Eagles draft outlook: Running back

Jerome Harrison's future with the Eagles is uncertain. (Michael Perez/AP file photo)

I'm taking a look at a different position every day, leading up to next Thursday's draft.

Yesterday was the quarterbacks. Today, let's talk running backs.

On the roster: The Birds have three tailbacks and two fullbacks currently on the roster.

LeSean McCoy is coming off a breakout season in 2010 in which he averaged 5.2 yards per carry (fourth-highest among running backs) and totaled 1,672 rushing/receiving yards.

Jerome Harrison averaged 6.0 yards per carry in limited action, and looked like the complement/backup to McCoy that the Eagles had been searching for.

Eldra Buckley has value on special teams, but doesn't figure to play much of a role beyond that.

And the fullback picture is a little cloudy with Leonard Weaver trying to return from injury. If he's not ready, the Birds have Owen Schmitt, who did a decent job last year as a blocker, even though he is not the ball-carrying option that Weaver was.

Contract situations: This is where things get a little tricky, depending on what happens with the labor situation. McCoy is on his rookie deal and is signed through 2012. Considering he will only be 23 at the start of next season, the Eagles could look to extend him during or after next season, depending on the league rules that are put into place.

The key here, in terms of the draft outlook, is Harrison. If the league operated under last year's rules, Harrison would be back. He's a restricted free agent and was tendered at a second-round level. Would a team be willing to give up a second-round pick to steal him away? I don't think so.

But there's the possibility that Harrison would become an unrestricted free agent with new league rules.  After coming over from Cleveland (if you take away Week 17 against the Cowboys when many of the starters sat), Harrison carried just 20 times in the eight games he was active. At 28 years old, chances are he's looking for a larger role.

The Eagles tendered Buckley as an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning he should be back. Schmitt is signed through 2011, and Weaver is signed through 2012.

Draft history: The Eagles have taken nine running backs in 12 drafts sincy Andy Reid became the head coach: Thomas Hammer (6th round, 171st overall) in 2000; Correll Buckhalter (4th round, 121st overall) in 2001; Brian Westbrook (3rd round, 91st overall) in 2002; Bruce Perry (7th round, 242nd overall) in 2004; Ryan Moats (3rd round, 77th overall) in 2005; Tony Hunt (3rd round, 90th overall) in 2007; Nate Iloa (7th round, 236th overall) in 2007; LeSean McCoy (2nd round, 53rd overall) in 2009; and Charles Scott (6th round, 200th overall) in 2010.

The only running back the Eagles selected prior to the third round was McCoy. And four of the nine backs were sixth- or seventh-round picks. The only years in which the Birds did not select a running back were 1999, 2003, 2006 and 2008.

Workouts/visits: The Birds have reportedly taken a look at the following running backs: USC's Allen Bradford, Hawaii's Alex Green, Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter, Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones, Oklahoma's DeMarco Murray and Kansas State's Daniel Thomas.

How I see it: Last season, 22 of the 32 teams in the league had two running backs carry the ball at least 80 times. The Eagles were one of the 10 that did not. Part of that had to do with play selection, part had to do with Michael Vick's running ability, and part had to do with McCoy's effectiveness (no reason to take him off the field).

But going forward, there's no question the Eagles would like to have a good, trustworthy No. 2 back. Even if he doesn't get a lot of touches, he'd provide insurance in the event that McCoy got injured. With Harrison's future here in limbo, look for the Birds to draft a tailback - maybe not in the early rounds, but at some point.

And don't sleep on fullback either. While everyone in the organization is undoubtedly rooting for Weaver, there's no telling when/if he'll be able to return. As I said earlier, Schmitt was decent, but the Birds could certainly take a fullback in the later rounds and create some competition at that spot.

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