It came down to speed and fit, Howie Roseman said in a video conference with reporters after the Eagles’ general manager stayed put at 21st overall in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday evening, selecting TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor.
It was at least a little surprising that the Eagles tabbed Reagor, with highly touted LSU receiver Justin Jefferson still on the board. Jefferson was a member of what was generally considered a top-four group at the position, and Reagor was not. But Reagor seems more explosive, and has tons of potential. His father, defensive tackle Montae Reagor, played for the Eagles in 2007 and was a coaching intern with the team in 2011.
Reagor, 5-foot-11, 206, has amazing athleticism but did not enjoy good quarterbacking last season at TCU, leading to a poor catch rate and some visible frustration at times. He is said to play faster than his official 4.47 timed 40, and he has a 42-inch vertical leap. Reagor told a postmidnight conference call with reporters that he had bulked up for the combine and ran much faster on his virtual pro day, after losing weight. Supposedly he ran a hand-timed 4.22.
Roseman said Reagor “fit us and fit what we were looking for this offseason,” in a draft boasting a lot of wideout talent; he acknowledged there were “a lot of different flavors” available. Roseman said the cost to trade up (perhaps for Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, widely considered the most complete receiver in the draft) was too high, given the Eagles’ needs, even though Lamb slipped closer to the Eagles’ drafting spot than had been anticipated.
“Jalen fit something that we were really looking for — he’s an explosive guy, he has an ability to contribute as a receiver and a returner, be explosive with the ball in his hands. Those were all things we were looking for,” Roseman said.
Roseman said the Eagles looked at what it would have taken to move up, but “It was important to us that certainly we kept our high picks, we haven’t had a lot of those [recently], and guys really weren’t in a range where it would be a consideration that we could get somewhere without [giving up] a really high pick.”
He said Reagor “really fits our quarterback’s skill set; our quarterback likes to throw the ball down the field.”
Reagor, who turned 21 on New Year’s Day, said he feels he is the most versatile member of the wideout draft class. Asked if he felt he was better outside or in the slot, he said: “I’m good, anywhere you want to put me.”
Reagor said he is excited to come to the team that he felt showed the most interest in him during the draft process, and to play with quarterback Carson Wentz.
“It’s Carson Wentz!” Reagor said, speaking from his grandmother’s house in Texas. “I feel like his name speaks for itself. … It’s a surreal feeling.”
It was a nerve-racking night for Eagles fans, who were looking for the draft to brighten a sports landscape blighted by the coronavirus quarantine.
“This is different for us, and different for you,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said from his Westchester County, N.Y., basement, as he opened what he called the league’s “first-ever virtual draft.”
Instead of crowded draft rooms, TV viewers saw sparsely decorated basements or guest rooms in the homes of teams’ decision-makers. Roseman gave a preview to ESPN that showed five monitors and a couple of TVs in the home office the team’s IT department assembled, part of the Rosemans’ Main Line living room.
Earlier Thursday, as this strangest of draft days wore on, any number of reports and rumors had the Eagles moving up, presumably for a wide receiver. There was talk they were offering last year’s first-round pick, left tackle Andre Dillard.
An NFL source with knowledge of the situation said Dillard was not being offered. And as some analysts predicted, it turned out trading was not as popular as in the recent past, given the remote setups and the inability of decision-makers to quickly caucus. For the first time since 2015, the top 10 passed with no trading.
There was much conjecture that the Eagles would have to move up from 21st overall if they coveted any of what were considered the top four wide receivers — Oklahoma’s Lamb, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, his teammate Henry Ruggs III, or LSU’s Jefferson.
There was ample reason to speculate about a move; going into Thursday, the Eagles hadn’t drafted in their original draft position, with their own pick, since 2015. That was the year Chip Kelly was in charge and Roseman did not have a personnel role.
The Eagles saw one divisional rival, Washington, draft Ohio State’s Chase Young, a pass-rusher who is as highly regarded as any defensive player in recent memory. Young went second overall, as expected, after Cincinnati made its leadoff choice of Heisman Trophy-winning LSU quarterback Joe Burrow official.
Eagles fans waited anxiously to see if any of the top four wideouts would drop within their team’s range, not knowing that Roseman apparently didn’t covet anyone from that group.
The top 11 picks went by with all four remaining on the board, but Ruggs, officially the speediest wideout, went to the Raiders at the 12th spot. Many observers considered Lamb the top talent, so this was a mild surprise — not a huge one, at the end of a truncated draft process that lacked pro days and face-to-face visits. Opinions were all over the place, about a lot of players.
Tampa Bay traded up one spot to San Francisco’s 13th position to nab protection for new quarterback Tom Brady — Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. Then the 49ers took South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw.
This was the point where it started to look as if the Eagles might be in luck. Six spots until their pick, three of the four wideouts were still at large.
The Broncos then took Jeudy. That put Atlanta on the clock, amid reports that the Falcons might want to trade down. What would it cost the Eagles to move five picks and get their choice of Lamb or Jefferson? Apparently too much, since the Falcons kept the pick and took Clemson corner A.J. Terrell.
On social media, Eagles fans began to melt down over the possibility that hated divisional rival Dallas, picking 17th, would take Lamb. And sure enough, that happened, even though most of the predraft buzz had the Cowboys going for defense in the first round.
This seemed a cruel twist, given the Eagles’ obvious need, and the fact that they play the Cowboys twice a year.
Not many people really thought Lamb was a possibility for the Birds going into the draft — mock drafts tended to place him in the early teens — but seeing him last so long, only to become a Cowboy, took a bit of luster off Reagor, even to many people who would have been happy to get him without trading up when the evening began.
The Dolphins then took offensive tackle Austin Jackson, from USC, leaving the Raiders and Jaguars sitting between the Eagles and their target. The Raiders pulled a surprise, taking Ohio State corner Damon Arnette, generally considered more of a second-round type. The Jags took LSU edge rusher K’lavon Chaisson.
Roseman bypassed Jefferson, with the team’s remaining seven picks spread over Friday and Saturday left intact. They are scheduled to pick 53rd in Friday’s second round, and 103rd in the third, then have five picks Saturday.
Player personnel vice president Andy Weidl said “there was a comfort level” with Reagor, even though he did not make an in-person visit to NovaCare.
Reagor said: “Me and my parents kind of had an idea” he would end up with the Eagles. “There’s a difference between doing due diligence and showing real love.”