This is a tough wide receiver class to rank because there are so many guys of a similar ability in that middle tier. Anyway, this is how I rank the wide receivers in the 2017 NFL Draft class, based on their fit in the Eagles scheme. Just like with my running back rankings, this list is based on talent only. I can't see off the field problems on film so I ignore them with my rankings but I do obviously keep it in mind in terms of where I would draft someone. Lastly, these are not my top 17 wide receivers either, these are the only 17 I've watched. Let's get to the rankings!
17. Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma: I could be totally wrong on this on Westbrook because I know he's talented but he just looks so small on the field to me. You can obviously be small and succeed in this league but I didn't see him separate much either except on go routes and I can't imagine he can play on the outside at his size. At 23 years old he could be physically maxed out which is concerning, I'd just rather this guy wasn't on my team for numerous reasons.
16. Shelton Gibson, WVU: A one trick pony but he's very good at that one trick. He can release at the line of scrimmage and get downfield extremely quickly and shows great ball tracking skills when the ball is in the air. Considering we haven't seen Torrey Smith do much the past couple of years, taking a chance on Gibson on day 3 makes a lot of sense to me. He would give the offense a vertical threat, but he's extremely raw and isn't a very good route runner at all. He needs a lot of work.
15. Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech: This could be the guy I'm lower on than anyone else. There are people I really respect that like Ford but I hated his film. I thought he showed the ability to separate but I couldn't get over how bad his hands were. Even when he caught the ball it looked unnatural to me. If he can learn to catch the ball better and catch with hands and not his body, I would like him a lot more. He's a day 3 guy to me though.
14. Malachi Dupre, LSU: I see Dupre as a slot receiver only but I think he would fit the Eagles well and I think he could be a steal if he goes on day 3. His short area quickness is concerning but I really liked how he got yards after the catch. He looked shifty and quick with the ball in his hands and the Eagles badly need a guy who can get YAC from the slot position because Jordan Matthews is dreadful with those bubble screens. He is raw though and he needs to improve in a lot of areas before he can contribute to an offense.
13. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State: I view Samuel as a wide receiver and not a running back based on what I saw. Samuel is clearly an explosive athlete and someone who can get YAC due to his running back skills, but I think he has a long way to go before he can start at wide receiver. I doubt he'll ever start on the outside and because he played running back in college he hasn't really developed as a wide receiver. He can beat linebackers when he motions out wide but it's going to be a lot harder to beat slot cornerbacks in the NFL. I can see Samuel being a nice gadget player and someone who you have to manufacture touches for, especially in his first year or two. He has to work on his wide receiver skills though to have a long term role, he needs to catch in traffic better and show the ability to win at the catch point. His best position might be a 3rd down RB who gets 2-3 carries a game and you motion out wide occasionally if he can't develop as a receiver.
12. JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC: This is another guy I'm lower on than most. I think JuJu has a lot of ability but I was scared by his lack of separation at times. He can get off press coverage which is great but he struggled to separate at the top of his routes which concerns me a lot. I do think he will be a good Red Zone threat from day 1 due to his size and release against press coverage. He can also win in contested situations and does a good job keeping his feet in bounds. I do think he'll be successful, I think he has the attitude and ability to find a role on a team. I'm just not sure about his upside.
11. Cooper Kupp, EWU: Speaking of a lack of upside, I see Kupp as a slot guy only but there's nothing wrong with that. Kupp isn't explosive and he certainly isn't the quickest but what he does well is extremely valuable to an offense. Kupp can consistently separate underneath and catches everything within his radius which makes him a great target on 3rd down. He might not put up huge fantasy numbers but I think whoever drafts him will get a reliable player. If the Eagles move on from Jordan Matthews (they should), I would not mind replacing him with Kupp. You need those players that can consistently get you 7 yards on 3rd and 6 and I think Kupp can do that from day 1.
10. Zay Jones, ECU: Based on the tape I saw, Zay Jones is a slot wide receiver. When he tested in the 94th percentile in NFL SPARQ score though, I wondered if I was wrong. Jones is clearly athletic enough to play on the outside but I didn't see it on tape. He needs to show he can get off press coverage if he wants to play on the outside because he struggled in that area. Jones has great reliable hands though and he tracks the ball extremely well. He can work the middle of the field really well and can also catch in traffic. If he improves his release at the line of scrimmage, he could make whoever drafts him extremely happy.
9. Chad Hansen, California: I have Hansen ranked here based on just pure raw ability. Hansen came from an offense where he only ran a few routes and relied mainly on screen passes and vertical routes. Hansen needs to get out of his breaks quicker if he wants to consistently separate in the NFL and he will also have to beat press coverage a lot more consistently. However, Hansen can high point the football extremely well and he has awesome body control, especially when catching along the sideline. I would not expect much from Hansen in year 1, but I think he has the tools to develop into a very good outside receiver. Whoever drafts him is taking a risk and banking on his upside, however. I would take that chance if he fell to the 3rd round without a doubt.
8. Taywan Taylor, WKU: Similar to Zay Jones, Taywan Taylor's combine numbers were excellent and makes me think that he could start on the outside. However, based on the tape he looks like a slot receiver to me. He needs to add more of a vertical element to his game and get off press coverage consistently if he wants to play on the outside. He should be an excellent slot receiver though. He can catch in traffic and win in contested situations over the middle. He has great feet and understands how to separate using head/body fakes really well. He looks extremely fluid in his movement and he showed the ability to get some YAC too.
7. ArDarius Stewart, Alabama: This is one of my guys in this years class. I love this dude. I'm probably ranking him higher than most because I believe the Eagles need a player like Stewart so badly. They really need a wide receiver who can make things happen with the ball in his hands and I believe Stewart can be that guy. He is so good at getting YAC, he glides past people and runs really aggressively too. He wins on screen passes and underneath routes due to his initial burst. He's really fluid and explosive out of his breaks too. He could play the 'Josh Huff' role in this offense from day 1 but be so much better than Huff ever was. But, I don't see Stewart as a gadget player only like Josh Huff. I believe with his talent and fluidity he can play a lot of snaps as a slot receiver and maybe even a bit on the outside, especially in bunch formations where he can avoid press coverage.
6. Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M: Reynolds could be a star. He's tall and extremely lean but he is awesome in contested situations. He has extremely strong hands and high points the football really well. He also has great body control and can dominate smaller corners on the outside. He has experience getting off press coverage but he will need to be more physical with his hands at the line of scrimmage in the NFL. He has quick feet and can separate at the stem of the route as well as at the line of scrimmage. Reynolds upside is sky high in my opinion and he could develop into a really good outside receiver.
5. Chris Godwin, Penn State: Godwin is a stud in contested situations. He reminds me of Alshon Jeffery because he can go up and get the football at its highest point on a consistent basis. He blew up the combine too which was awesome to see. He played solely as the X receiver so he will have to learn to play other positions, but it means he has experience getting off press coverage. He is excellent at separating on out breaking routes, comebacks and go routes. He will fit well with Carson Wentz as Wentz showed last year he has the arm strength and velocity to be able to throw those out breaking routes near the sideline on a consistent basis. Godwin understands how to use his body to shield cornerbacks off too and I think he could develop into a number 1 receiver in the NFL if he keeps progressing.
4. Carlos Henderson, LA Tech: This guy is incredibly fun to watch. He's someone who can make you miss with the ball in his hands and will give you explosive plays. He has great hands too and showed the ability to pluck the ball out the air away from his body and shows good body control. Henderson plays a lot bigger than his size. He has the speed to get deep and can also kill you with underneath stuff due to how good he is with the ball in his hands. He can win on the outside in my opinion because he's so explosive in and out of his breaks and he showed he can win against man coverage. He might take a while to develop in the NFL as he played against a lower competition and didn't see much press but I think he's going to be a star in the NFL. I think Godwin ends up being a better pro than Henderson, but I have Henderson here because I think the Eagles badly need someone like this. If Jeffery wasn't here (I expecting him to be here long time), I would probably have Godwin above Henderson as Godwin's upside is higher. I would take Henderson or Godwin in the 2nd personally and be completely fine with that.
3. John Ross, Washington: The Eagles have lacked speed on offense for years and signing both Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery has given them such much-needed speed. However, you can never have enough speed on offense. Ross is an incredibly good vertical threat and has blazing speed that will scare the life out of opposing cornerbacks. Ross needs to get better at using his hands to separate but he should step in and be a weapon for an offense on day 1. I obviously trust the Eagles medical staff a lot more than what I read online, but I would be incredibly nervous if we took Ross at 14. Personally, considering the position he plays and speed he plays at, his previous knee injuries scare me and for that reason, I wouldn't take Ross at 14 and I would much rather have Henderson/Godwin in the 2nd.
2. Mike Williams, Clemson: Mike Williams has been criticized a lot by certain people due to his inability to separate. This is a valid criticism, but Williams doesn't need to consistently separate. He understands how to get open on the sideline by getting on top of cornerbacks using his hands and body and he has the ability to go up and win in contested situations. Williams reminds me of Alshon Jeffery a lot, but Jeffery has more explosion and vertical speed. Williams is fantastic at going up and get the ball like Jeffery though. He can also go across the middle, catch in traffic and hang in the air a second longer than seems possible. Williams is an interesting fit here because he's so similar to Jeffery, but I would be fine taking him at 14. I think you would need someone faster in the slot than Matthews to make it work and give the offense a vertical threat if you draft Williams at 14, but having Williams and Jeffery on the outside would be a nightmare for opposing cornerbacks.
1. Corey Davis, WMU: Everyone knows Davis is a stud. There isn't much to say that you all don't already know. He can go downfield, go up and get the ball and runs excellent routes. Davis can separate and is explosive in and out of his breaks. He'll need to learn to get off press, but playing opposite Jeffery would give him a chance to avoid press a lot of the time which will help him have a role from day 1. The way he gets yards after the catch is incredible for someone his size, he moves incredibly well. Davis may fall in the draft as he missed the combine and if he somehow falls to the Eagles pick, I would expect Howie to sprint to the podium (or get Joe Douglas to do it). I would take Davis over any other offensive player at 14 (even Christian McCaffrey!).
The Eagles upgraded the WR position big time this offseason. Jeffery should transform the offense and Smith should give them a much-needed deep threat. However, they still have work to do. Jeffery could easily miss time and Smith hasn't done a lot the past few years. I still don't think Matthews fits this offense well and I really think they need someone who can get yards after the catch from the slot. I can't watch Matthews run another bubble screen and get 2 yards. I would love the Eagles to come away with someone who can create explosive plays with the ball in his hands. Another vertical threat also makes a lot of sense. You can never have too many weapons in the modern day NFL. I personally would go into next season expecting absolutely nothing from Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham and counting on them to improve would be a mistake. Finally, as with the running backs, I spoke about all these prospects in further detail and how they would fit with the Eagles on my podcast which you can check out here.
I'll be ranking the cornerbacks that I've watched next week. I'm also considering ranking my top 14 picks for the Eagles in round 1 (all positions) and writing up that just before the draft. If that's something you want to see, let me know below.