Philadelphia Eagles Draft Preview: Wide Receiver Position


Draft season is almost here so we took a second to rank wide receiver prospects. Could one of them end up on the Philadelphia Eagles?

The NFL draft is rapidly approaching and April 27th will be here in the blink of an eye. Between now & then, teams will be finalizing their draft boards: ranking players based on talent, production, potential, intangibles, scheme fit, etc. Over the coming weeks, we will be doing the same thing. Each week leading up to the draft, Ben Solak & I will rank the prospects of a certain position based on fit for the Eagles. We will discuss & debate the players before finalizing the order; in the same way the Eagles personnel department is currently doing. By the time April rolls around, we will have scheme-specific rankings for each position, which will provide some clarity on the Philadelphia Eagles Big Board as a whole. Thus far, we have covered the following position groups:

Running Backs

This week, we split wide and cover the wide receiving class.

Mike’s Rankings:

  1. Corey Davis, Western Michigan
  2. John Ross, Washington
  3. Mike Williams, Clemson
  4. ArDarius Stewart, Alabama
  5. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
  6. Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
  7. Chad Hansen, Cal
  8. Amara Darboh, Michigan
  9. Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
  10. Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
  11. Zay Jones, East Carolina
  12. Chris Godwin, Penn State
  13. Artavis Scott, Clemson
  14. Stacy Coley, Miami
  15. Ryan Switzer, North Carolina

Ben’s Rankings:

  1. Corey Davis, Western Michigan
  2. Mike Williams, Clemson
  3. John Ross, Washington
  4. ArDarius Stewart, Alabama
  5. Chad Hansen, Cal
  6. Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
  7. Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
  8. Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
  9. Amara Darboh, Michigan
  10. Curtis Samuel Ohio State
  11. Zay Jones, East Carolina
  12. DeDe Westbrook, Oklahoma
  13. Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
  14. Travis Rudolph, FSU
  15. Artavis Scott, Clemson

The Discussion

BS: Alright, the first thing we both noticed: this class of WRs has some serious talent. I know on my end, I’m particularly impressed with the Day 2 talent. Everyone I’ve listed has at least a Round 3 grade. There are a few guys I hope to touch on later that I think will be available on Day 2 that have legit shots at developing into WR1s at the pro level.

MC: This is probably one of the three deepest positions in the draft: along with cornerback & running backs. The Eagles will have options in nearly every draft round to get better at the WR position. Some of the guys listed above have unique skill sets as running backs (such as Curtis Samuel) or special teams returners as well (Switzer, Scott, etc.). There are real playmakers in this group.

BS: So, looking at your board, something really sticks out to me: John Ross over Mike Williams. You gotta explain that man, cause I can’t get my head around it.

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MC: Yeah, I figured you’d wanna discuss that. For me, it comes down to Ross’ ability to separate. He beats guys at the line and gets separation very quickly in his routes. With a West Coast offense, this is an excellent trait to have. He also can sustain his speed and has seemingly innate leverage skills that allow him to separate on deeper routes. The guy always seems to have a half-yard of space or more on the guys in coverage. He is going to catch a lot of easy balls in his career because he’s able to separate. 

Williams, while an undisputed first round talent, just doesn’t have that ability. He is a big body who will win contested catches given his brute strength. He’ll out-rebound defenders to catch his balls. Listen, this isn’t a bad thing…but it’s a fundamental difference between these guys. I happen to think Ross is a better fit in Pederson’s offense, and especially for Carson Wentz, as a result. Wentz is not shy about putting balls into tight windows. We saw that last year. In watching Williams, it seemed like defensive backs were constantly around the ball making plays. The breathing room Ross affords–in addition to his track-star, straight-line speed–and you have a weapon that will make life easier on Pederson, Wentz, and the running game.

BS: See, in a vacuum, if you prefer Ross’ separation to Williams’ catch radius and ball-tracking abilities, okay. But when I think of QB Carson Wentz and what he needs, I think of his inaccuracy. He misses high a lot and doesn’t consistently throw with a clean base, which regularly affects his placement.

While Ross’s deep ability would help the Eagle offense stretch the field, Williams would give Wentz a guy who can catch the football. Ross body-catches a ton, while Williams regularly wins with his hands away from his body, no matter how tightly he’s covered. He can attack the ball, go down and get it, contort his body, adjust when the ball’s in the air–the whole kit and caboodle. For a passer without pinpoint accuracy like Carson, I’d prefer Williams’ catch radius to Ross’ deep threat ability.

