Heading into this offseason, the buzzword on everyone's lips was playmakers. Everyone from the fans, to McNabb, to Westbrook, to Runyan, to Spikes.... all called for more playmakers on the Eagles. In free agency, the Eagles grabbed the NFL's INT leader over the past two years. I think most people would agree that's a playmaker.
But what about offense? What about everyones' favorite position? Wide Receiver? As it turned out, there were no big time WRs available in free agency(other than Moss, but we know that story) and none of the big name WRs rumored to be trade bait changed teams. So we turn to the draft.... and no WRs are picked in the first round. So all in all, this was not a great year to be in the market for a wideout. That said, armed with 2 second round picks the Eagles headed into the second round in search of an offensive playmaker. They found one.
In his 36 career college games, Desean Jackson scored 29 touchdowns. Some came on punt returns(6), some came from running plays, and most(22) were TD catches. Bottom line is that at every level Desean Jackson has ever played he's been dominant and he's the rare kind of player who is threat to score every time he touches the ball. Jackson racked over a thousand yards receiving at 18 yards a catch and 9 TDs in 2006. In 2007 he actually averaged 12 yards per carry rushing... As a sophomore he won the Randy Moss award as the nation's top return man.
Finally, here's a pretty amazing stat. 23% of the time Jackson touched the football, he gained more than 20 yards.
Now, those stats are very impressive... but can he come close to duplicating them at the NFL level? A quick peek at his scouting reports would suggest he has most of the tools. Great hands, incredibly elusive in the open field, runs a 4.3 40, he can jump....
So why wasn't a guy this productive and this talented a first round pick? Well, he's 5-10 and 170 pounds. Honestly, how many guys that size have been great NFL players? It's not impossible, guys have done it, but the list is fairly short. We all remember how the 5-8, 180 lb Jeremy Bloom couldn't cut it at this level... although to be fair Jackson is a far more accomplished football player than Bloom and has heard these doubts about his size his whole life.
"I have been hearing about (my size) all my life, It has been something to motivate me. Sitting back and waiting for my name to be called, I kind of figured that a lot of people were afraid of my size, but like I tell everybody else, my heart is bigger than my size and I play larger than I really am."
Another thing you'll hear about Desean is "character concerns." Now, Jackson is more TO than he is Pacman Jones. The knock against him has never been that he's a bad guy who gets in trouble, the knock has been that he's cocky. The glass half full is that almost all great WRs are cocky. That kind of self belief and ego seems almost required to be among the greats at wideout in this league. Glass half empty is obviously the TOs and Chad Johnsons of the world. Jackson hasn't really shown himself to be some kind of a team killer at any point, but it's at least something worth keeping an eye on. To hear from the man himself, check out the video "getting to know Desean Jackson."
Make no mistake about it, Desean Jackson is a playmaker. He is another weapon for McNabb. Like any rookie, he has to prove he can do it at this level, but it's probably fair to say that Andy Reid has never drafted a WR with as much raw talent as Jackson. He should be able to make an immediate impact on special teams, and he should be able to make things happen in a certain role on offense. It should be very interesting to see how Reid tries to work Jackson into the offense in year one. No one is expecting him to be Steve Smith(another guy everyone thought was too small to play at this level) in year one, but a guy that has been as productive as he's been at the college level should be able to contribute something in the NFL right away.