzo Booker is just plain awful.

In all the previews up to this point and all the "expert" RB rankings, there are four that stand out: UConn's Donald Brown, Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy, Ohio State's Chris Wells and Moreno.

Three of the four fit the Eagles system.

What is a Philadelphia Eagle system running back, you ask?

The Eagles look at backs who can catch the football, run the football and more importantly, block.  Those characteristics surround Moreno the most, but Brown and McCoy can also run, catch, and block.

The 6'2", 217-pound Moreno is the safest pick of the three names that fit the system.  He's tough and he's a playmaker; he will be, at the worst, a good NFL player.

The X-Factor that puts Moreno over the top in my book is that he can come in on day one and make a positive impact to the team.  He can take the load off of Westbrook's knees and can possibly be a candidate for the Rookie of the Year.

He didn't run a great 40-yard dash, but he is fast in football terms.  Moreno doesn't have Chris Johnson speed, but he has enough speed to make the defender look silly.  He's a rare back who can play every down.

Drafting Moreno would be like winning the lottery. Let's face it, Westbrook doesn't have much left in the tank.

I would settle with Brown or McCoy.  Both are quality backs, but they are riskier picks.

Brown came out of nowhere this past season and shocked the world by scoring 18 touchdowns and rushing for over 2,000 yards for UConn last season.

When you think of the Pittsburgh Cougars football program over the past two years, McCoy highlighted the offense.  He rushed for 1,488 yards and scored 21 touchdowns last year.

I would be very excited if the Birds took either Brown or McCoy.  It would be a win—win situation.

The casual and hardcore Eagles fans want Chris Wells—it seems so, at least—but Wells would be a waste of pick.  Wells is a nice back, a punishing runner, but he can't catch the football and isn't a good blocker.

If the Eagles selected Wells, I would like the pick while at the same time questioning the move.

So what are the other options for drafting a running back in this year's draft?

There are some other backs like Shonn Greene out of Iowa, P.J. Hill out of Wisconsin, Ian Johnson out of Boise State, Javon Ringer out of Michigan State and Kory Sheets from Purdue.

I have heard the Eagles have some interest in Johnson, but the other names are just speculation. Only Greene is worthy of a first day selection.

Wait one second. You mean that I don't want to trade the first round pick and a few other picks for the services of Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards?

No, I do not.

Is it really worth it to trade your first and third picks for Boldin when, this year, you have a chance to draft a runner that impresses a lot of people?  A runner that can be the cornerstone of your backfield for years to come?

It isn't worth it to me.

Would I love to see Boldin wearing the midnight green this upcoming season?  If I said no, I would be an idiot.  But it comes to a cost your future and present.

It's simply not worth mortgaging your future and present to get the No. 1 wide receiver like Boldin or Edwards.

Before the Birds traded their 28th draft pick to Buffalo for offensive tackle Jason Peters, I was in favor of trading for Boldin. Yet now it makes no sense to trade the first round pick.

What other options can the Eagles do with the 21st selection?

Wide receiver isn't out of the question. The Birds had Maryland's Darrius Heward-Bey and North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks in for workouts. The Eagles' fans want a wide-out and those two would be great picks.

Of course, the Eagles could go the route that the fans have become accustomed to and pick another defensive or offensive lineman. But do the Eagles really need another one?

What will the Eagles do?

We'll just have to wait until Saturday to really know what's going on.

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