The more I think about the 2020 NFL Draft class that Howie Roseman picked this year, the more I start to realize how big of a job the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff has this year and moving forward.
Developing rookies is nothing new for a positional coach. The job of a coach is to develop young players and improve their game. Figuring out how to use rookies is also nothing new for a Head Coach or a Coordinator. However, some players enter the league with obvious skills and traits that fit the NFL and do not require as much development as others. This Eagles draft class, in particular the earlier picks, are extremely talented athletes but a huge amount of their success will come down to whether or not the Eagles coaching staff and Doug Pederson can utilize their strengths while developing their weaknesses.
This article is not an anti-Roseman piece. I am a huge fan of Howie Roseman and this piece is not intended to blame him, rather highlight the huge amount work that is required to make this draft class a success.
I am not going to provide a scouting report for each player, I’m sure you guys have read and watched enough of each player to form your own opinions. I am going to break down a few players though and highlight what the coaching staff needs to do with them.
Jalen Reagor - Round 1
Anyone who follows me on Twitter or read my last two articles on BGN know that I preferred Reagor over Justin Jefferson. I think the former has a higher upside and provides the Eagles with an explosive element which is so important. However, I think it is very fair to point out that Jefferson will require far less development and is a safer prospect. There is no real debate as to how to use Jefferson or where he best fits. He is a slot receiver who needs to be used in the short to intermediate game and not vertically. He is a really easy evaluation and projection to an NFL offense.
Jalen Reagor is more of an enigma. Not in terms of his talent, that is obvious. I am talking about his role in the offense. Reagor profiles as a ‘Z’ receiver where he can avoid press but that role with be played by DeSean Jackson (if healthy) next year a lot of the time. For some reason, TCU barely ever played Reagor in the slot last year. His skill set should work in the slot easily, but the Eagles need to consider if they want Reagor to be ‘Z’ and a slot receiver. This will require him to learn 2 positions but it makes sense if they want to get him on the field.
The huge question I have about Reagor is - can he play ‘X’ for the Eagles? The only receiver I think who can lineup and play ‘X’ right now is Alshon Jeffery and he may not even be on the roster next season. JJ Arcega-Whiteside struggled badly last year with press so I don’t think he’s an obvious starter there. I think the Eagles will try teach Reagor all 3 positions next year and hope that in an ideal world he can play as the ‘X’ receiver. This will require a lot of work from new receivers coach Aaron Moorehead and I am fascinated to see how it will work out.
Jalen Hurts - Round 2
I am not going to debate here whether this was a good or bad pick as we have all done that enough by now and we can’t change what happened. However, I think an underrated element of this pick is how much work Doug Pederson has to do with Hurts before he is good enough to be the backup QB. If Pederson cannot develop Hurts then this is going to look like an awful pick by Howie Roseman. What makes this more tricky for Pederson is that his focus will not be on Hurts. His main focus will still be Carson Wentz. This isn’t a situation like Sam Bradford and Wentz where all the focus will be on the rookie. It’s the opposite.
So far, I have read that Jalen Hurts will be developed as a backup quarterback, play the Taysom Hill role, line up in a 2QB offense. Oh, and play running back. That all will not happen obviously. It is going to be so difficult to develop Hurts (who needs a lot of work in key areas like throwing with anticipation, his mechanics and getting through his reads) as a standard quarterback while also getting him ready to run a few package plays each week. It is a really trick job to develop a quarterback without him having to worry about running a few random plays each week. This is an another pick that will rely on the coaching staff and both develop him and find a role for him in the offense.
Davion Taylor - Round 3
No pick the Eagles made relies more on development than Davion Taylor. Taylor is an awesome athlete - but he pretty much needs to learn the linebacker position from scratch. He played way off the line of scrimmage in a ‘Star’ role at Colarado and even played nickel cornerback at times in sub-package. He is absolutely no where near starting for the Eagles in year 1 in my opinion. He might be able to give you a few plays in sub-package but he has so much to learn.
Taylor has basically no experience as a stacked linebacker and his basic instincts for the position in general are really lacking. This is not his fault, he has only played 2 years of football. When you watch tape you constantly see him targeted by play-action and misdirection and this is going to get worse in the NFL. He might be super athletic but sometimes great athletes look slow if they are slow to react and take bad steps. Linebackers coach Ken Flajole has a huge task on his hand to develop Taylor. He might be great on special teams from day 1 but ideally you want more from a 3rd round pick.
K’Von Wallace - Round 4
Wallace has clear talent and is without a doubt the second most likely rookie to contribute next year. But there is a big issue with Wallace and a reason he fell... where do you actually play him? I always find ‘versatility’ a fascinating word. Yes it is important and some coaches value it highly, but what does it matter if you are ‘versatile’ if you can’t actually do one job at a high level?
I hear people suggest Wallace can play the slot. Do you think he is good enough there to cover Julian Edelman? CeeDee Lamb? Keenan Allen? I don’t think his movement skills are good enough. So he might ‘be able to play the slot’ but can he actually do it well enough to be an asset to the Eagles? Does he have the speed and range to play free safety? Is he big and powerful enough at only 206lbs to play in the box?
These are all questions Jim Schwartz will need to answer next year. I loved this pick and I really do like Wallace as a prospect. But he is no sure thing. It will be down to the coaching staff to get the most out of Wallace. He doesn’t enter the NFL with a clear and defined role from day 1.
The rest ...
I won’t spend too long on each one of the remaining guys as ironically the later picks have more obvious fits in the Eagles offense. There are question marks over how some players like Jack Driscoll fit and where he will play but most of them will have a clearly defined role. Take John Hightower, for example, there is no question mark over this guys fit. He’s a ‘Z’ receiver who will run vertical routes and use his speed downfield. The Eagles’ staff need to develop his size more than anything else and that will be their focus year 1.
Overall, this draft does strike me as a bit of a boom/bust draft class. The Eagles in some ways have paid the price for neglecting athleticism and speed in recent draft classes and have probably had to reach for some outstanding athletes this year in order to give the roster some much needed speed and athleticism.
In order for Howie Roseman to look smart, he is going to have to rely on his coaching staff to tap into these players potential. If the coaching staff can do this successfully, this could become an outstanding draft class.