What Does Drafting Miles Sanders Mean For the Eagles Crowded Backfield?

Updated: May 8, 2019

After the Philadelphia Eagles traded for Jordan Howard earlier this year, it looked like the Eagles would focus their draft picks on defensive line and safety. So far, that has not been the case with their first three picks being tackle, running back, and wide receiver.

The Eagles selected Miles Sanders from Penn State at pick 53 in the 2019 NFL Draft, so how does this affect the crowded backfield the Eagles now have?

Well, it certainly does not bode well for Josh Adams or Wendell Smallwood – one of whom, if not both, will most likely not be with the team come this fall. We saw the Eagles carry four running backs the past couple seasons, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they continue to go that route.

The running backs on the roster as it currently stands looks like this:

  1. Jordan Howard

  2. Corey Clement

  3. Josh Adams

  4. Wendell Smallwood

  5. Donnell Pumphrey

  6. Boston Scott

  7. Miles Sanders

There are two players, Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi, who are both free agents and have not yet signed with other teams. Sproles is questionable to return for another season still, yet if he did, we can expect to see him return in midnight green.

That would give us an eighth running back. You may as well put an infinity gauntlet on Pederson’s hand because he’s probably getting rid of at least half of those guys when the 53-man roster is locked in.

Now, if we look at what role each player does best in their NFL experience, you’ll find that each running back on the Eagles roster excels in a different category – which is good, but not great. Ultimately, having a few guys who are elite in one area thing usually lets your opponent know what might be coming from your offense.

Howard gives you power, Clement gives you receiving ability, Adams gives you patience, Smallwood gives you speed, and the other two “veterans” haven’t shown enough in the NFL, if anything, to be given a label.

Miles Sanders looks like he might give a little bit of everything – a bit of power, shiftiness, receiving ability, speed, and toughness. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how they use him with such a wide skill set, but it should also make us wonder what will happen to the backfield.

Since you get the receiving ability in Sanders, do you try to move Clement? Or maybe Smallwood since you get the speed from Sanders, too? The former PSU back doesn’t look as patient as Adams, but he isn’t hesitant either. Sanders reminds me of LeSean McCoy in that sense. He wouldn’t hesitant to find the hole quickly, and if it got blocked or blown up, he’ll try to make the defenders miss.

Personally, I think you’ll see Smallwood or Adams moved before the start or during Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft for a 7thround pick this year or a 6thround pick in 2020. Both players have shown that they’re decent backs that serve as better-than-average reserve backs, so maybe another team will find value in either player.

Either way, don’t expect this backfield to stay too crowded for long – not with Howie Roseman in the driver's seat, anyway.


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