On night one of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Eagles needed to do something to shore up their depleted wide receiver corps. And they did just that, drafting TCU speedster Jaleon Reagor with the 21st overall pick.
That much is certain. But almost everything else surrounding the pick is up for debate.
Put aside for a moment the hour of anguish that was watching CeeDee Lamb fall into the waiting arms of the Dallas Cowboys. When it was finally time for the Eagles to pick, LSU’s Justin Jefferson was still on the board. He and the Eagles had been linked for so long that the ESPN broadcast showed Jefferson on the phone during their broadcast, mistakenly believing he was talking to the Eagles.
Instead, Howie Roseman went with Reagor. In his press conference after the pick, Roseman was asked why they went with Reagor over the wideout who finished last season with 1,540 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
“You’re talking about really good players, and it’s just the fit,” he said. “It’s how the coaches envision these guys being used and what they’re looking for to fit our quarterback skillset. So that was what we were trying to do, find the right fit for the Philadelphia Eagles and where we are as a football team, and be a complement to the other players we think we have on offense.”
At 21, the Eagles were faced with a choice of two “flavors” of receiver — Roseman jokingly compared the choice to ordering donuts. In the end, they decided to get a player who fits how Doug Pederson wants to run the offense, and who best complements Carson Wentz.
So instead of going with Jefferson, who projects as a slot receiver in the NFL, they went with the higher upside of a receiver who can play all over the field (I’m guessing the flavor comp here is a chocolate glazed cake donut).
The Eagles essentially have a bare cupboard at wideout: DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are the big names, but the former only played in three games in 2019, and the expectation is still that Jeffery will be wearing another uniform next season. Last year’s second round pick, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, was a non-factor last season. So drafting for fit is curious when just about any type of receiver will be an upgrade.
But what the Eagles need, more than anything, is speed. It was true in 2019, when the Eagles ranked 29th in average yards per reception with 10.4. It was true in 2018 when Jordan Matthews led the team in yards per reception. And it would have continued to be true in 2020 without an upgrade.
“Everyone had their favorite type [of receiver in this draft,] and there was a lot of debate and discussion, a lot of good players at that position in this Draft,” Roseman said. “But Jalen fit something that we were really looking for. He is an explosive guy, his ability to contribute as a receiver, as a returner, his ability to be explosive with the ball in his hands were all things that we were looking for, and Coach and his staff talked to us as a staff about things that they were really trying to stress.”
This makes sense. With the current roster construction, just about all the Eagles have in their stable of pass catchers is presence in the middle of the field. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dalls Goedert are as good as any positional 1-2 punch in the league, and players like Miles Sanders and Greg Ward can make plays in space.
Speed will always be at a premium in the NFL, and it’s not crazy for the Eagles to get the speedy guy they like early, and worry about filling in the rest of the receiving corps over the weekend.
In his Day Two mock draft, BGN’s Ben Natan suggested double-dipping at receiver with the 53rd pick, this time for a bigger-bodied wideout to complement Reagor. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Eagles brought in another receiver early. Maybe next time, it’ll be a player who fits more in the mold of a possession receiver (say, your classic glazed donut).
The question that will follow Roseman for the next few years, though, is whether the Eagles’ need for speed justifies passing up Jefferson’s production at LSU. Most of the NFL Draft community saw his huge numbers and slotted him as a fit for the Eagles, but Roseman and company clearly saw things differently.
Next season and beyond, it will be up to the Eagles to surround Reagor with complementary talent and show that his playmaking ability truly was more valuable than the idea of a less flashy—but maybe more reliable—receiver.