Good morning, Eagles fans. We appreciate you taking a break from the never-ending contemplation on whether Eagles fans should be pulling for Andy Reid in two weeks. Reid’s Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers are elbow-deep in game preparation for the Super Bowl by now, but for the other 30 teams in the league, it’s NFL draft season.
There’s one player who is consistently getting linked to the Eagles so far. More on that later.
— EJ Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s no secret the Eagles are searching for speed this offseason. The team’s receiving corps saw regression from nearly every member after Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor all battled injuries and lack of production.
Enter Henry Ruggs?
The speedy wideout from Alabama seems to be the early favorite for the Eagles in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. He’s known for his elite speed and athleticism. He had 40 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdowns last season, logging an impressive 18.7 yards per catch.
Here’s a roundup of the Eagles in early mock drafts:
Daniel Jeremiah (NFL Network): Henry Ruggs
Jeremiah’s mock draft was released Tuesday and sees a run of offensive linemen going off the board toward the top of the draft. In what is supposedly one of the best receiver classes in recent memory, Jeremiah argues teams will likely be more anxious to address other positions and pick receivers later. That could help the Eagles. Jerry Jeudy, Ruggs’ teammate at Alabama and a top-10 pick in most draft simulations, fell to No. 15 in Jeremiah’s mock. Could the Eagles trade up for him?
Here’s what Jeremiah said about Ruggs: “Speed! The Eagles are focused on getting faster this offseason, and Ruggs is the most explosive player in the draft.”
Todd McShay (ESPN) : Henry Ruggs
McShay’s mock draft came out last month before the draft order was set, so he had the Eagles taking Ruggs at No. 18. Here’s what he wrote: “Plain and simple: Philly must have speed and difference-makers at the position, and while Ruggs needs some development as a route runner, you can’t coach his 4.3 speed. He just explodes off the line of scrimmage.”
Michael Renner (Pro Football Focus): Henry Ruggs
PFF has two receivers (Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault) going off the board just before the Eagles are on the clock. Even though both of those bigger-bodied receivers weren’t available, Renner argues the match between Ruggs and the Eagles is perfect: “When DeSean Jackson went down, the Eagles receiving corps immediately became one of, if not the, slowest in the NFL. Ruggs’ possibly sub-4.3 speed changes that overnight. Of his 98 career receptions at Alabama, 24 resulted in scores.”
Matt Miller (Bleacher Report): Laviska Shenault
In Miller’s mock draft, the Eagles get a wide receiver, but not Ruggs. At 6-foot-2, Colorado’s Shenault is considered one of the best playmakers in the wide receiver class. He lined up on the outside, in the slot, and even in the backfield for the Buffs. Here’s what Miller said: “Whether he’s compared to Percy Harvin or a college version of Sammy Watkins, Shenault is a proven playmaker who will finally give Carson Wentz a young receiver to grow alongside, as well as a player for opposing defenses to fear at wide receiver.”
Dan Kadar (SB Nation): Tee Higgins
Clemson’s Higgins is definitely in the Eagles’ wheelhouse in terms of body type and playing style. The 6-4, 215-pound wideout has a good combination of speed and physicality. He has shown the ability to haul in contested catches and had 59 catches for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Kadar said: “As the season wore on, it was obvious that the Eagles need weapons on offense. A receiver like Higgins should be the first of a few added in this draft.”
What will be the biggest surprise/out there prediction this Eagles offseason? — Jim Sewastynowicz (@eyechart) via Twitter.
Thanks for the question, Jim. I’m not really a seasoned takesman, so this took me some time to consider. How about this one: The Eagles don’t cut or trade Alshon Jeffery by September and instead lean into him being a viable option for next season. It’d certainly be surprising and I still think the team will find a way to move on from Jeffery, but his contract situation combined with his injury makes things complicated.
He’s currently working his way back from a Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery. If he’s not able to pass a physical by the date his money becomes fully guaranteed, the Eagles won’t be able to cut him without serious ramifications. They could try trading him, but I don’t see much of a market for a 30-year-old receiver coming off the worst year of his career and a Lisfranc injury. Not to mention his $16 million cap hit.