In a vacuum, the Eagles using their first-round pick on TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor is a logical choice rooted in an overt attempt to add speed through the draft. They had their pick of Reagor, Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, and others, and went with the best deep threat capable of playing on the outside.
Time will tell whether the Eagles’ choice was the right one; history tells us it’s tricky drafting wide receivers in the first round. The question right now mostly delves into the decision process. The team made a sharp departure from holding college production at the top of its priority list in the first draft since Joe Douglas vacated his role as vice president of player personnel to become the New York Jets’ general manager. Will choosing speed over stats work in the Eagles’ favor?
When asked why they passed on Jefferson, one of the most productive receivers in the draft, Eagles GM Howie Roseman said the team expects Reagor to fit better into the offense. It makes sense. Jefferson was at his best as a slot receiver, working in the middle of the field. The Eagles have enough players occupying that space but needed speed on the outside. Jefferson is a better fit in Minnesota, and Aiyuk is a perfect fit in San Francisco, but the Eagles didn’t value them as highly. Sometimes fit can cost you a better prospect.
All this aside, perhaps the biggest indictment on the Reagor selection is the player went four picks earlier. The Cowboys, enjoying an earlier pick after losing the NFC East to the Eagles, got CeeDee Lamb, arguably the best wideout in a deep class. When asked why the Eagles didn’t try to move up for a sliding Lamb, Roseman said the team was unwilling to trade one of its “high picks" on Day 2 of the draft. It made some sense that night, but using one of those picks on a backup quarterback makes it less logical.
Reagor could turn into a very good player. But if we’re just looking at prospects and value, trading up for Lamb would have provided a better outcome.
Like a guy on a dating site, the Eagles went into this draft looking for a definite type. They wanted players, particularly at wide receiver, who ran really, really fast.
In a league where creating mismatches is king, I completely understand their desire to want to add speed. Especially after last season. They had the fifth-fewest pass plays of 30 yards or more (15). Quick strikes weren’t a part of their arsenal. Just six of their 43 touchdown drives took four plays or less.
But in their quest to add speed in this draft, I think they violated one of the cardinal rules of scouting. They paid too much attention to analytics on some of these guys and not enough to what they saw on tape.
That includes Reagor. Selecting him over LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who was gobbled up by the grateful Vikings with the pick after the Eagles, was, in my opinion, misguided.
I’m not suggesting Reagor can’t play and is going to be a complete flop. I’m saying he’s not nearly as good as Jefferson. The 21st pick should’ve been a no-brainer and the Eagles screwed it up.
In explaining why he took Reagor over Jefferson, Howie Roseman used the word “fit’’ four times. As in, he was “the right fit for our football team.’’ And “it’s how the coaches envision these guys being used and what they’re looking for to fit our quarterback’s skill set.’’
What that means is that somebody in the organization – likely one of the team’s offensive coaches -- convinced Roseman that Jefferson was strictly a slot receiver and wouldn’t be able to provide any quick-strike ability.
While it’s true that Jefferson, who caught 111 passes and 18 touchdowns last year, was used almost exclusively in the slot in 2019, he can play inside or outside. Frankly, I don’t care where a guy lines up if he catches 111 passes and 18 touchdowns.
We’re not talking about a plodder here. Jefferson ran a 4.43-second 40 at the combine. Reagor ran a 4.47 and blamed it on being heavy. Jefferson has elite route-running skills. He has sure hands.
Reagor might have a little more deep speed than Jefferson and be a little more suited to be a "gadget’’ weapon. And gadget plays apparently are going to be a big part of Doug Pederson’s new Kyle Shanahan-influenced offense.
But three or four years from now, they’re going to regret taking Reagor over Jefferson.
I don’t have as much of a problem with the player as I do the Eagles’ not exercising their other options, which included trading up for CeeDee Lamb, or taking Justin Jefferson at No. 21, or moving back for Jalen Reagor.
But I think the Eagles had valid reasons for not pulling the trigger on any of those other moves. It seems they had the same top three receivers as most teams -- Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs. They probably thought there was a chance one could fall within striking distance. Ruggs went first to the Raiders at No. 12. Jeudy was taken second at No. 15 by the Broncos. And Lamb was still on the board at No. 17 when the Cowboys were up.
It would have cost a fair amount to move ahead of the Raiders. We’re talking at least a second-round pick and likely a fourth-rounder. I’m not even sure the Jets would have been willing to trade back from No. 11 with tackles available. No. 16, where the Falcons took cornerback A.J. Terrell, might have been more doable. Maybe they were afraid he wouldn’t be available at No. 21 -- the Raiders did take cornerback Damon Arnette at No. 19.
But if the Eagles were taking a chance on Dallas passing on Lamb because receiver wasn’t a pressing need, they made the wrong call. It had to sting to see the Cowboys pounce on the Oklahoma receiver and add him to an already deep position.
As for Reagor vs. Jefferson, I get the Eagles’ thinking, especially if they had the latter as strictly a slot guy. The slot receiver just isn’t as important as outside receiver in the Eagles’ offense. And they clearly needed outside speed. Reagor can move. I’d be a little concerned that he ran only 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, but GPS tracking showed that his play speed was elite and that he was one of the fastest receivers in the draft.
The Eagles clearly targeted Reagor, and maybe the Vikings would have taken him at No. 22. But my feeling, based on conversations with a bunch of sources around the NFL, is that he would have been available later in the first and possibly in the second. We’ll never know whether that would have been the case, and the Eagles didn’t want to take that risk based on their intel. But their draft-day record has been spotty and hasn’t afforded them the benefit of the doubt.
I sure would have liked to have seen the Eagles trade up for CeeDee Lamb, but that would have been expensive. For now, I’m not going to second-guess them on Reagor over Justin Jefferson or Denzel Mims or Brandon Aiyuk or whomever. I think every team had a different evaluation on that group of guys, as to who was the fourth or fifth or sixth wide receiver in this WR-heavy draft.
Reagor’s athletic upside is remarkable. A lot of the negatives around him, I am willing to attribute to the situation at TCU, the freshman quarterback, Reagor being open a lot and not getting the ball. That would frustrate me, especially if I thought it would affect my draft stock. I am a little worried that the Eagles seem to have used speed as an overarching criterion. Just because you want to add speed to your team, that doesn’t mean every evaluation turns on which option runs the fastest.