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Don’t expect a turnaround by Nelson Agholor

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Bad players stay bad

Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

A somewhat recurring theme this offseason has been the potential of Nelson Agholor finally playing like the player he was drafted to be.

There is no reason to believe this.

Comparisons to players like Jordy Nelson, who spent three years as a backup, are misleading. Players who have played as much as Agholor has in their first two years and have been as unproductive as he has don’t pan out. As we pointed out earlier in the year:

in a ten year period from 2005 to 2014, only seven WRs have started at least 16 games (Agholor has started 26) in their first two years and caught less than 60 passes: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Arrelious Benn, Stephen Hill, Brandon Jones, T.J. Graham and Keary Colbert.

The best player in that group is Heyward-Bey, who has some lasting power due to his speed. He’s caught just 59 passes over the last four years. If you up the threshold to 70 receptions, you only add Mohamed Sanu and Mohamed Massaquoi. It’s not an encouraging list, nor is it if you use receiving yards as the measuring stick.

Nelson Agholor is not an unknown player. Despite being benched for a game, he led Eagles WRs in snaps in 2017, and in 2016 he was second even though he missed three games with injury. He’s played a lot for a second year receiver. Of WRs drafted in 2015, only Amari Cooper has played more snaps.

Player Snaps
Amari Cooper 1898
Nelson Agholor 1551
Jamison Crowder 1516
Stefon Diggs 1348
Tyler Lockett 1221
Dorial Green-Beckham 1219
DeVante Parker 1203
Chris Conley 1186
Phillip Dorsett 1006

The deeper you dig, the worse it gets. His catch rate has been consistent: 52.3% in 2015, 52.2% in 2016, which is an extremely poor rate. Agholor was one of the worst receivers with the ball in his hands last year (Jordan Matthews was even worse, but he wasn’t in 2015, though Agholor didn’t qualify). His longest reception is 53 yards and is his only play of over 40 yards. Among receivers with at least 50 receptions over the past to seasons, his average of 11.0 yards per reception over the last two seasons is 83rd.

There’s no precedent for a player who has played as much as Agholor has suddenly becoming a good one. He might be better off as a slot receiver, but the Eagles have a superior one in Jordan Matthews. If the wide receiver situation plays out as planned, Agholor is the fourth receiver on the depth chart, and could end the season at the bottom. There aren’t many opportunities for fourth string WRs to make an impact.

Which is good for the Eagles, because Nelson Agholor has been one of the worst starting WRs in the league. It would take an unrealistic improvement for him to become even an average player. Outliers happen, but predicting them is next to impossible. Keep expectations for Agholor in 2017 extremely low.