Do the Eagles use a first-round pick on a running back?
Sure, Andy Reid's track record would suggest that the Eagles don't use first-round picks on running backs. Brian Westbrook was a third-round selection in 2002. And obviously, he turned out to be a steal for the slot he was drafted in.
The Eagles have tried to pry another star back out of the third round in recent years - Ryan Moats in 2005 and Tony Hunt in 2007, but neither panned out. The Eagles, in essence, used a fourth-round pick for Lorenzo Booker last year in the trade with the Dolphins. Booker's speed wowed everyone in the mini-camps, but he wasn't able to get on the field as either an offensive player or a kickoff returner. Booker will get another shot this season, but the pressure is on to turn the corner immediately.
Westbrook had a down year, for him anyways, in 2008 due in large part to nagging injuries. He'll turn 30 in September, but thankfully the lack of hits he took early in his career could allow him to last a little longer than most backs. But still, the Eagles don't necessarily draft for today all the time. Look back a few years to when Winston Justice was drafted. Unfortunately, this is the time he is expected to move into a starting role but the addition of Stacy Andrews will likely keep that from happening. Same thing when Kevin Kolb was drafted in 2007.
But of course, all you have to do is look to last year for immediate impact from the draft. DeSean Jackson was only supposed to be integral in the return game, but he blew the doors off as a receiver. Trevor Laws didn't put up the big numbers, but he was key in helping Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson get some rest during the game.
If the Eagles were to look at a running back in the first round this year, with either of their two selections, it could be looked at strongly from a value standpoint and from an immediate impact perspective. Who knows exactly how the draft will fall and who will be there for the Eagles - any of these four top-tier backs could be available: Connecticut's Donald Brown, Pitt's LeSean McCoy, Georgia's Knowshon Moreno and Ohio State's Chris Wells.
The backup spot behind Westbrook is still very much up for grabs with the departure of Correll Buckhalter. Of course, Leonard Weaver, the Eagles' newest fullback, could fulfill that role to an extent but the Eagles want him to be the lead blocker. That's how a running back could contribute today. And Westbrook should still have some very productive years in him, meaning a new running back would have time to grow into the role. Which means the true measure of the back's effectiveness could still be years away.
The last time a first-round pick was used by the Eagles on a running back was Keith Byars in 1986. Could this be the year that historical footnote gets updated?