Time is getting short, and the desk is still covered with notes about the wide receivers available in the first round of the NFL’s Draft From Home on Thursday.
So many choices. So many notes. Just the other day, a door blew open and Chase Claypool fluttered to the floor. It took a while to find him again, and he’s 6-foot-4.
The Eagles currently have eight picks during the three days and seven rounds of the draft, but only two among the top 100 selections. So, what they do with their picks at No. 21 in the first round, and No. 53 in the second round, is vital for the upcoming NFL season.
That season, of course, will take place in the league’s geodesic dome in the Mojave Desert where all the players and staff will be isolated along with Booger McFarland from Aug. 1 until the Super Bowl. After the regular season, teams will be allowed to leave as they are eliminated from postseason competition. This opens up the possibility of intentional tanking, but that will have to be ironed out.
Anyway, the draft. It is considered a deep and talented pool of wide receivers this year and the Eagles are expected to dive right in with their first pick. The receiver position can be charitably called a position of need for the Eagles.
They have JJ Arcega-Whiteside; and they have DeSean Jackson, who is scheduled to be injured by Week 3; and they have Alshon Jeffery, who is like that boat sitting in the neighbor’s driveway that he paid too much for, eats a lot of gas, doesn’t run quite right, and now he can’t unload it. By October, there will be a tarp over it and he’ll just pretend it isn’t there.
Howie Roseman held a video conference call with reporters last week, and he wasn’t handing out any hints. That’s understandable. Staring at a computer screen and seeing Eliot Shorr-Parks and Jimmy Kempski staring back would give anybody the yips.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and say just because there’s a perceived position of strength that [is] where we’re going to choose from,” Roseman said.
Fine, whatever. They’re taking a receiver first. The only question is whether they trade up to grab one of the top three top-rated guys -- CeeDee Lamb, from Oklahoma; Jerry Jeudy, from Alabama; and Henry Ruggs, also from Alabama – opt to stay at No. 21, or even drop down to angle for a sleeper they love.
According to the many mock drafts out there vying for the Best Fiction Award, there are as many as 10 receivers deserving of first-round grades. That explains all the notes on the desk, and all the disarray in these last fitful days trying to determine which one they should target, you’ll forgive the expression.
The NFL helpfully posts staff-written analyses on its website, rating the participants from the draft combine, but those sometimes do little to clear the confusion. Lamb, for instance, is “a glider who separates,” but “can do a better job as a stalk-blocker.” Hmm. Ruggs ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine (4.27 seconds) and “has disciplined eyes and route conviction,” but “better speed than wiggle.” A man’s got to have some wiggle. And Jeudy is a polished route runner, but can be “a little leggy in press release.” Well, that doesn’t sound good.
Most of the mock drafts believe the Eagles will take Justin Jefferson from LSU if they stay at No. 21. Somewhere in my notes, there is one that says this is nonsense, and he is nothing more than a semi-fast slot receiver, with “separation talent just average outside.” Thus, the search continues.
At one point, Jalen Reagor from TCU was at the top of the notes pile. He is fast, can double as a returner, and has “loose hips to sink quickly,” according to NFL.com. Everyone knows that loose hips sink ships. I was really sold when I read that his “frustration with the quarterback appeared to creep into play at times.” Hey, if you’re looking for someone to replace Alshon, this is the guy. Give him a helmet and Josina Anderson’s text number and it is game-on.
Later on, the choice was Denzel Mims, from Baylor, whom I am assured has long strides that make him a “cushion chewer.” He was the state 200-meter champion in high school, and we’re talking Texas, not Rhode Island. But in the fine print, it said his “competitive nature is lacking,” so he became a scratch.
All of them got consideration. Michael Pittman Jr., from USC, is a strong, tough possession receiver, but he’s like a little tight end, and the Eagles have those. Laviska Shenault, from Colorado, has “sudden hands,” but also the incision scars from two surgeries. Brandon Aiyuk, from Arizona State, worked his way up from junior college and possesses “rapid foot turnover,” but he had core muscle surgery two weeks ago. The Eagles haven’t had good luck with receivers and core muscle injuries recently.
That leaves my guy. That’s right. Tee Higgins from Clemson. He probably would have gone mid-first round, but balked at doing the measuring drills at the combine, then turned in lackluster results at his Pro Day. Like really lackluster. They timed him with a calendar.
But, that aside, this is an off-the-chart athlete, a finalist for Mr. Basketball in Tennessee as a high school junior. He’s 6-4, has crazy jump-ball and fade pattern skills, plays faster than his 40-yard time, and “creates coverage panic.” He caught 118 passes in 30 games over the last two seasons, and more than one out of every five was a touchdown. He does get marked down, however, for his “unimaginative press release.” Yeah, I’ve read a few of those.
If the Eagles play this right, and judge the field correctly, they will be able to drop down, get some added value, and still come away with a legitimate first-round receiver who will eventually be considered the steal of the draft.
I stand by this analysis, even though it “lacks logical focus” and “substitutes supposed humor for insight.” The corroborating evidence is somewhere in my notes, right under K.J. Hamler’s ACL report, and next to Antonio Gandy-Golden’s time in the 3-cone drill. Give me a minute. I’ll find it. No, wait, that’s Devin Duvernay’s actual height.