Is Caleb Wilson the Philadelphia Eagles’ next Trey Burton, or just Irrelevant?
Mr. Irrelevant is quite possibly the single strangest tradition in NFL history.
I know, I know, we’re talking about a league that features cheeseheads, a publically owned franchise, and a tradition where players literally leap into the stands to sit with fans – and that’s just taking the Green Bay Packers into account – but have you ever sat back to think about the whole concept of being Mr. Irreleavnt?
Buckle up friends, because you are about to.
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So get this, when a player ends up being selected with the final pick in any given year’s NFL draft, they are crowned Mr. Irrelevant by the family of late-NFL player Paul Salata and subsequently treated to, per Wikipedia, “a trip to Disneyland, a golf tournament, a regatta, a roast giving advice to the new draftee, and a ceremony awarding him the Lowsman Trophy” all in the lovely oceanside city of Newport Beach, California.
Is celebrating a player having to wait 250-plus picks to hear their name called really worthy of such theatrics? Maybe not, but the celebration has been going on since 1976 so why stop it now?
Okay, so you may be asking, why on earth waste so much time on the concept of Mr. Irrelevant when this is, in fact, a Philadelphia Eagles blog? Well, it’s because the Philadelphia Eagles just got into the irrelevant game by claiming 2019’s representative (winner?), Caleb Wilson off of waivers from the Washington… Football Team(?).
Boy, that’s going to be fun to write all season… anyway, back to Wilson.
Measuring in at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Wilson is the textbook definition of “move tight end”. Whether lined up inline, off-line, or in the slot, Wilson was seldom asked to contribute to the blocking game for either the pass or the run, and was instead almost exclusively tasked with giving a wide variety of UCLA quarterbacks, from Josh Rosen to Wilton Speight and even current Bruins’ signal-caller Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a reliable safety blanket across the middle of the field.
Wilson has good size for the position, with a very impressive 40 yard dash time (4.56) and even has some NFL pedigree to his name, as his father, Chris, was a 12th round pick for the Chicago Bears in 1992.
Heck, the 24-year-old Dallas, Texas native even started out his college career as a quarterback committed to Old Dominion before joining his father at USC, no wonder Chip Kelly featured him so heavily during his final season in Westwood.
And believe me, feature him he did.
Playing a hybrid, Zach Ertz-ish role in Kelly’s collegiate offense, Wilson led the Bruins in receiving yards by a pretty considerable margin, earning 288 more yards than the team’s next leading receiver, Theo Howard, on only nine more catches. His 966 yards ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in 2018, behind future marquee draft picks like N’Keal Harry, Latavius Shenault, JJ Arcega-Whiteside (hey), and funny enough, fellow seventh-round pick Dillon Mitchell, who led the conference outright in receiving yards with 1,184.
Is it a tad ironic that the Cardinals traded away his college quarterback in the very same draft? Yeah, but no more so than being drafted by a team who helmed by a former NFL quarterback who basically never used a tight end while running the Air Raid at Texas Tech.
No wonder Wilson was waived in the final trim down to 53; he never really had a chance.
From there, Wilson spent his rookie season in Washington, where he didn’t appear in a single game. Had things remained copacetic, Wilson would probably still be a member of the WFT, especially after finally moving on from injury-magnet Jordan Reed, but when Thaddeus Moss, the 6-foot-2 son of NFL Hall of Famer Randy Moss, decided to join the team as a UDFA, someone had to go.
And just like that, Wilson hit the waiver wires, and finally found his next home in South Philly.
Now to be fair, Wilson is far from a sure thing to make the Eagles’ roster this fall. While the team has been on the lookout for a little extra competition for their third tight end spot on the low, it’s hard to identify Wilson as a clear-cut better option than bottom-of-the-roster stalwart Josh Perkins already in town. If the Eagles want to use their third tight end as a utility player, a special teams ace who can catch a few passes and even throw one on occasion, then yeah, Wilson is a great option, as he fits the Trey Burton-mold all the way down to his college beginnings, but it took the current Indianapolis Colts tight end until Year 3 to carve out a role on the offensive side of the ball – a luxury Wilson certainly doesn’t have.
Barring injury, the Philadelphia Eagles will enter the 2020 NFL season with the best one-two tight end punch in the NFL in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. That much is obvious. Will the team even want to keep a third tight end if it means stealing a spot away from a ‘better’ player like Quez Watkins, Nate Herbig, or Grayland Arnold? Only time will tell, but for the sake of his future, let’s hope the third time is the charm for Caleb Wilson and he can prove once and for all that he is Irrelevant no more.
Okay, one more Mr. Irrelevant fun fact: Did you know the Eagles have never actually selected a Mr. Irrelevant in the draft? They have selected three players with the final overall pick, most recently eventual All-Star Jacque MacKinnon in 1961, but that was before the award was conceived in 1975.