The Philadelphia Eagles did not trade up for Marcus Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft. Instead, they stayed at No. 20 overall and selected USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Bleeding Green Nation's Ben Natan profiled Agholor recently, but I thought it would also be useful to acquire an insider's insight. In order to learn more about the Eagles' new pass catcher, I reached out to USC Trojans SB Nation blog Conquest Chronicles. The duo of Trajuan Briggs (@tbriggswriteon) and Nick Barbarino (@nsbarbarino) were kind enough to answer my questions.
1) What are his strengths?
TB: Top end speed, precise route runner, reliable hands, excellent returner, can get separation from defenders, competes every down, can run block, able to play anywhere on the field, great footwork, comes back to the ball, can make something out of busted plays. Intelligent receiver that knows his position with great instincts.
NB: Much like Robert Woods and Marquise Lee before him, Nelson Agholor is a great route runner with soft hands. His speed and athleticism helped him thrive in Steve Sarkisian's up-tempo spread offense. One of his most underrated aspects is his ability to get open for a scrambling QB. Whenever a play was broken for USC, it was Agholor who would end up making something out of nothing.
2) What are his weaknesses?
TB: Weaknesses: not a consistent effective blocker due to his strength, lacks getting separation from defenders over the top, struggles against corners that can press, lean frame, has to prove he can take shots across the middle from defenders, average hips.
NB: Although he possesses great speed, Agholor often looks to avoid contact - the Utah game comes to mind where he stepped out of bounds instead of taking the contact in order to ensure a first down and ultimately the win. His small size means he will mostly line up as a slot in the NFL which means he will need to get more comfortable with contact.
3) Agholor’s yards per reception decreased as his total receptions increased in his junior year. Was he less of a deep threat? Was USC using him differently?
TB: Agholor became the ultimate weapon his Junior year. The offensive scheme used him off motions, seams, in routes, slants, and busted plays. Agholor was given any opportunity he could to get the ball in his hands no matter the route. Agholor was still used as a deep threat for the Trojans but he also was used in the quick game to create separation and blocks for big plays. As Agholor grew in the system he was given a bigger roles and was able to use more than his straight line speed.
NB: During his first two years, Agholor was used more as a deep threat in Lane Kiffin's offense with Marquise Lee operating under him. This season he became the go-to guy in Sarkisian's spread offense, which included much more quick out passes and slant routes. The emergence of JuJu Smith on the outside lessened the need for Agholor to run deep routes, allowing USC to use the All-American in a variety of different ways.
4) Agholor comes off very impressive in his interviews. To what extent was he a good leader?
TB: Agholor's humbling presence gave USC a leader that lead on the field instead of with his mouth. He made big plays and stepped up to the plate when needed which allowed his teammates to rely on him. Not a big talker, Agholor showcased his leadership through being goal driven, passionate, and a hard worker for players to grow and produce around him.
NB: As a freshman, Agholor got to learn from some of the best in Robert Woods and Marquise Lee. In his sophomore year, he made a great step forward going from 19 receptions and 360 yards to 56 receptions and 900 yards. His freshman year played a large role in his development as both a player and a leader. Agholor was very vocal during practices and served as a mentor for younger players such as Adoree' Jackson and JuJu Smith, much of this I attribute to him learning under the likes of Woods and Lee.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
TB: Agholor's career will take off as a dangerous returner on punt and kick off return. He will be used in multiple ways in Chip Kelly's offense as a slot and giving him room to be used as a weapon. Expect Agholor to have a lengthy pro bowl career if he continues to work hard and remain healthy.
NB: Agholor's combination of speed and athleticism all but ensure he will have a strong NFL career. He has the ability to play both the slot and wide position which gives him added versatility. He has had some trouble breaking away from bigger more physical cornerbacks. I see his best fit as embracing a role similar to that of Julian Edelman and Emmanuel Sanders, playing primarily in the middle of the field and utilizing his speed.
Thanks again to Trajuan and Nick. Make sure you check out Conquest Chronicles.