Things did not go as planned in the first round of the NFL Draft last night. They never do.
In the beginning, it all went according to script until the Jacksonville Jaguars, rumored to be one of the team’s inside the top-15 considering a wide receiver, decided to go with defensive back C.J. Henderson at No. 9. The Jets also said no to taking a wide receiver, going with offensive lineman Mekhi Becton at No. 11. The Raiders took Henry Ruggs at No. 12, while the 49ers traded down to No. 14 and surprisingly went defense, with Javon Kinlaw.
Suddenly, wide receivers were falling a bit further down the board than anyone thought, and the tide began to rise among the Eagles Twitterverse.
Howie might be able to trade up for CeeDee Lamb.
The Broncos took Jerry Jeudy at No. 15. Lamb was still there. Now was the time. While the Cowboys at No. 17 had long been prioritizing a defensive player there, Lamb was still out there. Fear began to grow that Jerry Jones might poach Lamb before the Eagles could get him, an idea I predicted last week (although I suggested it would be Jefferson and not Lamb).
The Falcons were at No. 16. If the Eagles were going to move up, this was the spot. But it didn’t happen. Atlanta made their selection, cornerback A.J. Terrell, and now all of Philadelphia held their breath, waiting to see if Dallas would do the thing.
It can’t happen. No way. If the Cowboys get Lamb, we’re all jumping in the river. WHAT ARE YOU DOING HOWIE???!!!
I can’t say whether the Philadelphia Eagles made the right decision when they chose to keep their pick at No. 21 overall and not beat Dallas to the punch for Lamb. I can’t say whether their decision to stand pat and select TCU burner Jalen Reagor over LSU’s Justin Jefferson a few picks later was the right one. I can’t say whether they could have traded down to get Reagor, although Eagles’ insider Dave Spadaro said the team thought others were ready to snag him quickly.
Scouting report on new Eagle WR Jalen Reagor (RAY-ger): Big-play ability, great in screen game and a threat in return game. #Eagles have been hot on him for a long time. They sweated out whether he would be there at 21. Really wanted his speed and playmaking skills#FlyEaglesFly— Dave Spadaro (@EaglesInsider) April 24, 2020
Very very few mock drafts had Reagor going before 21, but league insiders, folks who watch volumes of college game tape, scout these players and make the NFL Draft their entire living are in a better position than I to say whether Roseman did the right thing last night.
The one thing I can say with certainty is that a big part of Roseman’s legacy will be centered around the decisions he made in the first round this year.
The temptation must have been great for Roseman to trade up and snag a guy who many thought was the best receiver in the draft, as sure of a sure thing as you can get with a wide receiver. But moving up would have likely cost the Eagles their second round pick, a price that Roseman deemed too high, given the other needs on the team.
It’s a defensible position. I would have moved up to get him, but only because I think Lamb was the best wide receiver in a draft filled with good ones. But it was a deep wide receiver draft, with good players still on the board. The big problem was that Roseman’s decision not to move up became an even bigger kick in the pants when Dallas, undoubtedly salivating at their unbelievable good fortune, ditched their plans to draft stud defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson and snapped up Lamb like one of Jerry Jones’ $100 steaks.
Knowing that the Eagles are going to have to face a Dallas offense that has Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Lamb for the foreseeable future is not a fun realization.
Had Dallas not gotten Lamb, had he gone to Jacksonville or Miami or San Francisco or literally anywhere else, Roseman’s decision not to move up would not have caused so much angst. Nevertheless, when it came time for the Eagles’ pick at No. 21, Jefferson, the overwhelming favorite of the vast majority of mock drafts and all those experts on TV, was still available. In a vacuum, things had fallen the Eagles’ way. They didn’t need to trade up to get Jefferson, as some feared.
Instead, to the surprise of most, but not all, they chose Reagor, and it is this particular decision that will shape Roseman’s legacy.
Roseman decided to prioritize speed over everything else, and for sure, Reagor’s game speed is faster than Jefferson’s. The Eagles are banking on the TCU standout to be the next DeSean Jackson or Tyreek Hill, a game-changing force of nature that will allow Wentz to stretch the field and give the offense the speed they so desperately need. And unlike Jefferson, Reagor played almost exclusively on the outside last year, while Jefferson played the slot.
Jefferson would have been the safer pick. He was wildly productive for the national champions last year and had a career game in the national championship game against Alabama. He caught everything thrown his way last season and made plays with the ball in his hands. Virtually every analyst believes Jefferson will be a productive NFL player, one capable of playing on the outside, a guy with star potential. His floor is certainly higher than Reagor’s, and in seasons past, the Eagles probably would have taken the player who was more “productive” in college. But not this year.
Reagor’s upside is probably higher than Jefferson’s, but the floor is also lower. He didn’t pile up the stats last year in the Big 12 (43 catches, 611 yards, 5 TDs), but it’s important to note he was highly productive the season before (72, 1061, 9). Roseman is betting that the drop off in production was due to poor QB play, as most believe it was. But it’s a calculated risk.
Just one pick after Reagor was selected, Minnesota plucked Jefferson to replace Stephon Diggs, and it’s likely he’ll be a highly productive player in the Vikings’ offense. Reagor could also be highly productive in Doug Pederson’s offense, with a hopefully recovered Jackson on the other side of the field, a hopefully recovered Alshon Jefferey in the mix, a hopefully consistent Greg Ward in the slot, and last year’s second round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside hopefully doing something productive.
This could all work. The tandem of Jackson and Reagor on the outside, with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert working the middle of the field and Miles Sanders and Boston Scott running and catching balls out of the backfield could be a terrifying prospect for opposing defenses. It’s a strong possibility that Roseman made the right move, that Reagor was a better fit for Doug Pederson’s offense than Jefferson was.
Hopefully, both players perform well and make their GMs look smart. If Reagor bombs while Jefferson succeeds, Roseman will never hear the end of it, but if Reagor excels, Roseman will rightfully be lauded for a gutsy choice that went against the grain.
That’s part of the deal as an NFL general manager. It comes with the territory, and whatever happens, all three receivers will likely have a chapter unto themselves whenever the next History of the Eagles book is written.