A big problem for the Eagles' offense the last two seasons has been the absolute lack of vertical element to the offense. The Eagles have not had the ability to stretch the field consistently and that has had a negative residual impact on the rest of the offense. When the defense clamps down and shortens the field, it makes it more difficult to run the ball and more difficult to get those short passes that are so fundamental to a West Coast offense.
For a guy like Jordan Matthews, who has been getting most of his work in that 5-15 yard range in the field, his impact is limited when safeties are constantly playing up to stop him from catching the football or creating YAC, something he was so good at his rookie year when Jeremy Maclin was able to stretch the field.
For a younger quarterback, these compressed saves in the short area of the field will lead to more mistakes. Wentz, unlike *some* quarterbacks the Eagles have had recently, is not afraid to go down the field with the ball and trust his receivers to make plays. The annoying thing is that the receivers aren't taking advantages of the chances Wentz is giving them.
In these times of desperation, the hopeful fan (myself included) look to college football to an answer to our deep threat woes. Upon looking, a great big smile spreads across my face at the abundance of NFL deep threat talent that the draft could potentially offer. When looking at deep threats, there are a lot of components that could dictate a players ability to make plays down the field.
Of course, there is absolute speed and acceleration that allow guys to fire off the line and gan immediate separation and then burn after the catch. Players like Brandin Cooks, Desean Jackson and Sammie Coates come to mind in this archetype.
Then there are players who are certainly fast, but are gaining separation down the field on subtle movements and overall savvy route running. Players like Amari Cooper, Steve Smith Sr. and Eric Decker are guys who definitely are good athletes, but are winning more on route running savvy.
Then there are the big guys who do not have mind numbing speed or formula one quickness, rather they are just so good at the catch point that throwing them contested catches down the field will likely yield a big play; Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans and prime Vincent Jackson are that type of aggressive, "my ball" types of player.
Of course, there are the NFL prototypes like Odell Beckham Junior, Julio Jones and AJ Green who do it all at the position, but those are rare types of players in terms of having absolutely perfect skill sets for the position.
So, with all of that in mind, what kind of deep threats does the college football game have to offer?
John Ross, Washington: Ross is your classing outrun a cheetah type of deep threat. His legitimate 4.3 speed can burn cornerbacks deep and he does a great job hitting the jets with the ball in his hands. On top of being a speed demon, the 5-11, 190 pounder has very good route running ability. Looking at Ross, I see the classic type of receiver that Andy Reid, and likely Doug Pederson would fall for in their offense. His seeps is mouthwatering and I could see him be a guy a deep threat needy team will target in the top 50 of the NFL draft.
Taywan Taylor, WKU: A bit of an unheralded name, Taywan Taylor has caught 25 touchdowns in his last 20 games. On top of being a scoring machine, the 6-1, 195 pound receiver is an athletic freak with speed and incredible vertical skills. He is a bit raw and the offense he is in does not ask him to do much, but when looking at guys with skill sets to become NFL prototypes, Taylor stands out.
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma: Over the last three weeks, Dede Westbrook has put up 600 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. This is amazing production that he is consistently putting it up now that he is healthy. The 6-0, 175 pound receiver is a bit undersized, but his speed is incredible. Westbrook, besides being a speed guy, is a savvy route runner with dependable hands and an ability to make contested catches. If he can stay healthy, there is no reason Westbrook cannot be a high pick and make an impact in the NFL as an all around receiver, especially downfield.
Corey Davis, WMU: Corey Davis may very well be the best receiver in this class. The 6-3, 220 pounder has incredible size at the position, but he is a lot more than just a big body. The MAC touchdown machine has speed, great route running ability, strong hands and an ability to run after the catch. He can do everything at the position, including absolutely having an ability to stretch the field. It will be interesting how aggressive the Eagles will be in pursuing a player like this on draft day, because Davis is worthy of a top fifteen pick, no question.
James Washington, Oklahoma State: Since last season, James Washington has been one of my favorite players in the country. The six footer does not have incredible size or speed, but his route running ability is as good as there is in college football. His ability to separate through his breaks and also track the ball in the air make him a threat to make a play on any given down. He will take a bit more of a leap of faith given his lack of elite speed, but he will absolutely be a dynamic player in the NFL with his skill set.
Those are some of my favorite deep threats in college football, but there are some other ones to keep a close watch on as well, like these four:
- Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse
- Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
- Jalen Robinette, Air Force
- Courtland Sutton, SMU