Jeremiah Points to ‘Volume’ at WR for Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Talk to any NFL personnel executive and you're bound to hear at least one cliche -- need is the worst talent evaluator in sports.
That said, if you have a significant need, a silver lining to that cloud is a draft that figures to be historically deep at the position you are desperate at.
For the Philadelphia Eagles, that's exactly what's going on at receiver where Daniel Jeremiah, the ex-Eagles personnel man who is now the lead draft analyst for the NFL Network, has 27 different WRs who have at least third-round grades.
"I've got 27 wide receivers with top three-round grades in this draft," Jeremiah said during his annual pre-NFL Scouting Combine conference call. "And consider [an] average [of] 31 are taken [in the entire draft]. We had a max of 35 taken in, I believe that was in 2017."
"So this is a really phenomenal group of wideouts," Jeremiah continued. "Not all those guys are going to go early. They'll end up spreading throughout the draft. But, it's a really good group."
For the Eagles it's far more likely than not that receiver would be the choice over cornerback at No. 21 overall in the draft for a couple of reasons -- the position is so much deeper than CB and Philadelphia already has significant monetary assets tied up at receiver with the disappointing Alshon Jeffery and the oft-injured DeSean Jackson still tied into the team's cap situation.
If the chips fall correctly for Howie Roseman, the preference would be to spend in free agency to fix CB and go the more cost-effective route at WR, something Jeremiah agreed with.
"I think it would be more likely to get a corner in free agency which would really free them up to take big-time impact receiver in the first round," he said. "So that to me will go a long way in figuring out what the heck they're going to do with their first-round pick. I think there's a good pool of -- there's a great pool of receivers to choose from outside the first round. And I think even corner-wise, there's guys that will come in and start and help the team right away. I think it's a situation you're true to your board, who do you have the higher grade on."
The odds are that will be a WR with Clemson's Tee Higgins and Arizona State's Brandon Aiyuk some of the likely options. The really top-tier - Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb and Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs -- are not expected to be there that late in the draft.
"[The Eagles] could use all different styles of receivers, when you talk about getting a Z or an X, slot. I think they would prefer to have the speed, which is Jerry Jeudy," Jeremiah said. "I don't anticipate that -- not Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs. Jeudy will be long gone. I assume that Henry Ruggs will be long gone as well. But that to me, if you were to say home run pick for the Eagles, who is it, it's Henry Ruggs, just because of how much speed and juice he would give to that offense."
A move up will likely need to be in play for Ruggs, however, especially if the Alabama product does what's expected at the combine next week.
Because the Eagles have only had a total of five picks in each of the last two years, staying put is more likely and there should still be plenty to choose from without reaching for "need."
"I love Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State. I think he's a stud," Jeremiah said. "He's tough, competitive, run-after-catch guy. Needs a little polish, but can return [kicks] as well. So has some value there. And you get into Tee Higgins, who I think will probably be there, who is really tall, long and rangy. You hope you're drafting A.J. Green. I don't think he's on that level but that's the style with which he plays. There's a little bit of concern with him just getting off press [coverage[. Some of the better competition they played later in the year he struggled a little bit with that. I would say that group of wide receivers is probably be the ones they'll be staring at."
A bit of a surprise from Jeremiah was LSU's Justin Jefferson, a rangy, slot receiver.
"I think Justin Jefferson has got a chance to be a high, high volume slot receiver a lot like Keenan Allen, can fill that role, can work in traffic. He's really good down in the red zone," Jeremiah said. "He led this entire draft class with touchdowns down in the red zone this year at 12. So, he's a point producer and he would be a great fit for them."
The good news for the Eagles, though, isn't Jefferson's volume, it's the volume of receivers available just when the organization is in desperate need of an infusion of youth and speed.
"I don't think you have to play the supply-and-demand game if you're the Eagles because those two positions I think you'll be happy with what you get in both rounds," Jeremiah said. "Just take the higher-rated player in the first round."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen