Eagles’ safest bet at WR may also be one of their biggest risks

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The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching and all eyes are on the wide receiver position. The Eagles have been linked with every name possible at this stage, with speed being the name of the game. However, with an instant impact being needed, the safest bet may come from ensuring they take one of the biggest wildcards – K.J Hamler.

Connecting the dots

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The Eagles have a recent history of prioritizing eccentric athletes. The ones that test and raise eyebrows at their pro days etc, tend to hit the ground running. Our man Chris Infante did some digging ahead of his ‘RAS-related’ mock draft.

With the reports that the Eagles are prioritizing speed throughout the class, shouldn’t they also prioritize athletes? The top two athletes from last season, Dillard (9.79) and Sanders (9.49), produced almost right away. 

In 2018, Sweat (9.71), Goedert (9.56), and Maddox (8.88) led the way. While Sweat has shown flashes, we’ll need to see consistency. But Goedert has become a force and Maddox showed in his rookie year that he can dominate, while his sophomore year left a lot to be desired. Genard Avery was a part of that draft class and scored a 9.28. We’ll see how that pans out in 2020.

It’s been shown that the athletes have produced for the Eagles, while the lower scores (J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: 6.16, Shareef Miller: 6.21, Shelton Gibson: 2.29) have left A LOT to be desired.

Hamler’s RAS score isn’t available due to coronavirus impacting his Pro Day and his combine performance leaving a lot of blank boxes, but it’s not hard to see the speed and raw athleticism on tape. The Penn State product may be one of the fastest players in the entire class and is nothing short of explosive off the line of scrimmage.

The concerns I have with Hamler aren’t about his speed, but his physicality (or lack thereof) as documented in my WR rankings that used criteria that the Eagles would covet.

Oh, KJ Hamler – you absolute enigma. How can one be so damn rapid, so explosive, so crisp in his routes, and then be so poor physically? It breaks my heart. He’s EVERYTHING the Eagles want in a receiver, but there were so many times during contested catches where he’d just accept defeat and shy away, or end up being thrown to the ground like a ragdoll when blocking, that it reminds me of Donnel Pumphrey 2.0. He will leave you purring in open space and he’s genuinely electric, but…UGH it could be so much more.

BUT….

An interesting light-bulb illuminated in my head recently. Bleeding Green Nation’s Jonny Page posted a fascinating article depicting why it’s such a tough spot for the Eagles to be in:

https://www.bleedinggreennation.com/2020/4/9/21213530/2020-nfl-draft-wide-receiver-position-hard-evaluate-eagles-right-pick-philadelphia-first-round-wr

Embedded in that article was a quote from Kyle Shanahan:

For context, Shanahn was so confident in his own scheme and ability t bend to Samuel’s strengths, that he took a flyer on the rapid wideout, who proceeded to post 802 yards in his rookie season.

Why am I mentioning that? Well, Rich Scangarello, former Niners QB coach, has been brought in to help the Eagles offensive coordinator committee. A man who then went to Denver and helped mold a play-action friendly offense around Drew Lock in order to get receivers open. If Shanahan was able to influence one of the Eagles’ latest front office hirings, there’s a good chance that much of that thought-train will apply here.

If Hamler struggles with blocking and physicality, why put him into a position where it’s a challenge?

The Eagles notably traded for Golden Tate at the trade deadline in 2018, one of the all-time YAC greats, and struggled to get him up to speed in a race against time. It was never going to be easy, deadline acquisitions rarely are, but perhaps the Eagles have learned from this. Along with some other bizarre oddities at the position, maybe the front office had seen enough.

And then the big one…

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world as we know it on its head. The NFL is not exempt from this. Pro Days have been all but eliminated and now more than ever, the Eagles will have to rely on what their eyes see and what their coaching staff can do. Not what the numbers say and not hypotheticals.

If OTA’s and Training Camp are out of the window, then the Eagles may not necessarily have a long acclimatization period with their draft picks. Therefore, it’s important that the players they do select can make an instant impact. Using Hamler on screens and intermediate routes seems to be the safest option here. If you can scheme the rapid wideout into open space and rely on some of the bigger bodies around (JJAW/maybe Alshon if he’s still around/ TE’s) to block and pave the way, then the Eagles may well have the best way to ensure the man who recorded 904 yards last year but sustained a high drop-rate, is in the best position to eliminate that weakness and focus solely on his strength – game-breaking speed.

The Eagles’ best bet at wide receiver may not be Mims or Reagor. It might not be Jefferson. Instead, it could be the man who has everything the Eagles are looking for but without the cherry on the cake. So why not just have your cake and eat it too?

Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

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