It’s no secret that Justin Jefferson is the Philadelphia Eagles’ most popular mock draft pick leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft. But is that a result of misguided group think or is it actually a realistic possibility? The latest buzz indicates it may be the latter; multiple dots are connecting Jefferson to the Eagles’ pick at No. 21.
We’ll start with what Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller recently had to say on the Stick to Football podcast:
“This feels like one [...] just go ahead and put this one in ink. Because [...] when I write a mock draft, the way I do it, picks that I’ve heard are going to happen, I submit them in and then work around them. So, Derrick Brown at eight, Justin Jefferson at 21. I used to do this with the kid at Texas to New England, Malcom Brown. So, it’s like, oh, heard that one’s happening, let me go ahead and lock that one in. This just ... I will go ahead and believe Justin Jefferson is an Eagle even if someone else drafts him because we’ve had this happen so many times.”
Next, check out this question and answer exchange involving PhillyVoice’s and BGN Radio’s own Jimmy Kempski:
Question from The Ghost of Draft Day Past: You were fairly certain they’d pick Barnett a few years ago, and were correct. Obviously picking later introduces the possibility of a lot more variability, but do you have any sense of “If this guy is still there at 21, boom?”
JIMMY KEMPSKI: Yes. Justin Jefferson.
Next up, Adam Caplan was pretty definitive about the Eagles’ interest in Jefferson on the Inside the Birds podcast.
Caplan “knows for a fact” that the Eagles like Justin Jefferson— Patrick (@EaglesPMC) April 6, 2020
Mosher: per source, he’s like Nelson Agholor but *way better*
Primarily slot, but can win outside with length, catch radius, and contested catch ability. Comps to Keenan Allen
In addition to all of this, EagleMaven’s Ed Kracz says he’s been told the Eagles like Jefferson.
My preference is a player who is more familiar with playing outside, but Eagles like Jefferson a lot https://t.co/agjKR65bvb— Ed Kracz (@kracze) March 29, 2020
Going back even further, it’s perhaps worth noting that former Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah mentioned Jefferson as a fit for the Eagles ahead of the 2020 NFL Combine. Jeremiah notably worked under Howie Roseman in Philly — almost twice since Roseman wanted to hire DJ as his vice president of player personnel before landing on Joe Douglas — and alongside Andy Weidl in Baltimore. Remember that time Jeremiah revealed that Nelson Agholor would overtake Jordan Matthews in the slot ahead of the 2017 season? Perhaps Jeremiah is now providing the Eagles’ slot plans for 2020 and beyond.
Or, hey, maybe all of this rumored Jefferson interest is just a #smokescreen. You can never entirely rule out as much given the intentional misinformation that’s disseminated during draft season.
But I tend to think the Eagles do in fact really like Jefferson enough to take him at No. 21 overall.
A number of Eagles fans have expressed displeasure with the idea of Jefferson being the team’s first round selection and I get it. He’s not the burner the team could really afford to add. There are questions about his ability to play on the outside, thus potentially limiting him to the slot in the NFL.
On that point, TouchdownWire’s and BGN Radio’s own Mark Schofield recently put together a great article that counters the thought that Jefferson can’t play on the boundary.
But the argument advanced here is not “Jefferson is better on the outside” but rather “Jefferson is not a one-trick pony. He is not just a slot receiver. He can do both.”
Returning to the job application hypothetical for a moment, the more you can do for a prospective employer, the more valuable you are. Jefferson, while perhaps best used inside given his short-area quickness and change-of-direction ability, can also work outside. That versatility makes him a very valuable commodity, and in a number of offenses, even systems that play predominantly 12 offensive personnel, Jefferson is a very viable option at receiver.
His experience on the boundary, coupled with his technique outside, make him an option in that alignment. It might not be his best usage, but he can operate outside.
Rightfully or not, I also don’t think the Eagles are as concerned about fit as they are getting a receiver who they believe is really good. Michael Thomas and Keenan Allen are two NFL player comparisons that have been used for Jefferson. It obviously remains to be seen if those gaudy comps are accurate but let’s just pretend for a moment that they are. Would adding a player like Thomas or Allen to the Eagles’ current depleted wide receiver corps not make it better? Yes, of course it would.
The thinking here is that the Eagles — who have very much struggled to draft and develop wide receiver talent during Roseman’s tenure — really like how Jefferson projects to the NFL. I’m guessing they view him as a “safe,” high floor prospect in that he’s not likely to be a total bust. Jefferson checks a number of boxes:
- Especially young — only turned 21 in January
- Elite athletic profile — including a 4.43 40-yard dash
- College production — 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns as a national champion in 2019
- No character concerns — known for having a great work ethic
- Versatility — has experience playing on both the outside and in the slot
The concern with Jefferson is that he only ends up being a slot receiver. Not the most ideal use of resources at No. 21. It’d also be pretty disappointing if the Eagles select Jefferson and fail to add a more legitimate field-stretcher at some point in this year’s draft. No one should want to see the Eagles go through yet another season where they’re struggling to generate explosive plays. Enough of the bog offense.
But whether you like the idea of Jefferson in Philly or not, it looks like there’s a decent chance he’s the pick at No. 21. That is, assuming he’s even still on the board. Jeremiah has him ranked as his No. 14 overall prospect; it’s possible the NFL is even higher on Jefferson than expected.
Should the Eagles draft Justin Jefferson at No. 21?
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