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NFL Draft Mailbag: Finding a slot receiver for the Eagles

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Who could replace Nelson Agholor?

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to this season’s draft mailbag! Every week I am happy to take your draft related questions at BGDMailbag@gmail.com. This week we only got one question, albeit a very good one, so make sure you send inquiries along for next week!

From Davide Tomei:

We hear about Henry Ruggs III, Jalen Reagor, and more so that the Eagles can get some speed on the field. But who is a pure slot receiver that we could pick up in the later rounds? As competent as Greg Ward was, I don’t know that he’s a long-term answer there, and I feel that with Alshon/JJAW, DeSean/Ruggs/Reagor, and a solid — doesn’t have to be top-notch — but solid, pure slot would make a big difference in the offense.

So the Eagles might be going into complete overhaul mode of their wide receiver group. Nelson Agholor is a free agent, Alshon Jeffery might be on the chopping block, JJ Arcega-Whiteside is coming off an abysmal rookie yea, and DeSean Jackson’s health is a big risk factor in 2020.

Greg Ward, in my opinion, deserves a shot this offseason to compete for the starting slot role. Like Davide said, Ward was “competent” in 2019, which is more than basically any of his fellow receivers could be. Ward isn’t some dynamic playmaker, at least we haven’t seen that yet, but there is a lot of value in having dependability at the slot position. The best case scenario with Ward is he becomes a Jarvis Landry type of short catch and YAC player who can be a safety outlet in the offense, hopefully maximized by an improved deep passing game.

However, if the Eagles want to target slot receivers in the draft, there is no reason they should look at “slot only” guys rather guys who can play anywhere but also thrive in the slot when put there. Versatility is huge in Doug’s offense. A receiver who can be moved around and cause mismatches would be massively helpful. Players like Henry Ruggs III, CeeDee Lamb and even Jerry Jeudy could make plays out of the slot if they needed to. That’s partially why they are top tier prospects.

If the Eagles are looking beyond the first round, role players become more viable. Bryan Edwards and Justin Jefferson definitely are short passing game specialists with their ability to find soft spots in zones and exploit them. They have size, physicality, solid athleticism and good vision when they have the ball. In the second or third round, both are definitely intriguing options. Chase Claypool out of Notre Dame is a “big slot” type at 6’5” and nearly 230 pounds. He would be a huge problem matched up on most cornerbacks and safeties.

Florida’s Freddie Swain is a potential late round guy who I think could make an impact. He is a quick, sure handed player who thrived in a slightly anemic Florida offense. Swain will surprise people how he tests and I expect a slight uptick in his draft stock in the coming weeks.