What kind of wide receiver should the Eagles look to draft?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Pitt at Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, TN – SEPTEMBER 11: Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. (1) runs the ball during the NCAA football game between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Tennessee Volunteers on September 11, 2021, at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. (Photo by Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire)

The bulk of big-time free agency moves are now in the rear-view mirror and for the Eagles especially, all eyes now turn to the NFL Draft. The team fortified some of their roster holes during the opening weeks of free agency and when it comes to the wideout position, they ensured that there is now a strong foundation to build on. But will Roseman look to add another name during the NFL Draft?

The addition of Zach Pascal was an important one, not necessarily because of what he can do, but because of what the move tells us. As a big-bodied slot receiver who has consistently thrived under Nick Sirianni, it’s clear that there will be a slightly different direction at WR next year.

As things stand, the depth chart looks like this:

WR1: DeVonta Smith / Jalen Reagor
WR2: Quez Watkins / J.J Arcega-Whiteside
WR3: Zach Pascal / Greg Ward

You can interchange Reagor and JJAW, or kick them to the curb, the choice is yours. But Pascal’s addition should hypothetically push Quez Watkins to the outside to compliment DeVonta Smith’s skillset. It makes sense. Watkins is an absolute burner who should’ve had a much better season statistically but was held back by inconsistent QB play. He separates in a different way to Smitty, relying on his burst out of breaks, which is naturally going to command a different kind of defensive focus and open things up, while a safe pair of hands in Zach Pascal stalks the middle of the field.

The Eagles don’t really need to go out and draft a big name at wide receiver, despite there being some appealing names in the first round. Instead, the team really need to work out how to keep the cycle moving.

Zach Pascal only signed on a one-year deal, so if there is an opportunity to bring in a developmental name who matches his skillset, then that would be the logical decision. Smith should have at least four more years in Philly (including an option year), and Quez Watkins has a further two. There is some short to mid-term stability on both sides of the field now.

So now we know that the Eagles should be looking for big-boy slot wideouts, we need to take the next step – narrowing that list down to athletic freaks who smashed the NFL combine and move like they’re 5’8.

Braylon Sanders – 7.55 RAS

Height – 6’0
Weight – 190 lbs
2021 stats – 549 yards, 24 receptions, 4 TD

Sanders is perhaps the most well-rounded of the trio. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for with an ability to read zonal defenses and find the soft spots, aiding his quarterback with some shifty route-running and a strong catch-radius on deep passes. However, he doesn’t have that breakway speed the Eagles may covet and hasn’t been the most secure pair of hands over the past few years.

Velus Jones Jr. – 9.06 RAS

Height – 6’0
Weight – 200 lbs
2021 stats – 807 yards, 62 receptions, 7 TD

Jones may be the rawest prospect of the three, but he offers the most athletic upside and that’s something Howie Roseman has not been afraid to take a shot on. Jones is a menace with the ball in his hands, but his routes lack polish and his tape doesn’t really show anything eyebrow-raising outside of his speed and burst. He does have the physical traits to warrant taking a flyer on and could be a fun player to learn under a ‘WR whisperer in Eagles HC, Nick Sirianni, and a proven vet in Zach Pascal. This would be the home-run hit at this stage.

Khalil Shakir – 8.05 RAS

Height – 6’0
Weight – 190 lbs
2021 stats – 1,117 yards, 77 receptions, 7 TD

Consider Shakir as John Hightower 2.0. Also coming out of Boise State, Shakir has a ton of speed and versatility to his game. He’s very reminiscent of Deebo Samuel in how he’s been used up to this point and scout reports laud his character. His leaner frame does lend him to some criticism when it comes to getting off press coverage, but it’s easy to see a clear path here. Follow in the footsteps of Eagles WR Quez Watkins as a zippy slot receiver with potential to play the Z spot.

Photo by Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire