When the Eagles were able to re-sign both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper prior to free-agency, Eagles’ fans began to salivate over the idea of Nick Foles being able to spread his passes around to Maclin, Cooper and DeSean Jackson, while still having Zach Ertz and Brent Celek at the tight-end spot, to pass to. As it turned out, for reasons that will probably never be completely understood, the Eagles re-signed those two, likely knowing that they were going to cut Jackson.
Given Jackson’s release, and the fact that he had a Pro-Bowl season in 2013, many fans and pundits now believe that the Eagles are locked into selecting a wide receiver with one of their first two picks. In today’s NFL draft roundtable, Somers Price and myself discuss whether the Eagles are locked into taking a wideout with one of their first two picks, or whether they have enough ammo on their roster currently to pass on a wideout until the third of fourth round.
Somers Price-Section 215 Co-Editor
If the Eagles decide to hang onto both of their first two picks, I believe they should select a wide receiver with one of them. Even if the team hadn’t cut ties with DeSean Jackson chances are that, given the quality of the class, a receiver would be the best-player-available at either pick 22 or pick 54. Considering their commitment to doing so and creating the highest-level of competition possible at each position, a receiver would have had to garner strong consideration, even if Jackson was still on the team.
Now, with Jackson in Washington, Howie Roseman and the organization have essentially guaranteed that they will leave the draft with at least one receiver. If there were a year to try and nail down a young, impact receiver after letting a slightly older one hit free agency, 2014 is that year. Any type of prospect should be available to the Eagles at either of their two first picks. There are a handful of the taller, more physical prospects to go along with some more compact, shifty player as well. Not knowing what type of player the Eagles covet, though my gut tells me they are looking for someone who is over 6’0″, will not matter considering there are a handful of both types. Receivers can be tricky selections and, those that are selected toward the top of the draft, tend to either haunt or define a GM as the prospect develops. The Eagles have really done their homework entering this draft, and probably know every possible thing they can about the supposed 10 wideouts who could go in the first two rounds. Unless they package their picks to make a big move, which I am not counting out, I do believe they should take a receiver with either the 22nd or 54th pick.
Tim Kelly-Section 215 Senior Editor
I’ve been on the record this entire off-season as saying that I think inside the Novacare complex, the belief of many is that Jeremy Maclin, who caught more passes and had more receiving yards than DeSean Jackson in 2011 and 2012, will return in a big way from a torn ACL in 2013. Frankly, I’m not sure why with his elite speed (he isn’t as fast as Jackson, but he’s still pretty damn fast), solid hands, and the fact that he is playing in an elite offensive system (instead of Andy Reid’s system), wouldn’t allow him to produce at a Pro-Bowl level. Keep in mind, he’s in a contract year.
All that said, the Eagles didn’t just lose DeSean Jackson this off-season, they also cut Jason Avant for salary cap reasons, and do face the scenario of losing Jeremy Maclin after this season in free-agency, or because they let him walk due to a lack of a bounce-back season. In that scenario, as much as I like Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, and think Riley Cooper can continue to develop, they need to have another wideout ready to step in and make an impact.
While I would rather see them grab a guy like Calvin Pryor, or someone that could make an early defensive impact, it appears that they would have to move up to do that. If they stick at the 22nd pick, that would likely be the ideal spot to select a wide receiver like Marqise Lee or Jordan Matthews, rather than waiting until the second-round where they will likely be able to fill one of their defensive needs.
I am confident in Zach Ertz’s development mixed with the play from Celek, Cooper, Maclin, and LeSean McCoy, but I think adding another wideout somewhere in the first two picks gives the team more depth and pushes everyone.
Read our draft roundtable about what the Eagles should do if Johnny Manziel falls to the 22nd pick here.