Early signs point to the Eagles drafting a receiver in the first round

Last season, this article would have written itself. Eagles GM Howie Roseman came forward and bluntly stated that the plan for the 2020 draft was to get faster. While the rookies performed to mixed reviews, Howie accomplished what he set out to do. He drafted the most athletic draft class in the league, rife with speed merchants and sideline-to-sideline defenders.

Whether the perceived discord between Doug Pederson and management was as prevalent as the media suggested or not; on paper, the 2020 draft fetched exactly what Pederson needed for his offense to succeed. In hindsight, Justin Jefferson might have been a better choice. However, the Eagles’ offense was lacking speed and YAC specialists and Roseman brought in three rookies to fill that void.

The same could be said for the defensive side of the football. Jim Schwartz‘s defense required quick-twitch linebackers with the ability to cover and fill gaps and Howie went out and got two. Again, their progression remains to be seen, but both rookies had their moments on special teams in 2020.

Regardless of the outcome, it seems as if Howie Roseman has been locked in on key words heading into his draft. In 2020, the goal was to get faster. In 2019, the Eagles drafted size, outside of Miles Sanders. 2018 was a year for versatility, and in 2017, Howie zeroed in on college production. The list goes on.

So what is the key for the new-look coaching staff?

In his first press conference, Nick Sirianni harped on intelligence. He made it clear that his team would be mentally prepared for each game and that his playbook — while simplified — would have many variations to confuse defenses. The obvious lesson from that is that the Eagles need smart players. Don’t expect Howie to target players for their sheer athletic ability, if they aren’t able to back it up with football IQ.

Both DeVonta Smith and Ja’Marr Chase are savvy route runners with clear knowledge of the game. At Alabama, Smith and Jaylen Waddle played in a pro-style offense with a lot of moving around which would translate well to Sirianni’s supposed scheme. As it stands, especially with a year off to study film and hone his craft, Chase may have a slight advantage, but it’s very close. Therefore, interviews will be incredibly important for both receivers.

The second notion to glean from Sirianni’s inferences is that he will need players that can move around the formation. If he plans on presenting opponents multiple looks, he will need players that can play multiple positions. Luckily enough, the Eagles have some of those in house. However, it’s unlikely that the team selects a receiver that is pigeon-holed in the slot, no matter talented he may be.

In this regard, Smith or Waddle might make more sense than Chase simply due to the scheme they played in. However, Chase’s ability to do all things well essentially makes him a positionless receiver. The Eagles will love his blocking ability. Also, if drafting for need, the Eagles have a player very similar to Waddle in Jalen Reagor. On top of that, it may mean the Birds are more likely to take a chance on a player like Kyle Pitts, who is tagged as a tight end, but can really play anywhere.

Fire the Gannons!

The defensive side of the football is harder to figure out. Jonathan Gannon has never been a defensive coordinator and it’s difficult to hypothesize what his defense will look like in 2020. We do know that his background is in the secondary, and an emphasis will likely be placed there as a result. With so much talent on the defensive line, it would make sense to maintain a relatively simple game plan up-front. However, the team may look to add more to their cupboards in the defensive end room, with BG getting older.

The Eagles have seven guaranteed selections, and should also receive a sixth-round compensatory. With the first pick likely being used on the offensive side of the football (see below), the Birds will have to find defensive talent deeper in the draft. The strength of the 2021 draft class is all over the place, but there should absolutely be some starting caliber secondary players available in the second round.

The X Factor

As always, Howie will need to pay some mind to his boss, Mr. Lurie. In his press conference following Doug Pederson’s firing, Lurie made a few concrete statements regarding the future of this team.

It seems as if Sirianni will have a few years to build his foundation. The goal for this franchise is no longer to win now but to get back to winning ways as a standard. That means emphasis will be placed on the midterm and long term — i.e. the best player available.

The Eagles have holes all over the field and reaching for a player at a position of need does not serve them in the long term. It may also mean they are willing to take a chance on some players with high upside, with a little less experience or pedigree than their peers.

In terms of which side of the ball the focus will go to, Lurie puts a heavy emphasis on offense.

“If you want to be a dominant team, you need to be a top offensive unit.”

In other words, you can expect the first-round pick to be spent on a receiver. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Eagles replenish their stocks along the offensive line later in the draft. They have had success developing young talent and retained OL Coach Jeff Stoutland.

Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire

One thought on “Early signs point to the Eagles drafting a receiver in the first round

  1. It’s a simple choice…if Chase is available, the Eagles would be fools to pass on him. Yes Devonta Smith won the Heisman, but the dude is 175 lbs. He refused to be weighed and will most likely eat like a pig to gain weight for his pro day. He can get away with that in college, but I think it will be an issue when he gets to the pros. I would sooner take a chance on Kyle Pitts. The guy is a monster, especially in the red zone. Sirianni loves to run 2 tight end sets and if you think about Goedert and Pitts as your TE’s, I’ll take that any day. IMHO, Pitts is only tapping his potential. When you look at our WR’s, we have Reagor/Fulgham/JJAW/Ward/Hightower/Watkins and whoever we draft in the later rounds. Being as we have the 6th pick, we also have 38 and 70. There should be some good value at WR in the early middle rounds…a guy like Shi Smith who had a nice performance in the Senior Bowl, a forum the Eagles regularly monitor heavily. Add a guy like him to the mix, with great play design and a good WR coach and it should upgrade our current roster. Sirianni like versatility and both of those guys Pitts and Smith can line up all over the formation. Let’s also not forget what a great receiver Sanders is and Scott is no slouch either.

    If you look at the Chiefs, who is their #1 receiver….it’s their TE Kelce. The rest of the team is speedy, versatile guys who run routes, end arounds, quick screens with YAC. Hill was a 1,000 receiver, and there’s no reason with the right QB play, Reagor couldn’t be….or a combination of a couple of guys. Any way you can get guys the ball, with good blocking it moves the sticks or has the chance to break for big yardage. If you think about that group of WR’s, along with Sanders/Scott and a power RB, Goedert and Pitts at TE, and an effective QB, whether it is Wentz or Hurts (leaning toward the latter) running an RPO type fast moving offense….that could more than get the job done, and then some.

    Hurts needs work on completion % and just more exposure and experience. If you look at his college years, he was successful at both AL and OK. Yeah, he got benched for Tua, but he went to OK and lit it up. Hurts gives you something Wentz just can’t….the ability to make plays with his legs. His threat of running makes the D play differently. Hurts had 354 yds. rushing in basically 3 1/2 games….Wentz never had over 299 in a whole season.

    So give that to Sirianni and his new OC….get another CB in the draft or FA, trade Wentz and Ertz sooner rather than later and get as many picks as possible in return, beef up the D with another Edge rusher and just fill where financially able in FA and through the draft. This will not be a quick turn around, but I will surely take that as a good start.

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