Despite the Eagles’ GM Howie Roseman saying the team is happy with the wide receivers they already have on the roster, there’s little doubt that they’ll need to address the position in some capacity during next week’s NFL Draft. Former scout and current NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah spoke on Thursday about why WR evaluation is so difficult, and breaks down a few of the top prospects in this year’s deep class.
“It’s a 31-flavors receiver group this year. You can like a lot of them, but it’s just different flavors. It’s what you’re looking for.”
Here’s what Jeremiah had to say:
On WR evaluation and chance of rookie success
“Well, look, last year was a good year in terms of a bunch of rookies coming in and having a lot of success, but if you look over the last several years, that second- and third-round receiver group has arguably been better than the first-round group.
The challenge in scouting the position is it’s almost like two different games for college and the NFL in terms of what routes you’re asked to run, which are very limited at the college level. You watch a college game on a Saturday, you’re going to see a bunch of slants, hitches and goes. It’s very limited in terms of what they ask them to do, very limited in terms of them having to read coverage and sight adjust their routes. They don’t see very much press coverage so they don’t have to get off press. Now you’re bringing them to the NFL, you’re asking them to get off press coverage, you’re asking them to think on the move and you’re asking them to run a lot of routes they’ve never run before.
There’s a lot of adjustment there, but I think — I give the NFL credit. I think the last couple years we’re seeing the NFL be a little smarter with the transition period for these guys and figuring out ways they can get them on fly sweeps or bubble screens and just get the ball in their hands and let them make plays, simplifying it a little bit while they’re young before they can grow and evolve into everything you want them to do.”
On specific WR prospects
“I have CeeDee Lamb as my top guy because of everything he can do. He can line up outside. He can win versus press coverage with his physicality. He’s unbelievable after the catch. He’s the best after the catch of the receivers in this draft in my opinion. He can break tackles, he can make you miss, he’s ultra competitive. I think a lot of people have hit him on the fact that he played in the Big 12 and that’s glorified 7-on-7, but when you watch him in the games they’ve played and they’ve stepped up in competition against Alabama, he had eight for a buck-09 and a touchdown and then last year you saw him against LSU in that game, he had 4 for 119 in that game. I don’t buy into the fact that he’s a product of the Big 12. But he’s also somebody that can make plays above the rim. He can go up and get the ball down in the red zone. The word that I just keep coming back to him over and over again is just competitive, competitive, competitive. And that’s why I have him as the top receiver.”
“Jerry Jeudy, next for me, is the best route runner in the draft, and that’s obviously very important. He does a lot of his work in the slot. I think that’s where he’s best suited at the next level, although he can play outside, but he wins right now off the line of scrimmage, and he is unbelievable at the top of his route to get in and out of the break point. He does have some drops. I think those are more concentration drops than really worrying about his hands. But that’s an area he needs to clean up, and he can make you miss. He can make you miss after the catch. He’s obviously got good burst but not quite as physical after the catch and not quite as physical at the catch point in terms of going up in traffic and making plays.”
“Everybody knows about the speed, but I think what people lose sight of is this kid has got natural hands. He has outstanding hands. He only dropped one ball this year. He attacks it. He trusts his hands. You think back to some of the speed receivers we’ve seen go in the first round that maybe people thought didn’t live up to the billing, you think about Darrius Heyward-Bey, he couldn’t catch in college. You think Breshad Perriman, his hands were questionable. Ted Ginn, very inconsistent hands. This kid has that type of speed but he catches everything, and he’s extremely tough. He’s just not as polished of a route runner as the other two right now, and that’s something I think he can get better at, but it’s a little bit of that is the curse of speed because when you’re moving that fast, it is hard to get in and out of breaks to gear down. So that’s always going to be a little bit of an issue. But Tyreek Hill has been the comparison for him and that’s the blueprint for how you use him, and I know a lot of teams are looking for this type of player.”
“I think he can [play the outside]. He was almost primarily in the slot this year, but when I look at his size and his skill set, I think he can, and especially down in the red zone. I think he had like, what, 12 red-zone touchdowns this year? So that to me speaks to his ability to hang on the outside and compete out there. He ran 4.43. That’s just not somebody you would say is quicker than fast. This guy is legitimately fast. I think his best spot is in the slot, but I think he’s fully capable of playing outside, and I don’t believe we’ll see Henry Ruggs be there [at No. 21] at that point in time, but it’s the draft; prepare to be surprised.”
“I think he’s got a skill set, first of all, that just about every team is going to covet for what he can do. He’s somebody that reminds me a lot of Godwin, the way he plays, when you watched Godwin come out of college and see what he’s been able to do at the NFL level with the Tampa Bay Bucs, but just very physical. Can play inside, can play outside. You watch the ‘Bama game and what he does on a reverse in that game to a corner should be illegal. Everybody that I’ve talked to at South Carolina, and I’ve talked to a bunch of their coaches about him, just say this kid is a pro. He trains like a pro. He handles himself like a pro. He’s been that way since he got there. He’s my 94th player, so that’s kind of where I see him going in this draft.”
On the expected first round run on WRs
Jeremiah was asked about the Raiders taking a receiver at No. 12, but he mentioned that teams trading up to nab one of the top 5 receivers could change things by the middle of the first round.
“I am fascinated to see what happens in front of them, though, because as it stands, we look at that wide receiver run potentially could start with the Jets at 11 and the Raiders follow that right up at 12.
So as we stand a week out, you’d say, okay, well, the Raiders probably are going to get their first or second choice of receivers if that’s what they elect to do. But I think when it’s all said and done, I would not be shocked at all to see Jacksonville trade out of 9. I know there’s been some conversations from other teams I’ve talked to that say they think that’s a possibility.”