INDIANAPOLIS — As fate would have it, the Eagles picked an opportune time to desperately need wide receiver help.
The team arrived at the NFL scouting combine earlier this week and now has a chance to dig into a wide receiver class many consider the best in recent memory. The group has top-end prospects like Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, solid mid-first-round options like LSU’s Justin Jefferson, Alabama burner Henry Ruggs, and Clemson’s Tee Higgins, and touted Day 2 prospects like Penn State’s KJ Hamler.
“There’s depth throughout, and there’s quality up top,” Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said Tuesday. “The average of the last five years for wide receivers that go in the first three rounds of the draft is about 12. You can easily make an argument, from a grade perspective, that there are 20 to 25 of those guys out there this year.”
The Eagles had one of the least productive receiving corps in the NFL last season after Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor all went from Week 1 starters to injured and underperforming. Jackson missed almost the entire season with an abdomen injury. Jeffery and Agholor struggled to make an impact before both players eventually finished the year sidelined. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who the team took in the second round of last year’s draft, also struggled.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said after the season that the team needs to get younger and faster. It seems now is a perfect time to do that. But does the Eagles front office think this receiver class is as good as advertised?
“We don’t have all the information on it yet," Roseman told reporters on Tuesday. "As we look at all these positions as we go here, the medical [testing] is a big part of it. The interviews are a big part of it. How they learn, the testings’ a part of it. You throw that all together. ... Let’s see where all the information comes in and after that we’ll be able to make a better judgment.”
The gathering of intel has already begun. Jefferson and Ruggs said they’ve met with the Eagles, and Hamler said he’ll meet with team reps on Wednesday.
The versatility of the class gives the Eagles options. Jefferson is a bigger receiver and a more polished route-runner, while Hamler and Ruggs are both freak athletes with elite speed. Hamler won’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine after tweaking his hamstring in training, but the 5-foot-9 wideout said he ran 4.27 during training and plans to post a similar time at Penn State’s Pro Day next month.
Ruggs will run the 40-yard dash later this week and is expected to challenge John Ross’ record-setting 4.22-second time. The 5-foot-11 Alabama native was a popular choice for the Eagles in early mock drafts, but NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah thinks Ruggs climbed draft boards enough already that he won’t be around for them at No. 21.
“I assume Ruggs will be long gone [when the Eagles pick],” he said. “But that, to me, if you were to say, ‘Home run pick for the Eagles, who is it?’ It’s Henry Ruggs. Just because of how much speed and juice he would give to that offense.”
Roseman’s track record of draft trades leaves it uncertain how he would feel about moving up. Last year, the team traded up to draft Andre Dillard and in 2016 he made two deals to get in position for Carson Wentz.
In 2017, the Eagles waited to address running back and cornerback even though there was a deep class. They ended up with Sidney Jones and Donnel Pumphrey. In 2018, they traded out of the first round and used the picks received to draft Dallas Goedert and Avonte Maddox.
Roseman said the team may have been reluctant to trade up in the last two drafts because of a shortage in draft picks.
“There were moments in the last two drafts where there were guys who were within reach ... we’d want to move up and we didn’t have the ammunition to do it,” Roseman said. “If there was a guy still that we thought was incredibly highly valued and we could go up and go get him, we couldn’t take that off the table.”