Two weeks ago I tweeted out a poll on Twitter on what position Eagles fans feel is the team’s biggest need. It came as no surprise that wide receiver dominated the poll. Through the first 15 games, Jordan Matthews leads all Eagles wide outs with 804 yards, but he needs help. Behind him is Dorial Green-Beckham with 377 yards and Nelson Agholor with 365 yards. Needless to stay, Carson Wentz needs a lot more help.
The good news for Eagles fans is that there are five legitimate wide receiver prospects who are first round caliber players and at least four of of them should be on the board when the Eagles make their first round pick somewhere between 9th and 17th overall, depending what happens with the Vikings in Week 17.
The 5 wide receiver prospects I watched on tape are Mike Williams(Clemson), Corey Davis(Western Michigan), John Ross III(Washington), JuJu Smith-Schuster(USC) and Dede Westbrook(Oklahoma). I believe all five will go in the first round and all five have the potential to be consistent 1,000 yard receivers at the next level.
Here are my five favorite wide receiver prospects in order of how I see them ranked:
5)JuJu Smith-Schuster- I would be very weary of taking a USC product in the first round, but there is no denying this kid’s ability. The amount of dysfunction that has been allowed to go on at USC is evident with their inconsistent play on the field and the lack of success with their prospects in the NFL as of late.
JuJu has a good size/speed combo at 6’2, 215 and does a good job coming back to the ball. The physical talent is clearly there. What worries me is how inconsistent he is on the field. He drops easy passes, gets lazy with his blocks and doesn’t always run crisp routes. His interviews will be everything. If coaches and scouts feel he is committed to the game and he can be coached up then he is a solid first round prospect. If not I think you have a really high bust rate here.
4)Mike Williams- Williams is probably going in the top 10 of the first round, but if I’m Howie Roseman I’m not putting him in my top 20. Williams will win at the next level with his hands, strength and his ability to make tough catches vs tight coverage on a consistent basis. He’s the type of receiver who is open even when he is covered. He’s also a great weapon on screens because of his blocking and how tough he is to tackle one-on-one.
What scares me with Williams is that he rarely gains much separation at this point in his career. It’s only going to get worse for him and the fear with Williams is that he will struggle to get open and an NFL offense won’t be so tailor made for him to get touches like he has at Clemson.
3)Dede Westrbook- It’s funny, I really only included Westbrook in this study because I wanted five total wide outs to study as potential first round targets, but this kid really wowed me. I couldn’t find a defense that could handle him on single coverage. He’s a master of the double move, dangerous on screens and brilliant on post routes. He’s like a taller DeSean Jackson with better hands. He’s also an outstanding blocker for his frame(about 170 pounds), that I was not expecting at all.
With Westbrook, you want to pair him with a decent running game. If you have a run game that forces safeties to occasionally help then you allow Westbrook to take the top off a defense. With Westbrook you have to remember he is only 6’0, 170(ish) so you don’t want him to carry your offense.
2)John Ross III- With Ross all I hard was DeSean comparison after DeSean comparison. The speed/quckness combination fits but I think his strength, hands and overall route running ability put him closer to Odell Beckham. Like both players, he is impossible to cover without help.
He can beat your short with screens and curl routes, he can be you with intermediate crossers and slants and he can beat you deep with vertical routes and double moves. He’s a complete receiver. He doesn’t have the the size a lot of scouts want in high draft picks at wide out, but he can get open against anyone and he forces the defense to game plan around his speed. That’s what makes this kid so special.
1) Corey Davis- Corey Davis is the perfect wide receiver prospect. He’s bigger(6’3, 215) he’s quick, he has great hands and he separates. He’s not getting a ton of top 10 love right now, but I think that will change after the combine. He’s Jordan Matthews with the athleticism of Odell Beckham. He’s rare, like Julio Jones. He just didn’t play for a school that gets national coverage every week.
There’s not a ton to critique Davis on. His route tree needs to grow a little bit and he didn’t play in a very complex offense, but he can adjust quickly. Some guys have a natural feel for the game and can go from a simplistic offense in college to a more complicated one in the NFL and pick things up rather quickly. Derek Carr is a good example of that, or if you want wide receiver examples you can look at the rookie reason of Mike Evans.
If the Vikings lose against the Bears in Week 17, then the Eagles pick can go as high as 9th overall, or if they win it can drop to as low as 19th. The Eagles should be able to draft either Davis or Ross if the Vikings lose. If the Vikings win, then I think everyone but Smith-Schuster and Westbrook from this list will be off the board and the Eagles will be forced to draft a wide receiver on day two or possibly get help there via free agency.