PHILADELPHIA (CBS)- The Eagles 2021 draft class is the second straight in which the team has brought in nine or more picks as the organization looks to infuse youth into a roster that had steadily gotten older since the Super Bowl run. The prospects have yet to sign or workout with the team yet, so we don’t know how they will fit in the new system under head coach Nick Sirianni or how impactful they will be. However, that didn’t stop ESPN’s Mel Kiper from praising the team for its selection of running back Kenneth Gainwell in the fifth round.
In a SportsCenter segment on Tuesday, Kiper was asked who his late-round “steal” of the draft was. Kiper pointed to Gainwell, saying the Eagles rookie has.READ MORE: 6 Day Workweeks And Poked By Needles: YaFavTrashman Fighting For Philadelphia Sanitation Workers' Safety
“I love going running back in Round 5. Kenny Gainwell, running back out of Memphis who in 2019 all Kenny Gainwell did was score touchdowns,” said Kiper. “Catching the football out of the backfield, game-breaking runner, outstanding football player. They get him in Round 5, he should have been taken in Round 3. That’s a heck of a pick for the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Gainwell opted out of the fall 2020 season after losing four family members to COVID and instead prepared for the draft. In 2019, as Kiper points out, he was the latest explosive feature back for the Tigers following in the footsteps of Tony Pollard and Darrell Henderson. As a redshirt freshman he ran for 1,459 yards averaging 6.3 yards per carry and added 51 receptions for 610 yards and three touchdowns. When asked if he patterns his game after anyone, Gainwell told reporters no and called himself “a rare breed”.READ MORE: Police: 2 Teens In Car Shot At Red Light In Philadelphia's Olney Neighborhood
But, NBC Sports Philly’s Dave Zangaro pointed to a comparison that new head coach Nick Sirianni agreed with: Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines.
“Yeah, that’s a good comparison,” Sirianni said. “We like a lot of the things that Kenneth can do. He does have a little bit of the things that you’re saying right there — the ability to go outside and win one-on-one outside against the linebackers, against safeties, to come out of the backfield and be able to do that as well. But then again not always having to do that with him.”MORE NEWS: 14 Arrested On More Than 120 Charges Related To NorthPak Gang Violence In Wilmington
Hines isn’t the starter in Indy, but he’s made plenty of impact as both a runner (380 yards, 3 TD rushing in 2020) and receiver (63 catches 482 yards 4 scores) for the Colts. Gainwell is seen as having that same ability and gives the Eagles a more explosive option behind Miles Sanders in 2021. Though the coaching staff and fans will still need to see Gainwell on the field this summer before raising expectations too high, one of the biggest names in draft analysis likes the pick.