The rich got richer.
The Eagles got leftovers.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and the pedigreed Dallas offensive line saw CeeDee Lamb fall to them with the 17th pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night. Lamb was largely regarded as the best overall receiver in the draft — elusive, fast, precise, accomplished, and successful against the best defensive backs Oklahoma faced.
His modest 4.5-second 40-yard-dash might have hurt him in a league addicted to speed. Lamb went five picks after Alabama burner Henry “4.27” Ruggs landed in Las Vegas and two picks after Alabama’s No. 1 wideout, Jerry Jeudy, was drafted by Denver.
Meanwhile, the Eagles hired Inspector Gadget-play.
Possibly, they just drafted the best of the rest: Jalen Reagor, out of Texas Christian University. He ran slow (4.47) for a fast guy, and he struggled with drops in college, but at 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, the Eagles hope he will be more durable than Ruggs, who fought nagging injuries with the Crimson Tide. They’ll pray that speedy Denzel Mims of Baylor and productive national champion Justin Jefferson of LSU, both of whom they spurned, don’t make them regret their choice.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, who sees Reagor as a Swiss Army knife — a kick returner, jet-sweep weapon, a deep threat to double the danger of DeSean Jackson — felt zero buyer’s remorse.
“This is the (receiver) we really felt could help our football team in multiple ways,” Roseman said.
All of which is relevant — actually more relevant than missing out on Lamb, a receiver for whom they would have had to trade assets to move up and draft; or Ruggs, who would have cost them even more-dearly, Roseman said. Fairly or not, Eagles fans won’t be comparing Reagor to Mims or Jefferson or Ruggs. Not right away.
They’ll be comparing him to Lamb.
Lamb, who will be facing secondaries fretting about run support, considering Elliott is the league’s best back. Lamb, whose offensive line will give him all the time he needs to operate. Lamb, whose quarterback, Prescott, has never missed a game and who has been to two Pro Bowls in his four seasons but didn’t go after 2019, which was his best season. Lamb, who will play opposite Cooper, the Eagles’ No. 1 nemesis, who just signed a five-year, $100 million contract. Reagor will line up opposite … Alshon Jeffery.
It was a fascinating first three hours. The highest-profile development: Tua Tagovailoa, the Steve Young-clone from Alabama who suffered five injuries in the last two seasons, went fifth to the Dolphins, and three quarterbacks went in the first six picks for the first time since 1999, when Tim Couch, Akili Smith, and Donovan McNabb went 1-2-3.
The fact that Ruggs went 12th overall was a significant surprise. This bumper crop of solid NFL receivers was believed to be led by Lamb. Jeudy, Ruggs’ teammate, was considered the best technician in the group of a dozen or so wideouts expected to be employed by the end of the second round.
Ruggs, meanwhile, was a big-play project. In the weeks immediately following the combine, he still projected into the range where the Eagles might have taken him with their 21st overall pick. He worked through March with Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss, who specializes in refining speed receivers, but the coronavirus lockdown canceled his pro day and all private workouts. He was second fiddle at 'Bama, but he was a blazer, and that was enough for Raiders coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock and the franchise with the longest love affair with fast receivers.
Lamb’s 4.5-second 40-yard dash was a few ticks slower than Jeudy’s 4.45. The Chiefs and 49ers, who met in the Super Bowl, were the two fastest teams in the NFL. Speed sells. Ruggs might be a raw freak, but his 4.27-second 40, the seventh-fastest since electronic timing began in 1999, and his 42-inch vertical leap — the best combined performance in combine history — made him irresistible to Gruden and Mayock, who provided the story line of the season last year with their Antonio Brown shenanigans.
The meat of the first picks settled where it should have. Three cornerbacks went in the first half of the draft, headed by Jeff Okudah, third overall to Detroit, to replace Darius Slay, for whom the Eagles traded and signed to a lucrative extension. The Raiders drafted Ohio State’s Damon Arnette 19th.
Four offensive tackles went in the first 13 picks, with Tampa Bay trading up one spot to 13th to nab Iowa strongman Tristan Wirfs. That was two picks after Jets GM and former offensive lineman Joe Douglas, who helped build the Eagles’ Super Bowl team, took 6-foot-7, 364-pound speedster Mekhi Becton, whose 5.1-second 40-yard dash was the fastest ever for a player his size.
The receivers were a quality group, of course. Justin Jefferson went 22nd to Minnesota, and the 49ers traded up with the Vikings from 31st to 25th to take Brandon Aiyuk and his 80-inch wingspan, which compressed six wideouts into 14 picks.
But, for the moment, only two will matter in Philadelphia: Lamb and Reagor.