In a league that prizes natural athletic gifts almost just as much as speed or strength, the Eagles are doubling down on one of the smallest players taken in the 2017 NFL draft.
After ushering in the latter half of what the Eagles’ new draftee Donnell Pumphrey calls a Hall of Fame career, Philly has loved every minute of having Darren Sproles on its roster.
The 5-foot-6 speedster has returned kicks and punts better than nearly anyone in football. He can shift from left to right in the blink of en eye, line up in the slot or run between the tackles. His low center of gravity and constantly churning motor makes him hard to tackle. And he recently announced that the 2017 season would be his last in the NFL.
But dont fret. With the 132nd pick in the NFL draft, the Eagles selected Pumphrey, 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, from San Diego State. When Sproles (5-foot-6) retires and eventually takes his place on the Eagles’ Wall of Honor, Pumphrey will be running hard for the little guy — something Eagles fans clamor for.
“I just try to make guys miss and when it’s time to get down, I get down,” Pumphrey told the Eagles media after he was drafted last weekend. “I really don’t think about injuries or anything like that. I just play football to play. I know injuries come with the game and I just give my all every chance I get, every time I step on the field. I just thank God for it all. I haven’t gotten hurt and it’s been a blessing.”
It’s possible Philly got a steal in the fourth round, as no college Division-I running back has ever run for more yards than Pumphrey has, tallying 6,405 yards — just eight more than former all-time leader Ron Dayne — during his four years in San Diego.
“With Pumphrey, the thing that stands out the most is prolific production,” Eagles head of player personnel Joe Douglas said. “He’s set every record. You’re talking about a guy that broke Marshall Faulk’s record. Lightning feet. Great feet and great hands. And don’t let the size fool you: This guy, he’s a little dog that thinks he’s a big dog, and he plays that way. I love the way he plays, and I love how productive he is.”
Pumphrey will compete for playing time among a running back group with no clear featured back. Ryan Mathews, who has had issues staying healthy, is expected to be cut before training camp. Sproles will continue to mentor Pumphrey during his last NFL season while Wendell Smallwood and Bryon Marshall compete for reps behind Carson Wentz. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Pumphrey to work his way atop the depth chart before the end of the 2017 season.