EAGLES LOOKING TO AVOID PAST DISAPPOINTMENTS PICKING WIDE RECEIVERS
The appetite Eagles fans have for their team to draft a game-changing wide receiver can be seen and/or heard on social media and talk radio across the Delaware Valley.
There is good reason for that appetite.
The Eagles receiving corps was in tatters towards the end of 2019. Head coach Doug Pederson was down to finding hands for Carson Wentz to throw to from the team's practice squad and even from the street.
Alshon Jeffery is injured and will not be back to play or be traded any time soon.
The Nelson Agholor five-year run is officially over. Last year's second-round pick JJ Arcega Whiteside caught a grand total of 10 passes his rookie season and marquee free agent acquisition DeSean Jackson played one game before suffering what turned out to be a season-ending injury.
Eagles Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman says he has seen this franchise make too manly bad choices with drafting receivers to let his emotions and pressure from fans affect his decisions this year, much less discuss players the Eagles may be looking at.
“Well, you know, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Is that how the saying goes?” Roseman said during a recent video conference. “We've been in this situation a couple times with strong classes and I think it's come back to bite me to talk about it.”
Remember Freddie Mitchell? He was the Eagles first round pick in 2001 out of UCLA (No. 25 overall). He lasted all of four seasons with the Birds. Mitchell was popular because of his bravado and nicknames.
These include "Fast Freddie," the "Sultan of Slot," "First Down Freddie," "FredEx." the "People's Champ," and "Hollywood."
For his career, Mitchell caught 90 passes for 1,263 yards and five measly touchdowns.His claim to fame was a remarkable catch from quarterback Donovan McNabb known to Eagles fans simply as “Fourth-and 26.”
It is a play that remains part of Eagles folklore. In a playoff game against Green Bay, facing a fourth down and 26 yards, McNabb connected with Mitchell on a 28-yard completion, keeping a drive alive in a game the Birds won in overtime. But that was it.
Since then the Eagles success with drafting wide receivers is marginal.
Here are the Eagles former WR draft picks courtesy of pro-football-reference.com:
Freddie Milons (2002, 5th) Alabama
Billy McMullen (2003, 3rd) Virginia
Reggie Brown (2005, 2nd) Georgia
Jason Avant (2006, 4th) Michigan
DeSean Jackson (2008, 2nd), California
Brandon Gibson (2009. 6th) Washington State
Jeremy Maclin (2009, 1st) Missouri
Riley Cooper (2010, 5th), Florida
Marvin McNutt (2012, 6th), Iowa
Jordan Matthews (2014, 2nd) Vanderbilt
Josh Huff (2014, 3rd), Oregon
Nelson Agholor (2015, 1st), USC
Mack Hollins (2017, 4th) North Carolina
Shelton Gibson (2017, 5th), West Virginia
JJ Arcega-Whiteside (2019, 2nd), Stanford
Since Mitchell, the Eagles have used a first round pick to take a wide receiver twice.
Maclin played for the Eagles from 2009 until 2014, when he made his lone Pro Bowl. He played for Kansas City and Baltimore before retiring in 2017.
For his career, Maclin played in 114 games, caught 514 passes for 6,835 yards and 49 TDs.
Agholor was the other first rounder. Agholor was not brought back after this season. Four of his five years in Philadelphia were frustrating because he would show potential then take a step backward with a dropped pass or a head-scratching mistake.
His 2017 season was one for the books. Agholor caught 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. He was a big part of the Eagles winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Of this group, Jackson has easily had the most individual success. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times. Jackson, who left after the 2013 season after a conflict with then head coach Chip Kelly, returned to the Eagles last year after stints with Washington and Tampa Bay.
Jackson really only played one game for the Eagles in 2019, the opener, helping the Eagles edge the Redskins. In that game Jackson caught eight passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns but was lost for the season after suffering an abdominal injury.
For his career, Jackson has played in 156 games, caught 598 passes for 10,420 yards and 55 touchdowns.
His career average is 17.4 yards per catch.The Eagles are hoping he can come back and be productive in 2020.
Roseman said he has learned not to just look at the 40-yard dash times at the combines and pro days. The Birds learned most recently, that a player like running back Donnel Pumphrey, can look like a blur when he played for San Diego State, but just can't create the same excitement against NFL defenders.
Pumphrey was drafted in the fourth round in 2017 and never played a down of NFL football. He was last seen in the XFL this year.
“You see all the time that a guy may run a 4:4 but he gets in pads and he doesn't play to that time speed and then the opposite,” Roseman said. “We tell our scouts all the time, I don't know that there's a faster guy in pads that I've ever seen in my 21-year career than DeSean Jackson, and he didn't run the fastest 40. So I think that we have to make sure that we are evaluating that.”
The list of receivers this year is impressive. There are at least six blue-chip players who could, on paper, impact the Eagles right away. They include:CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), Tee Higgins (Clemson), Laviska Shenault Jr (Colorado), Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), Henry Ruggs III (Alabama) and Justin Jefferson (LSU).
“(Eagles owner) Jeffrey (Lurie), I think last year or the year before, talked about all this data that we have and that's what we are trying to also merge. You have this RIF data that gives you the speed of guys, so we try to balance what they are running at the Combine, and also speeds that we have collected. That's what we are trying to figure out to make sure that these guys are not just good testers; that they play fast in their pads; that we see it on tape and then we use it like a seesaw and make sure all that information is evening out as we go through our final grades.”
April 23 is coming fast. The Eagles hope the right choice doesn't beat them on a double move and land somewhere else...again.*
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii