The New Orleans Saints have had great luck at finding skill position players from smaller schools. Wideouts Marques Colston (Hofstra), Deonte Harris (Assumption), Lance Moore (Toledo), Willie Snead (Ball St.) and running backs Chris Ivory (Tiffin), Khiry Robinson (West Texas A&M) are a few players from lesser-known colleges acquired during the Sean Payton era.
New Orleans could look to add another wideout in this year's draft. Quarterback Drew Brees announced his retirement this offseason, and the team will want to give new quarterback Jameis Winston as many targets as possible to succeed.
Deonte Harris was a lightly regarded player from tiny Assumption College in 2019. Despite gaudy statistics, Harris went undrafted and was given little chance to make an NFL roster because he was only 5’6” and 170-Lbs. Harris was an All-Pro kick returner as a rookie and has shown the potential of a gamebreaking wideout.
Today's draft profile spotlights a player with similar traits as Harris, but one who could also slide down draft boards because of his size. Unlike Harris, however, this prospect will be drafted in the middle rounds. Like Harris, he has the explosive ability to make teams regret overlooking him.
D'WAYNE ESKRIDGE, WIDE RECEIVER (WESTERN MICHIGAN)
Pro Day 40m = 4.38
A state champion in the 100m and 200m sprints at Bluffton High School in Indiana, Eskridge was also an all-state running back. He caught 17 passes for 121 yards and a score as a reserve receiver during his true freshman year of 2016. Earning a starting role in 2017, Eskridge had 30 receptions for a team-high 506 yards and scored three times.
Displaying even more gamebreaking potential for the Broncos in 2018, he averaged over 20 yards per reception in pulling in 38 passes for 776 yards and 3 touchdowns. Eskridge pulled double duty for Western Michigan in 2019, splitting time at cornerback because of injuries at the position. He broke up 4 passes and recorded 14 tackles defensively while catching 3 balls for 73 yards on the offensive side. Unfortunately, his season ended after just four contests because of a broken clavicle.
Eskridge returned to full-time wideout duty for Western Michigan in 2020. In just six games, he led the Broncos with 33 receptions for 768 yards and a career-high 8 touchdowns, also averaging nearly 28 yards per kickoff return and scoring once. Eskridge led the Mid-American Conference in receiving yards and touchdowns, and led all FBS schools with an average of 213 all-purpose yards per game. He finished his Western Michigan career with 121 catches for 2,244 yards and 16 touchdowns, being named 1st team ALL-MAC as a senior.
Eskridge will be pushed down the draft boards because of his height and slight frame. He struggles against bigger corners who can match his athleticism. Those struggles will be even more clear as an outside receiver, where a physical press can knock him off his intended route.
Western Michigan didn't use Eskridge on a full route tree, instead taking advantage of his speed with simple routes. He’ll have to expand his route tree at the NFL level to take better advantage of his receiving skills. He can get lost in high traffic areas over the middle because of his size.
Eskridge possesses what every defensive coordinator fears most: Speed. He’s a scoring threat from anywhere on the field because of his sprinters speed, explosive burst, and elusiveness in open space. More than just a track star who plays football, Eskridge displays a sharp-cutting ability on the field. That skill should help him greatly expand his route tree.
As a receiver, Eskridge has reliable hands to secure a short reception quickly and immediately turn upfield as a runner. He also has explosive leaping ability, helping to nullify some of his height disadvantage. Shows good upper body movement to slip press coverage at the line of scrimmage.
An underrated aspect of Eskridge's game is his football intelligence and willingness to learn. He converted to receiver from running back upon his arrival to Western Michigan, then quickly picked up the cornerback position in 2019.
D'Wayne Eskridge is projected to be drafted anywhere from mid-way through Day 2 to early on Day 3. His best immediate fit is as a slot receiver, but will also be used as an outside deep threat, on gadget plays, and as a returner to get the ball into his hands in the open field. Eskridge's speed makes him a home-run threat, but he could be one of the steals of the draft if he can expand his route tree.