Every year, the NFL Network makes their top draft analyst available to reporters via conference call directly ahead of the NFL Combine. Mike Mayock used to handle these duties but now it’s former Philadelphia Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah who shares his insight on various prospects.
Jeremiah’s a sharp dude so it’s always interesting to get his perspective. And especially so when it specifically comes to the Eagles because Jeremiah used to work under Howie Roseman in Philly and alongside Andy Weidl in Baltimore. Ergo, Jeremiah has familiarity with how the Eagles’ personnel decision makers think.
Unsurprisingly, Jeremiah was asked multiple questions about the Eagles and their glaring needs at both wide receiver and cornerback. Let’s take a look at what all he had to say.
DANIEL JEREMIAH: [...] “I’ve got 27 wide receivers with top 3-round grades in this draft. And consider average 31 are taken. We had a max of 35 taken in, I believe that was in 2017. So this is a really phenomenal group of wideouts. Not all those guys are going to go early. They’ll end up spreading throughout the draft. But it’s really a good group. Really good at corner, really good at running back. When you look at some positions, maybe not quite as deep — tight end, edge rusher and linebacker, just a little bit of a shallow group there.” [...]
Q. You mentioned the wide receiver class and how impressive it is. The Eagles were obviously in the market for one. You would think this year. When you look at the area they’ve picked, the low 20s there, 21, which players do you anticipate will be available? And which of those guys kind of fits what they do and would make the most sense?
DANIEL JEREMIAH: Well, they could use all different styles of receivers, when you talk about getting a Z or an X slot. Like, I think they would prefer to have the speed, which is Jerry Jeudy. I don’t anticipate that —not Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs. Jeudy will be long gone. I assume that Henry Ruggs will be long gone as well. But that to me, if you were to say home run pick for the Eagles, who is it, it’s Henry Ruggs, just because of how much speed and juice he would give to that offense.
But I think Justin Jefferson has got a chance to be a high, high volume slot receiver a lot like Keenan Allen, can fill that role, can work in traffic. He’s really good down in the red zone. He led the — he led this entire draft class with touchdowns down in the red zone this year at 12. So, he’s a point producer and he would be a great fit for them.
I love Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State. I think he’s a stud. He’s tough, competitive, run-after-catch guy. Needs a little polish, but can return as well. So has some value there.
And you get into Tee Higgins, who I think will probably be there, who is really tall, long and rangy. You hope you’re drafting A.J. Green. I don’t think he’s on that level but that’s the style with which he plays. There’s a little bit of concern with him just getting off press. Some of the better competition they played later in the year he struggled a little bit with that.
I would say that group of wide receivers is probably be the ones they’ll be staring at.
Q. You brought up the Eagles needing a wide receiver earlier in the first round. But they also need help at cornerback. Who are a couple of guys that you would peg on maybe day two to kind of address the cornerback need or the safety needs that they have?
DANIEL JEREMIAH: It’s a good group. When you start getting to day two, look, you’ve got a guy like A.J. Terrell from Clemson, who’s real tall, lean, real fluid. He’s somebody that plays a variety of techniques there. A really good blitzer coming off the boundary too, which would be fun for Jim Schwartz to play with a little bit.
But he can be a little sticky when he has to work back downhill. But he’s a tall, long, athletic corner. I think he’s a late 1, early 2, could end up slipping a little bit in the second round, see what happens.
Damon Arnette, I love Damon Arnette. He’s twitched up from Ohio State. He can find and play the ball. He’s a little bit tight, but you can play him in press. He’s somebody, I think, is going to go in the second round.
Jeff Gladney from TCU, kind of he’s got some similarities to a Denzel Ward. Just undersized, real feisty. He plays off. He’s real fluid, very aware. I’ve watched the Iowa State game, one of the games I flipped on with him, it was a war watching him go up against that wide receiver. He’s another one in that range.
The one that I think is going to go in the second round that’s fascinating to me is the corner from Auburn, [Noah] Igbinoghene. I’m going to get that name right when we get to the Combine. I’m sure I just butchered it. But he’s one that’s really explosive. A former wide receiver. He was a track guy. They moved him to corner. Really, really ultra twitched up.
But he struggles to play the football. And that to me is my concern. He doesn’t have any interceptions. He’s always in phase, in the right position. And especially in the LSU and Alabama games, he just struggled to find and play the ball. So I think he’ll get drafted in the second round based off traits, but there’s still some development to take place there.
And another name I would just throw in the mix would be Diggs. We’ll see what happens with Diggs from Alabama who has got some Aqib Talib-type skills. But the question is just pure deep speed. But real fluid. Obviously Stefon’s brother there, the wide receiver with the Vikings. Former wide receiver, kickoff returner. Really skilled athlete. The question is just how is his deep speed and he’s just okay as a tackler.
It’s a good group. If you want to take a corner in the second round, that’s the list of names you would be choosing from. And I think there’s a lot of good players in that group.
Q. My question is Eagles related. Someone asked earlier about like defensive backs in the second round. I guess my question is like how do you balance the fact that obviously they need a wide receiver and a defensive back with maybe thinking there might be more depth at at wide receiver in the second round? Like, if you’re Howie Roseman how do you go about figuring all that out?
DANIEL JEREMIAH: I think first of all we’ve got to go with agency, we’ll see. If they end up making a move to free agency at one of those positions, then that could free up. I think when you look at the free agent group, I think it would be more likely to get a corner in free agency which would really free them up to take big-time impact receiver in the first round.
So that to me will go a long way in figuring out what the heck they’re going to do with their first-round pick. I think there’s a good pool of — there’s a great pool of receivers to choose from outside the first round. And I think even corner-wise, going through that list of names we went through a little earlier, there’s guys that will come in and start and help the team right away.
I think it’s a situation you’re true to your board, who do you have the higher grade on. I don’t think you have to play the supply-and-demand game if you’re the Eagles because those two positions I think you’ll be happy with what you get in both rounds. Just take the higher-rated player in the first round.
Q. You were just talking about the 40. I wanted to ask you about Henry Ruggs and just your evaluation of him overall and how much do you think, and impressive showing, record-breaking showing even. 4.2, 4.21, could do for his draft stock next couple of months?
DANIEL JEREMIAH: Everybody’s talked about who will be the first receiver taken, is it going to be [Jerry] Jeudy or is it going to be CeeDee Lamb. I actually — I firmly believe Henry Ruggs is in that discussion. I think it’s a three-man race to be the first receiver.
I think he’s going to absolutely fly. Everybody knows it’s coming. He’s still going to do it. I think the second number will be a 2. I don’t know what the third number will be. But he’s the closest thing to Tyreek Hill that I’ve seen, since Tyreek Hill entered the league.
And just looked like he’s been on a different speed than everybody else. This kid does the same thing. He’s so sudden off the line of scrimmage. It’s instant death for corners. He’s just by them and it’s over. You can use him on the jet sweep stuff. You can use him on kickoff return. I love watching him as a gunner on punt. Shows just how tough he is.
And the thing that nobody talks about, the production for these Alabama kids, it’s all somewhat limited because it’s the best wide receiver corps I’ve ever seen in college football, because as good as these kids are with Ruggs and Jeudy, when you watch 17, [Jaylen] Waddle, who wasn’t draft eligible, that dude is a freak. He can fly. DeVonta Smith, a lot of us were surprised he didn’t come out. He’s a burner. Four legit first-round players at the receiver position. Some of the production doesn’t blow you away, but Ruggs only dropped one ball. A lot of times, when you get these speed guys, you get inconsistent hands. This kid’s got great hands and he can fly. Now, he’s not nearly as polished when you’re talking about his teammate Jerry Jeudy as a route runner.
I am willing to bet if you went and polled the 32 defensive coordinators in the NFL, gave them the video of the top three receivers, said which of these guys do you not want in your division, I would be willing to bet a lot of money that Henry Ruggs would get the most votes. That’s the guy you do not want to face. That’s why I believe it’s not over who will be the first receiver. It’s nota two-man race; it’s a three-man race.
Q. I was going to ask you if you had 27 wide receivers with at least a grade of 1 through 3, can you tell me how many were Big 12 receivers and maybe give a rundown of some of those guys?
DANIEL JEREMIAH: Sure. Well we start with CeeDee Lamb. He’s my top receiver. He’s outstanding. And I think we all know about that one, that’s an easy one. I can go through just give you the names here and I can circle back.
CeeDee Lamb is up there. I have Jalen Reagor from TCU, big time-time speed. And [Denzel] Mims similar to Tee Higgins at Baylor. And I’ve got both Texas kids in there — [Devin] Duvernay and Collin Johnson — they’re kind of at the bottom of that group, but that’s the guys I have there from the Big 12. So kind of just going through them.
When you look at — when you look at who I think is the best receiver in the draft, CeeDee Lamb, he’s just so tough. You can play him inside/outside. He wins 50/50balls. He breaks a zillion tackles. The PFF numbers on that, I’ve got them floating around here, I’ll have it at the Combine. PFF does a great job on that stuff, those types of stats, like forced tackles, broken tackles, he is way, way up there in those numbers. What he gives you after the catch is just outstanding. He’s a really good football player.
With Reagor, he’s somebody, I think one of the things people are trying to find in this draft is your version of Tyreek Hill. He’s not as fast as Tyreek Hill, but he’s going to run in the 4.3s, and he can take the top off coverage. You can use him on the jet sweeps, get the ball to him in the flat and just let him go. He can play over the top. The knock on him, he’s got a good number of drops. So he’s got to clean that up.
Denzel Mims from Baylor, I think he’s got a chance to really end up being one of the best receivers in the draft. And we’ll see where he ends up. But he’s almost 6’3”, 206 pounds. He’s another one — he wins at the line of scrimmage. He is just so smooth and athletic, he’s got some acrobatic catches, a lot of contested catches, just real athletic. And after the catch, he’s just kind of a slippery, smooth, make-you-miss player. He’s not the most physical player. But I think he’s a second-round pick all day long with how he plays. We’ll see where he ends up going and what he ends up doing.
And the two Texas kids, Duvernay, one of the most productive slot receivers in the draft. That was a great move for him. I love the story when you do your homework on him and find out that the players went to the coaching staff and thought he should have been a captain in the middle of the season, so they ended up making him a captain. That says a lot about him and his work ethic and character. He’s got big-time track speed, another one. And he’s going to be a bubble screen, fly sweep, just get him the ball and also help you as a kick returner.
And Collin Johnson, he’s like Goliath out there, almost 6’6”, 221 pounds. He’s a strider. He’s real fluid, but he’s going to have a little bit of a tough time just getting off press consistently, and I think when you watch the TCU game and see Gladney, who is a really good corner, he got into him a little bit there, he just has so much surface area that he gives up to DBs. He’s going to have to continue to work on that. I thought he had a good Senior Bowl week. And I think, in a normal year he’s a third-round pick, but who knows where that could happen this year just because there’s so many of these guys.
- It really is convenient for the Eagles to be needing a receiver in a year where the class is perceived to be so deep. It’s also a little traumatizing after previously hearing how loaded running back was in 2017 and defensive line was in 2019 but the Eagles only ended up with Donnel Pumphrey and Shareef Miller, respectively. Methinks the Eagles shouldn’t (or will) wait on drafting a receiver just because the class is deep.
- Jeremiah has emphasized that the Eagles really need speed. (Smart man!)
Eagles offseason objective: add speed— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) November 17, 2019
It’s not shocking to see he thinks Ruggs will be off the board at No. 21. It does surprise me he thinks a “possession receiver” like Jefferson could be in play for the Eagles’ first-round pick. There is some truth to the sentiment the Eagles don’t ONLY need speed at receiver. But they’ve devalued that attribute for too long and it’s resulted in having one of the league’s slowest offenses. They can’t just keep making exceptions there. The goal should be to have an abundance of speed, like the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers do. I’ve only typed this sentiment a billion times by now so I realize like I sound like a broken record. It’s important, though!
- DJ has Jefferson at No. 16 overall in his new top 50 prospect rankings. Here’s what he wrote:
Jefferson is a tall, slender wideout with off-the-charts production. He lines up in the slot and out wide. He is an outstanding route runner. He does a nice job getting on the toes of cornerbacks and then creating separation out of the break point. He does a lot of work in traffic and will extend and finish before taking hard contact. He can play above the rim down the field and can contort his body to make special catches. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he’s plenty fast enough. After the catch, he has some wiggle and will fight for extra yards. Overall, Jefferson is a polished receiver and should make an immediate impact at the next level.
- DJ seems higher on Aiyuk than others; he has the Arizona State receiver at No. 20 on his top 50. Higgins, meanwhile, is down at No. 30 despite being a popular mock draft target for the Eagles.
- Day 2 definitely seems like the sweet spot for the Eagles to draft a corner, especially after they make some free agent signings at that spot. Here’s how the corners that DJ mentioned rank in his top 50: Terrell at No. 35, Arnette at No. 36, and Diggs at No. 45. Gladney dopped out of the top 50 after previously being listed at No. 43. Keep in mind the Eagles will pick at No. 53 in the second round.
- Last year at this time, DJ suggested Darrell Henderson and Devin Singletary as running back options for the Eagles. Philly passed on both of those options to go with Miles Sanders instead. Point being, Jeremiah isn’t necessarily going to give all of Howie’s secrets away ... if he even knows them.
- You can listen to DJ’s entire conference call by [clicking here] or using the player below: