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April 11, 2018

Eagles 2018 NFL Draft preview: Wide receiver

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041018ChristianKirk C. Morgan Engel/USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be taking a look at each of the Philadelphia Eagles' positional groups. We'll determine if the Eagles are likely to select a player at that position with one of their six picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, as well as note some players who make sense.

Monday we started with the quarterback position. Tuesday we continued with the running backs. Today we'll cover the wide receivers. First, a look at the depth chart:

 WR1Alshon Jeffery Mack Hollins Marquess WilsonDom Williams 
 WR2Mike Wallace Shelton Gibson Bryce Treggs 
 Slot WR Nelson Agholor Greg WardRashard Davis  


The Eagles' top four receivers are set in 2018 -- Alshon Jeffrey, Torrey Smith replacement Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins. That seems fairly clear. 

Beyond the top four, the Eagles hope that Shelton Gibson can prove he belongs in the NFL, and as Doug Pederson noted at the NFL Owners Meetings, the Eagles' hope is that one of the no-name receivers (that's not how Doug described them, to be clear) can step up and force their way onto the field.

So do the Eagles have a need for a wide receiver? In 2018? No, not really. 

In 2019 and beyond? Maybe. Wallace is on a one-year deal, so he may be a veteran Band-Aid, though something of a quality one. If Hollins can make strides in 2018, perhaps he can vault himself into the No. 2 wide receiver conversation in 2019 and beyond. Either way, adding a receiver in the 2018 NFL Draft is a possibility, as that is traditionally a position where many players take extra time to develop, so continuing to fill the pipeline makes sense.

10 wide receivers who could interest the Eagles

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU (6'3, 218)

With a 6'3 frame and a wingspan of 79 ¼", Sutton has a large catch radius, and impressive measurables to go along with his size.

At SMU, Sutton put up good numbers the last two years:

Courtland Sutton Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201427 13.5 
 201549 862 17.6 
 201676 1246 16.4 10 
 201768 1085 16.0 12 
 TOTAL195 3220 16.5 31 


A highlight reel:


As you can see, Sutton is adept at winning 50-50 opportunities, like current Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Having two bigger receivers would pose matchup problems for opposing defenses that lack a pair of bigger corners.

Round projection: 1-2

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M (5'10, 201)

Kirk has been a productive receiver since he arrived at Texas A&M, where he put up over 1000 yards as a receiver his freshman year in a crowded wide receiver room that included players like Josh Reynolds (a fourth-round pick of the Rams), Ricky Seals-Jones (now playing for the Cardinals), and Speedy Noil (a former No. 21 overall recruit out of high school, via Rivals.com).

Kirk's numbers at Texas A&M:

Christian Kirk Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201580 1009 12.6 
 201683 928 11.2 
 201771 919 12.9 10 
 TOTAL186 2201 11.8 26 


At 5'11, 200 pounds, Kirk is built more like a running back. Think Josh Huff, but with actual receiving ability, as in, polished routes and good hands.

In addition to his receiving ability, Kirk is a star returner. Over his career, Kirk had 7 return touchdowns (6 punt returns, 1 kick return). You can see some of those returns here:


With Darren Sproles likely not returning to the Eagles in 2018 (though we'll see) and Donnel Pumphrey having shown next to nothing in the way of a viable return candidate last offseason, the Eagles could (and should) be looking to add one.

Additionally, Kirk could fill the role that the Eagles were perhaps trying to carve out for Pumphrey and Huff, as a versatile weapon in the passing game who could get occasional carries on end-arounds and in the backfield.

The difference would be that Kirk is a legitimate receiver and returner, with the ability to catch the football, break tackles, and get yards after the catch.

Round projection: 1-2

Dante Pettis, WR, Washington (6'1, 186)

Pettis owns sole possession of the all-time NCAA record for career punt return touchdowns. A list of the NCAA career leaders for punt return TDs:

Player Years School Punt return TDs 
Dante Pettis 2014-2017 Washington 9 
 Wes Welker2000-2003 Texas Tech 
 Antonio Perkins2001-2004 Oklahoma 
 David Allen1997-2000 Kansas State 
 Javier Arenas2006-2009 Alabama 
 Leodis McKelvin2004-2007 Troy 
 Ryne Robinson2003-2006 Miami Ohio 
 Ryan Switzer2013-2016 North Carolina 7 
 Derek Abney2000-2003 Kentucky 
 Ted Ginn2004-2006 Ohio State 
 James Henry1986-1988 Southern Mississippi 
 DeSean Jackson2005-2007 California 
 Christian Kirk2015-2017 Texas A&M 
 Santana Moss1997-2000 Miami 
 Steve Suter2001-2004 Maryland 


Here are all nine of them:


As with Kirk above, in Pettis the Eagles would be getting one of the best punt returners ever to come out of college, as well as a dangerous receiver.

As a receiver, Pettis' reception and yardage numbers aren't great, but he found the end zone 15 times in 2016.

Dante Pettis Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201417 259  15.2
 201530 414 13.8 
 201653 822 15.5 15 
 201763 761 12.1 
 TOTAL163 2256 13.8 24 


It will be interesting to see how the NFL values Pettis as a receiver. A year ago, North Carolina's Ryan Switzer, an elite returner in college and 1000-yard receiver his senior year, lasted until the fourth round.

Round projection: 2-3

Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State (6'2, 197)

When the Eagles signed Torrey Smith last offseason, they were looking for a speed receiver who would keep opposing defenses honest by making safeties respect the possibility of the deep ball. Smith made some plays, but he was too inconsistent, as he struggled with drops and would go long stretches without making plays. A few weeks ago, they replaced him with another veteran speed receiver in Mike Wallace. 

Cedrick Wilson doesn't have ideal deep speed, but he makes plays down the field. In just two seasons, he racked up over 2600 receiving yards, and averaged 19 yards per catch.

 Cedrick WilsonRec Yards YPC TD 
 201656 1129 20.2 11 
 201783 1511 18.2 
 TOTAL139 2640 19.0 18 


Unlike Shelton Gibson a year ago, Wilson runs the full route tree, makes guys miss after he has the ball in his hands, and I love his tenacity as a blocker. 

Here's a highlight reel:


Wilson could be an immediate special-teams contributor and a guy who competes for meaningful reps in the offense, with No. 2 starter upside.

Round projection: 4

Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida (5'11, 200)

Callaway is a second- or third-round talent who won't even be on a number of draft boards at all, because of his off-field issues.

As a receiver, however, he is a flashy prospect with good athleticism and return ability. A highlight reel from 2015 and 2016:


As noted, Callaway comes with baggage galore. From NFL.com:

He faced a sexual assault trial between his freshman and sophomore year but was cleared of those charges before the 2016 season by admitting during the hearing he was "so stoned" he did not want to have sex with anyone. He was also cited for marijuana possession in May 2017 as a passenger in a car stopped because the driver wasn't wearing his seat belt; he pled no contest to possession of paraphernalia in July 2017. Calloway never played in 2017 because of his involvement in a credit card fraud scheme with other teammates.

Yikes. Still, the Eagles have taken chances on players with off-field concerns in the past who have paid off. For example, Jalen Mills was thought of by many as a Day 2 talent, and he has quickly proven to be a legitimate NFL starting corner. The Eagles happily scooped him up in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and could strongly consider doing the same with a player of Callaway's ability if he's still available on Day 3.

Round projection: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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