When the Philadelphia Eagles spent the No. 86 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on a wide receiver after just trading up to take rookie pass catcher Jordan Matthews at No. 42, it came as a bit of a surprise. The pick itself was far from a surprise, however, because it was spent on former Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was clearly delighted to make Huff the first Oregon player drafted under his tenure in Philly. Reunited at last.
Considering Huff's background with Kelly, there seems little doubt that he's a good fit in Philadelphia's offense. Rob Rang of CBS recently went as far to say that Huff could have an immediate impact:
Huff's familiarity with Chip Kelly's offense is the most obvious reason to project early production out of the third-round pick. While veterans are still getting used to Kelly's tempo, Huff is well-versed in the breakneck speed with which the Eagles and Ducks' respective offense flies.
Further, as a rare four-year starter with the Ducks, Huff saw time at each receiver position and as a kick returner over his career. He became the team's go-to receiver his last two seasons and left Oregon tied with the single-season (12) and career touchdown reception records (24).
Huff's fit isn't limited to understanding the terminology in Kelly's playbook, however. Huff (much more so than Matthews or re-signed veteran Riley Cooper), possesses the elusiveness, physicality and acceleration to help replace Desean Jackson's playmaking ability on quick screens and other plays designed to get the Eagles' playmakers in space. At 5-foot-11, 205 pounds Huff is 30 pounds heavier than Jackson. The weight is evenly distributed on Huff's compact frame, making him appear more like a running back than a receiver. It is the kind of build likely necessary to hold up to the punishment and tempo that comes with Kelly's offense.
Rang makes some good points. Huff definitely comes to Philadelphia with an advantage in some respects. At the same time, I imagine he's facing a rookie learning curve that applies to most if not all rookies. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly even downplayed the notion that his background with Huff makes the rookie primed to step up right away.
We are conscious with our young guys not to overload them from a mental standpoint and there's still a lot of learning. I think the perception that because Josh played with Oregon, he can step up. But our offense is totally different than it was at Oregon.
It's still a learning curve for him. The one thing that he has that I don't have the benefit of with Jordan [Matthews] is I understand where Josh came from. So I know the language that he spoke the last couple of years. So I can help him and say, this is this, this is this. But this is new, this one is new, and this is what we called it over here. There's some similarities but I understand where the terminology gap is going to be for him.
Kelly seems to be keeping the expectations for Huff in check, which is probably a good thing. Huff enters a crowded wide receiver picture with Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, and Jordan Matthews (at the least) ahead of him. He'll have the chance to earn playing time if he shows he deserves it, but he doesn't have the edge right now. Considering how often the Eagles leaned on 3 WR sets last season, it's not a safe bet that Huff will automatically play often.
As Kelly advised, it's probably best to temper the rookie expectations for Huff. That's where I'm already at. In my Eagles rookie predictions column I have Huff projected to record only ~10% offensive snaps, 10 catches, 100 yards, 1 TD, 15 rush yards. It's worth noting Huff has primarily been running with the second and third teams during OTAs and minicamp. In 2014 I envision a role for Huff as a limited contributor on offense (and a backup) as well as a key contributor on the special teams unit (potentially both returner and coverage).
Huff is sure to make a significant impact on this team one day. I'm just not so sure it will be immediate.