Kenneth Gainwell named Philadelphia Eagles’ highest-graded rookie

Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Eagles picked Kenneth Gainwell in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft and never looked back.

The rookie could carve out a dominant role in the Eagles’ offense this year, and after a stellar preseason, he’s already captured the attention of Philly fans and coaches, not to mention potential critics as well.

Gainwell was recently named as the Eagles’ highest-graded rookie in the 2021 NFL preseason, according to PFF. This one’s writer, Michael Renner, had this to say about Gainwell’s performances so far:

"The fifth-round running back did more than enough this preseason to make veterans like Jordan Howard expendable. Gainwell impressed through the air, just as he did at Memphis, with nine catches for 66 yards on only 33 routes. He’s firmly a change-of-pace back from Miles Sanders."

We’re not sure we agree that Gainwell exactly makes Howard “expendable,” but the point is he’s a pivotal member of this Eagles team that could do some serious damage this season.

In the Eagles’ final preseason game against the Jets, Gainwell got plenty of touches in the first half and looked like the most explosive back on the team. He revealed his tantalizing arsenal of rushing and receiving skills, from scoring a touchdown running the ball (helped by some good blocking) to getting some solid catches to sustain late drives.

Philadelphia Eagles rookie Kenneth Gainwell gets early recognition

Gainwell finished with 32 yards on five carries with a long of 11 yards, and the only drawback to his game was that he gave up a sack.

Rookie running backs have often been able to make their mark on the league from Day 1, and Gainwell is no exception. He may not enjoy as productive a rookie season as, say, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, or Saquon Barkley, but he’s still a shining bright spot on a remodeled Eagles offense.

Gainwell has already shown his versatility as both a runner and pass-catcher, which bodes well for his continual development into a potential every-down back.

He’s been recently compared to Indianapolis’ RB Nyheim Hines, who also played for Nick Sirianni before. Hines has since served as one of the sharpest prongs of the Colts’ offense in the last three seasons, so hopefully, the comparison doesn’t fall short.

If Sirianni can bring out the “Hines” in Gainwell, Gainwell can be a bonafide dual-threat for Philly and make an immediate impact as early as the start of the season.

For now, expectations are high, but realistic. Gainwell’s preseason performance has given every indication that he’ll continue making gains for Philly and honing his skills in the pro league.

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It won’t take him long to get used to the competitive level of play when the Philadelphia Eagles face the Falcons in their season opener. Heading into 2021, Kenneth Gainwell is exactly where he needs to be.