Eagles Draft Profiles: Getting to know Jaelon Darden

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 19 SMU at North Texas
DENTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 19: North Texas Mean Green wide receiver Jaelon Darden (1) scores a touchdown during the game between the North Texas Mean Green and the Southern Methodist Mustangs on September 19, 2020 at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)

Born in Houston Texas, Jaelon Darden started out at Eisenhower High School before committing to the University of North Texas. During his 4 years, Darden broke all kinds of records such as the record for most receptions in school history with 230. He was named to the First team All-Conference USA in 2019, a Consensus All-American in 2020, and was awarded the Conference USA MVP award in 2020. 

Darden was also a finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award which is given to the top offensive player in Division I football who also exhibits the enduring characteristics that define Earl Campbell: integrity, performance, teamwork, sportsmanship, drive, community, and tenacity. Fun fact: Eagles WR Greg Ward Jr. has also won this award

In every draft, you find a small number of small school guys who become NFL stars and Darden could be the next one on that list. 

Here are his 4-year college career stats (via ESPN): 

Strengths: 
  • His production levels are eye-popping for a guy who’s primarily a slot receiver standing at 5’9 and 170 lbs.  
  • Jaelon Darden is electric. His acceleration is out of this world and he can change direction with ease.
  • Breaking tackles is just second nature to him in the open field and he’s a strong playmaker.
  • I called him a slot receiver a few points ago but he plays all over the field for North Texas and is obviously their number 1 target. Versatility could be his calling card as teams look for gadget value.
  • Major experience as a kick returner could help him find the field quicker and demonstrate his devilish speed in the open field.
  • Plays bigger than his frame and isn’t afraid to high-point the ball and go up for contested catches.
  • Route running is exceptional at all levels, I love it. North Texas trusted him running a complex route tree and intricate playbook and he’s thrived.
Weaknesses: 
  • While the effort is there for contested catches, it’s not something that will become the backbone of his game anytime soon due to his height.
  • Corners who get physical quickly with their assignments will benefit from playing against him due to his frame. He’ll be thrown off or disrupted when running routes with physical corners who like to re-route receivers with their hands. 
  • Whilst he played outside at times for North Texas, he won’t be able to at the next level with NFL CB’s on him. 
What Jaelon Darden can bring to the Eagles: 

The Eagles have a few rotational slot receivers right now, with Greg Ward being the starter and last year rookies Quez Watkins and John Hightower getting a number of snaps each game, so you’re probably wondering why the Eagles would pick another slot receiver, here’s why. 

Whilst I love Watkins and feel he can offer more than the limited amount he did last year, and I think Hightower has a lot of potential, they still have a long way to go in terms of being consistent producers for the Eagles. I never got the same feeling I did when watching Darden’s tape then I did when I watched both Watkins and Hightower last year. 

Darden just has that extra something about him and I truly believe he can be a massive contributor, from the slot, from day 1 in the NFL. Also, having a few different options in the slot for Nick Sirianni to scheme around with and try to get as many different mismatches as possible isn’t a bad thing either, especially considering Darden will be a day 3 pick in this year’s draft. 

Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire

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