clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Early on, Eagles passing on Justin Jefferson to draft Jalen Reagor is looking like a mistake

Let’s talk about these two rookie wide receivers.

Tennessee Titans v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Let’s get this disclaimer out of the way at the top: it’s obviously very early into their careers and there’s plenty of time for things to change.

But, early on, there’s no denying that the Philadelphia Eagles passing on Justin Jefferson to select Jalen Reagor with the No. 21 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft is looking like a big mistake.

It was hard not to think as much during the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 10 win on Monday Night Football while Jefferson went over 100 receiving yards for the fourth time in just nine games this season.

It’s really not hyperbole to say that Jefferson is already one of the NFL’s best receivers. He ranks first overall in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and DYAR metrics. He ranks second overall in Pro Football Focus grading.

Jefferson’s 54 targets have resulted in:

  • 42 receptions (20th among wide receivers)
  • 762 yards (6th)
  • 18.3 yards per reception (tied for 2nd with D.K. Metcalf)
  • 6.6 yards after catch per reception (4th)
  • 3 touchdowns (tied for 28th)
  • 2 drops

Jefferson has clearly debunked the myth that he’s merely a slot receiver (43rd in slot percentage) or simply just a product of getting to play with Joe Burrow in LSU’s high-powered offense.

Reagor’s numbers obviously don’t compare, in part because he missed five games due to injury. But availability is part of the equation.

Reagor’s 21 targets have resulted in:

  • 12 receptions (109th)
  • 159 yards (105th)
  • 13.3 yards per reception (43rd)
  • 4.5 yards after catch per reception (45th)
  • 1 touchdown (tied for 79th)
  • 1 drop

Reagor also ranks 100th out of 112 receivers graded by PFF this season. Some of his struggles were recently on display in the Eagles’ loss to the New York Giants.

It’s important to note that the criticism of taking Reagor over Jefferson isn’t limited to hindsight. It’s easy to get caught up in results-oriented thinking when there should instead be more focus on the process (shoutout to Sam Hinkie). There was plenty of reason to think the Eagles shouldn’t have passed on Jefferson to take Reagor at the time.

Bleeding Green Nation made the case for Jefferson on multiple occasions before the draft.

From April 16th:

The Eagles did … literally nothing … to address their dire wide receiver situation through free agency, so the team MUST address the position early in the draft.

Justin Jefferson isn’t the most ideal fit in that he isn’t the explosive burner that Philly could really afford to add. But the Eagles don’t *just* need to add speed; they need good receivers, period, and there’s a lot to like about Jefferson’s profile.

He only turned 21 in January, he boasts an elite relative athletic score, he produced at a high level for a national champion in 2019, he has experience playing both the slot and outside, and he has a revered work ethic. Jefferson checks a lot of boxes and that’s important for an Eagles team that’s regularly failed to draft and develop receiver talent since Howie Roseman first came to power in 2010.

There are rarely sure things in the draft, but Jefferson feels like an especially reasonable bet. He could be a reliable weapon for Wentz for years to come.

From April 22nd:

Is [Jefferson] the most ideal fit in a perfect world? No, he’s not the burner the Eagles could really afford to add. But the Eagles don’t just need pure speed. They also need some receivers who are just legitimately good players and everything about Jefferson’s profile suggests he’ll be able to make a successful transition to the NFL. His projection should be valued by an Eagles team that’s regularly failed to draft and develop receiver talent under Howie Roseman. Given the barren state of the receiving corps, Philly can’t afford another flat out bust. Jefferson is a high floor, high ceiling prospect. Adding him to the roster would give Carson Wentz a receiver who’s actually reliable ... unlike Agholor.

Unfortunately, Roseman ignored our sage advice. He seemingly got too obsessed with “fit” and speed instead of focusing on just drafting a really good talent. Concerning to see so much focus on “need.”

Former Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah, who has a good relationship with Roseman, even had the following to say after the Reagor pick:

The Vikings were also pretty stoked when the Eagles passed on Jefferson. Watch the disbelief from Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman here:

Ouch.

Let’s make this clear: this post isn’t suggesting Reagor is a total bust and there’s no hope for him. Reagor did some nice things in training camp and he’s flashed some big play ability. He’s only 21 years old and he seems like a hard-working kid who genuinely wants to improve. Perhaps Reagor would even be posting bigger numbers than he is right now if he wasn’t saddled with (yet another) struggling quarterback.

But it’s also not a foregone conclusion that Reagor will actually be good. I mean, are we really just going to assume the GM who drafted J.J. Arcega-Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf definitely got this pick right? It’s possible Reagor could be the latest example of Roseman’s poor track record when it comes to drafting receivers.

Even if Reagor does turn out to be good, it’s not like the Eagles’ selection was made in a vacuum. There’s absolutely opportunity cost to consider. If Jefferson turns out to be a bonafide star while Reagor is merely a nice player, that’s still a bad look for a front office that has a reputation of not drafting well enough. Even more so when the Eagles’ offseason plan at receiver involved eschewing veteran options like DeAndre Hopkins to only rely on getting a total stud at No. 21.

Which, so far, the Eagles have not gotten. And the Vikings have.

Poll

Which wide receiver should the Eagles have drafted at No. 21?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Jalen Reagor
    (319 votes)
  • 86%
    Justin Jefferson
    (2083 votes)
2402 votes total Vote Now