MC: I get that…but an inaccurate pass thrown in Mike Williams’ direction is more likely to result in bad outcomes because the defensive backs will be that much closer to the intended target. That’s where separation helps an inaccurate passer: especially in limiting interceptions. I believe passers can become more accurate as they develop their mechanics. This is an area in which I believe Wentz can/will improve.

I’m gonna toss it to you to discuss a couple guys for which I know you have no small amount of draft affection: ArDarius Stewart & Chad Hansen.

BS: My man. Like I said, while this class doesn’t have the 4-5 1st round talents that we’ve seen in the classes of the past few years, I feel really excited about some Day 2 guys. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cooper Kupp, Zay Jones, Josh Reynolds all impressed me in different ways, but I think Stewart and Hansen specifically fit the bill for the Philadelphia Eagles. Both of them don’t have some of the hype you hear for guys like JuJu, Kupp, or Zay. As such, they’ll likely remain available in Round 2, which gives Philly the flexibility to go somewhere else in Round 1. That’s awesome.

Stewart, man…he’ll blow up the Combine, no doubt. The first thing that jumps off of his tape is how he just eats up space. The vertical push on his routes blows my mind, he changes direction with incredible acceleration, and he runs like an RB with vision and evasiveness. He’s tough in traffic and loves delivering hits. He’s an every-play home-run threat, from jet sweeps to go routes and everything in between. Big fan.

While you might call Stewart more of a ‘weapon’, Hansen is a true wide receiver–and a doggone good one at that. He runs sharp routes, catches away from his frame with strong hands, and knows how to gain leverage over a CB. After the catch, good vision and deadly speed make him a big-play threat. He has a real knack for deep balls–tracking, adjusting, and getting a foot down on the sidelines. This is the sort of player with whom Wentz could cooperatively develop for 10+ years.

MC: These are guys that have been flying under the radar but I expect will get a lot of play once Pro Days & the NFL Combine come around. One thing that jumped out with Stewart’s tape is this: the guy never goes down with first contact. That guy is a beast.

BS: You don’t expect those speedy guys to be as hard-nosed, but Stewart loves him some contact.

I want to ask you about your Curtis Samuel ranking. 5th WR overall for a guy who played running back at Ohio State? You’ve got to sell me on that.

MC: Honestly, I had him lower on this list prior to finding out today that he will be testing at the NFL Combine as a wide receiver. I think that only helps his draft stock. Because he was such a multifaceted weapon at Ohio State, I considered everything he is capable of. He is a playmaker. As a running back, as a receiver, as a kick/punt returner: the guy does exceptional things when he touches the ball. I touched on this a little bit in my opening. Think about Darren Sproles, for example: how do you evaluate his contributions to a team? How do you evaluate the contributions of a guy like Ty Montgomery? It is no coincidence the Packers offense got rolling around the time he started taking snaps out of the backfield in addition to his time outside the front-five. (Note: Aaron Rodgers helps…a little.) The versatility Samuel offers cannot be understated.

I’m not going to be able to sell any reasonable evaluator that Samuel–or Switzer or Scott, for that matter–should be rated this high purely as a wide receiver. He needs to be evaluated differently given his ability to affect a game in so many ways. Unless we add a position group called “Athlete”, I have to give some guys a little extra love for their contributions added via versatility.

The Big Board

  • Corey Davis, Western Michigan
  • Mike Williams, Clemson
  • John Ross, Washington
  • ArDarius Stewart, Alabama
  • Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
  • Chad Hansen, Cal
  • Amara Darboh, Michigan
  • Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
  • Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
  • Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
  • Zay Jones, East Carolina
  • Artavis Scott, Clemson
  • Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
  • DeDe Westbrook, Oklahoma
  • Chris Goodwin, Penn State
  • Stacy Coley, Miami
  • Travis Rudolph, Florida State

    Next: The Case Against Cutting Nelson Agholor

    Next up: Tight Ends

    Writer’s note: These are our joined WR rankings for the Philadelphia Eagles. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter what you think, and be sure to keep an eye out next week for our TE rankings!