It began with hints regarding Chip Kelly's preferred breed of receiver. The philosophy took hold after signing James Casey and Kelly professing his desire to emulate the kind of TE-rich offense run in New England. Then the Eagles continued the transformation by drafting Zach Ertz, a prospect to whom the team had been linked and were downright giddy to select. The NFL is all about creating favorable matchups, and no player best presents that opportunity than a receiving option who's too big to be covered by a DB and too fast to be covered by a LB. The TE in the NFL is in the midst of a startling evolution, and it's no surprise Chip Kelly and the Eagles have hopped on the curve. The line between TE and WR is becoming blurred, and sooner rather than later there might not even be a definite distinction.
I'll put this out there right now, even with reports of the Eagles and Jeremy Maclin kicking the tires on a contract extension: I don't think we're going to see the Eagles draft a WR of the Maclin or DeSean Jackson ilk for the foreseeable future. I maintain my belief that Maclin won't be re-signed, and I wouldn't be surprised if Jackson is gone by 2015. I also anticipate the only receivers that will be drafted (at least with premium picks in the first half of the draft) or otherwise acquired are TE/WR hybrids, guys who are big and can block like a TE but run routes and take advantage of space like a WR. Kelly values versatility -- being able to blend position flexibility with receiving and blocking ability -- more than anything else, and players like Maclin and Jackson do not exactly bring that to the table. James Casey and Zach Ertz, who can line up anywhere and everywhere along the formation and perform multiple duties, are ideal. I'm as big a Brent Celek fan as anyone, but I think he's strictly an in-line type of TE and that his days as an Eagle are numbered.
The TE/WR hybrid is how the NFL is trending on offense, and upcoming drafts are going to be loaded with similar -- and better, version 2.0 -- talents. I've already opined that Oregon redshirt sophomore Colt Lyerla should (and will) be a primary target for the Eagles whenever he declares. I've done some tape work recently on North Carolina TE Eric Ebron, who'll be a junior in 2013, and he fits the same profile. Both Lyerla and Ebron have elements of a classic WR mixed with TE size and skill set and are likely better fits than C.J. Fiedorowicz (scouting report) for Chip Kelly's NFL offense.
It won't be 2013, and it probably won't be 2014. I'll target 2015 -- 2016 at the latest -- as perhaps the season when there's no longer a differentiation between TE and WR on the Eagles' roster, and that the team will just field a fleet of receivers who are of the ~6'4"-6'7", ~240-270-pound variety. You know, because big people beat up little people. They'll all be quick and swift movers, huge athletes with sub-4.7 speed, and, if we're lucky, at least one will be the superfreakiest of superfreaks with the kind of speed we expect to see from a faster WR. I guess, basically, that player I'm describing is a taller Vernon Davis.
I know it's hard to envision an NFL offense without traditional WR flanking the formation and zipping around all over the field, but I genuinely feel that's where we're headed with Chip Kelly. People talk about how he could revolutionize the NFL with his up-tempo offense, but don't discount how he could also engender revolutions at certain positions (to wit: keep in mind that the Eagles will employ a hybrid front-seven scheme on defense, as well).
Addendum: There will always remain a need for a WR who can stretch the field with explosive speed, and Kelly's special teams emphasis will ensure a few WR types stay on the roster. But I don't think we're going to see the Eagles hold onto five (or more) WR, like all other teams, moving forward. That number might end up being closer to, say, four. My main point is I think Chip Kelly's NFL offense will be one where the primary receiving options are TE/WR hybrids, and a vertical threat WR will occupy something of a specialist role instead of being on the field for a majority of the snaps.