With their first pick on the final day of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected North Carolina wideout Mack Hollins as their 118th overall pick. A collar bone injury held Hollins back in 2016, as he received for 309 yards and four scores in the seven games he did play. In the year beforehand, he averaged 24.8 yards per reception and recorded eight touchdowns and 745 yards on 30 targets. So, what does Hollins bring to the table?
Not only is Hollins 6’4, but he also has blistering speed for his size, running a 4.53 40-yard dash time at the combine. From Bryce Treggs to Dorial Green-Beckham, the Eagles have craved a deep threat and a redzone target for quite some time now..and with the long-term futures of Jeffery and Smith still cloudy, Hollins could be the perfect compliment to an already dynamic WR corps..the question is, will he?
Getting off the line:
For a 6’4 wide receiver, Hollins is surprisingly agile off the line. He’s able to transition his weight well and keeps a low center of gravity when approaching defensive backs. As can be seen on the play below at the top of the screen, Hollins is able to very quickly change direction and create a passing lane over the middle.
Although many of his home run hits came against zone defenses, of which he tears through coverage, he’s also incredibly instinctive when there’s a defensive back draped over him. If we take this play as an example, Hollins shows great burst to drive out of the jam and accelerate down the sideline, hauling in the touchdown pass.
Hollins also has a secret weapon up his sleeve, a stutter move. He uses this deep into the stem (which we’ll get to later) and early in the route. A quick break outside here means he’s able to cover the top of the cornerback, before making an athletic catch deep down the field.
The same thing can be seen here, as Hollins positions himself inside before a quick stutter sees him cut outside and storm off to the races. Clean, concise and instinctive..Hollins constantly flashes an ability to get off the line with ease regardless of the coverage.
When it comes to breaking in routes or simply avoiding being knocked off of a vertical look, Hollins shows his real strength. We can see in this look how quickly he’s able to stop and change direction, even taking a step inward to adjust to the incoming pass. Hollins reaps the rewards of a cornerback keeping his eyes locked on the quarterback here.
On a flat route below, Hollins is able to maneuver outside of the defender by slowly edging his way around, bursting onto the ball once in space and converting the play into a first down.
A simple out-route is made to look elegant with some impressive footwork from Hollins here, who runs right past the corner before flipping his hips and opening up for the reception on the sideline.
For someone of Hollins’ stature, he doesn’t use his frame all that much when it comes to asserting his dominance in the heart of the route..instead, he runs incredibly crisp routes when asked to, which is something we didn’t really see with Shelton Gibson. As a perennial deep threat, the concepts are often simple. But with a strong launch off the line to get outside, Hollins swings his hips at a moments notice to cut inside and create a passing lane, leaving the corner on the back foot..and eventually surrendering a touchdown.
This route is just something of pure beauty. Running right by the corner after selling the out-route, Hollins pursues down the sideline and hauls in the pass. His spatial awareness means he’s able to evade the Safety, changing the routes course and sailing into the endzone for six.
Leading directly on from that, it goes without saying that a wideout averaging 24.8 yards per reception achieves a lot of separation..but how? This play against Miami is a good example. Hollins simply stampedes by the backpedalling corner by selling a corner route and forcing the defender to flip his hips inside once positioned to defend the sideline. At that point, Hollins floats inside and with too much adjustment to keep it even, the corner falls behind and opens up the bucket for Hollins.
The same kind of concept can be seen on the play below, but a lot more clearly. It’s that stutter I was referencing earlier, that really enables Hollins to be so dangerous. He forces the corner to prepare for an outside look, before making them pay time and time again by breaking inside with a fluid change of direction.
The exact same thing can be seen executed perfectly on the play below. Hollins bursts towards the corner who’s already motioning out of the slot to the outside, only to see the 6’4 wideout dart across his face over the middle, punishing the single safety in the process.
This may sound like a really simple move that every wideout has in their arsenal..and you’d likely be right. But few can sell it as well as Hollins can on a regular basis.
But, he can also do it backwards. Hollins sells the post and sees the corner locking eyes on the quarterback. As he does so, Hollins drops off his route and waits in a huge pocket deep down the field for an easy completion.
The prime reason Dorial Green-Beckham was bought in, is also the reason many are quick to question his effort. You’ll find no such concern with the former Tarheel. Not only is he 6’4, but he has the athleticism and effort to contend and go after everything thrown his way, snagging overthrown balls out of the air (as seen below)..which is something that could benefit a quarterback who struggled with sailing passes in his rookie year.
This ball thrown by Mitch Trubisky for instance was all but intended to sail out of bounds, until #13 used his 33 1/4” arms to reach up and convert on 3rd & 11.
The same assets can be used right on the goalline, something which DGB did many times in Tennessee, but rarely in midnight green. Hollins stutters on the edge of the endzone before bursting in and leaping over the back of the corner to haul in the touchdown.
What about catching in traffic? Check. After being sandwiched by two defensive backs after catching the ball, Hollins shields the pigskin and falls into the endzone for a huge touchdown.
A culmination of everything we’ve discussed so far can be seen on this touchdown against Clemson in 2015. Hollins streaks down the sideline toward the corner of the endzone, tracks the ball and then goes up to make a play. If all else fails, throw it to Hollins. The first part of that phrase that was relevant for Jay Cutler in recent years when it came to a certain Mr…Alshon Jeffery.
It’s very easy to see highlight reels of deep touchdown passes, look at the frame of Hollins and think “special teams contributor, who can aid in blocking and maybe replace Dorial Green-Beckham”. I would argue that after watching the film, that Hollins has the potential to become the receiver DGB was expected to be. Someone who can contribute on special teams, be a threat in the redzone, take the top off of a defense, and help massively with intermediate routes by turning incompletions into first downs. Hollins may not be the flashiest pick of all time, but he’s bursting with versatility and potential that has been overlooked by many. The eye in the sky never lies..and it’s looking down glowingly on the Eagles newest wideout.
Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports