EAGLES NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: The Wide Receivers
If you’ve got a gambling problem, you probably already know the 1-800 number to call.
Conversely, If you want to make some money, put down a few shekels on the Philadelphia Eagles going wide receiver in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft later this month.
It’s the organization’s biggest need because there was no veteran addition from free agency or the trade market, and receiver also happens to be the deepest position in this year's class.
In house, the Eagles have DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery, with the former being more likely to contribute come Septemeber than the latter, as well as disappointing 2019 second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and late-season slot-contributor Greg Ward.
There are also developmental options aplenty in Deontay Burnett, Rob Davis, Marcus Green, Marken Michel, River Cracraft and even Shelton Gibson, a fifth-round pick in2017, back for another try.
“I think we do view the receiver position maybe different than it's publicly viewed,” said general manager Howie Roseman. “I understand where we were toward the end of the year and who was out there and we've got to increase the talent level, but we're also excited to get some of those guys back, who were not healthy. And we're also excited for young guys to take another step.”
There’s little doubt the Eagles would prefer one of the top three options at the position - Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and the Alabama duo of Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy.
It’s almost inconceivable that any of those players will be there at No. 21, however, and the recent Darius Slay trade, in which two picks were sent to Detroit for the veteran cornerback, limits Roseman’s ability to move up because the Eagles need bodies after two consecutive years with only five picks.
The options which seem viable at No. 21 are LSU playmaking machine Justin Jefferson and Baylor deep threat Denzel Mims.
If Roseman prefers a different type of ice cream like TCU’s Jalen Reagor or Arizona State playmaker Brandon Aiyuk he could trade down a bit to recoup some of what was lost in the Slay deal.
There is also rolling the dice and waiting to get help later. Florida’s Van Jefferson could offer a well-rounded contributor down the board, Penn State’s K.J. Hamler could provide the speed the Eagles desperately need and Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool is a physical and athletic presence not seen in years.
The best bet remains Jefferson as the top option at No. 21 that the Eagles like.
The knock of just being a slot receiver should have been obliterated by the 4.43 Jefferson ran at the combine but because that’s where he lined up in LSU’s spread offense, it will continue to be a narrative.
Drafting is about projection, though, and Jefferson isn’t some limited technician inside the numbers. He’s a playmaker and when SI.com asked one NFC personnel source for a pro comparison the name offered was Michael Thomas, the New Orleans All-Pro who has developed into arguably the best WR in football.
“Just my ability to get in and out of routes, I’m very versatile,” said Jefferson when asked what separates him in such a deep class of WRs. “I can do slot and outside. Just being able to play different positions on the field.”
All Jefferson did at the college level against the best competition was make plays and Carson Wentz needs a playmaker.
Whatever Roseman’s decision ultimately is, help for the franchise quarterback is on its way.
“When we look at it, it is a priority of ours to make sure we have weapons around our quarterback,” said Roseman.
BUILDING THE PERFECT WR
Route-running - Van Jefferson, Florida - Jefferson wowed scouts at the Senior Bowl and had DBs searching for the ankle tape.
Release - Jerry Jeudy, Alabama - As far as getting off press coverage, Jeudy is the class valedictorian with top-tier, short-area explosion.
Hands - Michael Pittman, Southern Cal - His hands serve as a vacuum, especially on difficult catches down the field.
Home-run hitter - Denzel Mims, Baylor - Mims is a track athlete and a fluid runner who eats up space before CBs know what’s hitting them.
YAC - Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State - AIyuk is the hold-your-breath guy in this class when you get the football in his hands with game-altering elusiveness.
Blocking - Bryan Edwards, South Carolina - In an unheralded but important part of the position Edwards offers a big body who takes pride in helping the running game outside the numbers.
EAGLES MAVEN TOP 10:
1. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
2. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
3. Henry Ruggs, Alabama
4. Justin Jefferson, LSU
5. Denzel Mims, Baylor
6. Jalen Reagor, TCU
7. Tee Higgins, Clemson
8. Laviska Shenault, Jr., Colorado
9. Van Jefferson, Florida
10. Michael Pittman, Southern Cal
Sleeper - Isaiah Coulter, Rhode Island
Boom or Bust - Denzel Mims, Baylor
John McMullen covers the Eagles for SI.com. You can listen to John every day at 4 ET on ESPN 97.3 in South Jersey and reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen