Previously in profiling how 2020 NFL Draft wide receiver prospects fit with the Philadelphia Eagles — Jerry Jeudy | Henry Ruggs III | CeeDee Lamb | Tee Higgins. Today we’re looking at Justin Jefferson.
Recent rumors indicate Justin Jefferson is a favorite to end up in Philadelphia and people seem to be split on that. In 2019, the LSU receiver had the most catches of any top receiver (111) and the most touchdowns (18). Jefferson followed up his incredible season with a great combine performance where the 6’1”, 203 pounder ran a 4.43 40 yard dash and broad jumped over 10 feet. There is no question about Jefferson’s athleticism or ability to produce, so why is he so polarizing. Well, Jefferson only caught six passes last year lined up outside in 2019. LSU might have ran the offense through Jefferson, but he was getting his numbers out of the slot.
Is that a problem? Well, the question is whether or not Jefferson is what the Eagles need. Everyone and their mother wants Philly to add someone who can threaten on the outside and stretch the field, so while Jefferson is a very good prospect, the wonder is if he actually helps the Eagles. There is little doubt about Jefferson’s ability to contribute as a slot receiver and do so at a high level. Like at LSU, Jefferson will quickly become a quarterback’s best friend. He not only has dependable hands and toughness to make catches in traffic, he is also an incredibly smart player who knows how to attack soft spots in the middle of a defense.
It is actually quite easy to see Jefferson put up great numbers in Philadelphia. Carson Wentz showed last year that he is extremely good at throwing to the middle of the field and working as an intermediate passer. That ability was largely why the Eagles offense was able to survive the season despite not having any viable threats downfield. So replace Greg Ward Jr. or Nelson Agholor’s impact with Justin Jefferson and you have quite a dynamic short passing game.
It is rare that a passing game can be built from the short game outwards, but in the case of the Eagles; they could be an exception to the rule with Jefferson in the fold. The combination of Ertz, Goedert, Sanders and Jefferson as short and intermediate pass catching threats would actually be pretty overwhelming for the average NFL defense. That is a lot of size, speed and quickness for any combination of linebackers, safeties and slot cornerbacks to deal with. If Jefferson can immediately contribute as a slot receiver, which he should, the Eagles could have a mid-2010s Patriots style passing game with all the weapons they’d have to attack the middle field.
All those options for the Eagles to throw too would force defenses to try to crowd the middle of the field and create single matchups downfield for whomever the Eagles line up on the outside. This is an inverse of what most NFL teams try to achieve, but the Eagles are uniquely equipped to make this work if Jefferson does end up in Philadelphia.
Should the Eagles draft Justin Jefferson?
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