While it is hard to pinpoint that many glaring needs on the Eagles roster, it is worth noting some prospects Eagles fans should be interested in heading into the season. As we get closer to the beginning of college football, I want to highlight some of the more intriguing prospects in the country. First, we'll start with a playmaker out of Stillwater, Oklahoma
Name: James Washington
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Oklahoma State
Measurements: 5-11, 205 Pounds
2016 Stats: 71 Catches, 1380 Yards, 10 Touchdowns
James Washington is arguably one of the most explosive offensive players in the country, especially among draft eligible wide receivers. Washington, heading into his senior season, holds the school record for career yards per reception and has averaged about 20 yards per catch over the last two years. And it isn't like he is a low volume/high efficiency player either; In those two years, Washington averaged that ridiculous yards per catch average over 124 catches and scored 20 touchdowns in the process. He is a massive big play threat.
When people see a high yards per reception, the immediate assumption is big time speed. While Washington isn't a slow receiver by any measure, speed is not his trump card. Rather he is a savvy route runner who does a great job releasing off the line and is incredibly gifted at the catch point. His ability to locate the ball in the air and pluck it out of the sky, regularly miraculously contorting his body to do so, is unlike most receivers that have come out of college football in recent memory.
After being burned on the first play of the game for a 91 yard touchdown, this cornerback is holding on for dear life in order to prevent getting roasted by Washington again. Despite the defender's best efforts, Washington is still able to secure the catch. His toughness and physicality at the catch point is his defining trait as a player and will ease his translation to the NFL.
Washington is not *just* a deep threat, however. He is a quick twitch player who can secure the ball and immediately transition to gain yards after the catch. He has very impressive vision, open field agility and toughness as a runner for a wide receiver. Factor in that he loses almost no speed between securing the ball and running after the catch and you have an incredibly dynamic player who can threaten at all levels of the field.
Washington is a very appealing player for a lot of reasons and his drawbacks are not that big. The biggest concerns that show up (or don't rather) is that the OK State offense is rather simplistic from a route perspective and the amount of contested situations Mason Rudolph targets Washington in mean that there is a high chance of drops. While learning a more complex route tree cans surely affect a learning curve in the NFL, Washington has the agility to be a truly deadly route runner in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Steve Smith
Why should Eagles fans be interested?
With Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson and a reportedly revitalized Nelson Agholor in the fold, it doesn't seem immediately obvious that the Eagles should still be in the market for a wide receiver. Well, despite the optimism (which I also hold) for the Eagles offense, there are a lot of variables that could go wrong. Alshon has been injury prone in his career and he is also on a one year deal. Torrey Smith is a few years removed from his best play. Jordan Matthews has never proved to be anything more than a number two receiver at best and he is a free agent after this season. Shelton Gibson and Mack Hollins are both day three rookies and the Nelson Agholor optimism could just be offseason fair dust. Not to burst any bubbles, but there is some insecurity to the Eagles wide receiver situation so there is certainly nothing wrong with keeping an eye out on a guy like James Washington this season.
What games will be pivotal for Washington?
Playing in the Big 12, there is never much resistance from defenses within the conference. Luckily for Washington, the only out of conference games the Cowboys have on their schedule are a week one match up with Tulsa and a match up the following week with South Alabama. Since these are not juggernauts by any measure, Washington's biggest tests will likely come against the new look Texas longhorns on October 21st in Austin and the November fourth matchup against the Oklahoma Sooners in Stillwater.
Washington has taken a statistical jump every season, so expect the 2016 All Big 12 player to ascend once again in his senior season. He will contend for the Biletnikoff Award and should be in the conversation for the top wide receiver in the class next spring.