The Philadelphia Eagles came away from the NFL Draft with a new face in their receivers room. That man is Heisman winner DeVonta Smith and his presence alone should be enough to boost confidence in a position that previously had little to be excited about. But how does his arrival impact the depth chart?
A new-look offense for the Eagles
The first thing to note is that the Eagles offense is going to go under quite the makeover this offseason. Nick Sirianni is keen to bend his principles around the strengths of his playmakers, something that was almost alien in the Doug Pederson era. As a result, we’ll probably see receivers line up all across the field as opposed to being locked into one spot specifically.
However, we can still paint a very basic picture ahead of OTA’s to examine which receivers will be going head-to-head and who might be on the bubble.
How many receivers will the Eagles keep?
Traditionally, the Eagles don’t keep a bucket full of wide receivers. They kept 7 on the roster in 2020, 5 in 2019, and 6 in 2018.
The Colts, who Nick Sirianni coordinated the offense for before flying to Philadelphia, follow a similar pattern and kept 6 in 2020 and 2019, and 5 in 2018.
Philadelphia has eight receivers of note at the moment (prior to confirmed UDFA signings, rookie minicamp etc).
Traditionally, the Eagles want big bodies to play the X-spot and while Nick Sirianni may be open to shake things up, we can expect an intent to emphasize physicality, crisp route-running, and a huge catch radius that is deeply valuable when inside the red zone.
One of these men is not like the others, but we can automatically assume that Smith will be the team’s devout WR1 wherever he lines up. That leaves a battle between a fallen second-round pick, a hero who lost his sparkle, and a UDFA steal who embodies everything Sirianni everything wants.
It’s likely the Eagles only keep two wideouts from this group and seek to stash a third on the practice squad. This would enable them to keep 2 receivers in each ‘role’.
Trevon Grimes has a real chance to throw the Cat among the Pigeons here and displace both Fulgham and JJAW. The UDFA out of Florida put up 589 yards last year despite working in an offense that featured both Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney, who were both first-round picks. He checks every box, is the youngest of the trio, and as a result may have the highest upside for the WR whisperer to work with.
Greg Ward Jr. Signed a one-year deal as an ERFA but the Eagles might look to slowly try and work Quez Watkins into the slot. He has tonnes of speed but his route-running isn’t exactly smooth. It makes sense for Watkins to kick inside full-time where he will see less competition for a roster spot.
Jalen Reagor should be the starting Z-receiver and that isn’t really a conversation. John Hightower struggled as a rookie and is very much on the bubble. However, he ended 2020 with 167 yards on 10 receptions and actually led the NFL in ‘Average depth of target’ (22 yards), showing that the Eagles clearly view him as a burner.
If Jalen Reagor does struggle to take the next step in his development, keeping Hightower around as someone that makes his pay dirt on 9 routes by creating early separation with nifty footwork, could pay dividends.
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