April 24, 2020
Eagles fans were hoping for a wide receiver in round one, and even though Howie Roseman landed one in TCU's Jalen Reagor, the early reaction has been mixed in Philadelphia, with the draft board shaking out differently than many expected.
After Oakland surprised many by making Henry Ruggs III the first wideout selected in 2020, visions of Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb in midnight green bubbled to the surface, only for the hated Cowboys to end up with the latter. And despite rumors of the team's interest in LSU's Justin Jefferson, they went in a different direction at No. 21.
Let's set aside the board for a moment. What are the Eagles getting in Reagor?
Reagor's combine performance was disappointing for someone with his apparent game speed — he ran the exact same 40 time Freddie Mitchell did 19 years ago, much to my surprise, despite some expecting him to run sub 4.3. But on the gridiron, Reagor showed off a combination of quickness and after-the-catch elusiveness that will be welcome on an Eagles team that lacked both of those things last season.
Since 2018, Reagor has gained 15+ yards on 52 percent of his catches, the second-highest rate in the country from that time period. His ability to separate jumps out immediately, and he's a threat to make a big play whenever the ball is in his hands. Reagor is often able to make the first guy miss, and while he's a shade under six feet tall, he has a good frame that allows him to run through weak tackle attempts.
The side-step around the one-minute mark is terrific. While everyone fetishizes top-end speed, the ability to accelerate and explode that quickly is often just as, if not more important.
During his sophomore and junior seasons at TCU, Reagor returned punts, and he averaged nearly 21 yards per return and picked up a couple of touchdowns during his final college season, an area where he was able to put his field vision and elusiveness to good use. Philadelphia's receiving core has been low on versatility in recent years, and Reagor should add both dynamism and flexibility to the offense, which they can use to move chess pieces around the board. Reagor himself is a safe bet to move between the slot and outside depending on the personnel.
While they're two different players with very different skills and responsibilities, think of the difference it made for the Eagles when Miles Sanders got rolling last season. Reagor won't be anything more than a gadget player in the backfield, but in addition to being a downfield threat who can take the top off of the defense, he's another option for end-arounds and other gadget plays next season.
Assuming DeSean Jackson can actually stay healthy — I know, I know — the Eagles might be able to put two burners on the field at the same time. After a season where they had no one to stretch the field, the Eagles may suddenly have a surplus of guys who can do so, opening the underneath routes up for their talented tight ends and emerging second-year back in Sanders.
Assuming we don't think his combine performance is a death sentence (and I certainly don't), the biggest concern for Reagor coming out of school is his ability to catch the football. On 92 targets, Reagor had nine drops, the worst mark among top wideouts in the 2020 class. Drops have been a problem for the Eagles across the board in recent years, so that will obviously scare a lot of people right off of the bat.
Reagor's production dropped considerably during his junior season, though many have pointed to a dip in QB play and a subsequent reliance on the running game as a reason for that drop. He still managed over 14 yards per reception during his final college season, but he was much more of a boom-or-bust player.
Speaking of boom-or-bust, the other potential concern is Reagor's horrific showings against TCU's best opponents last season and how that translates to the pros. He managed just two receptions and 17 yards combined in games against Baylor and Oklahoma last season and managed five receptions or more in just four of TCU's 12 games in 2019.
What do the scouts think of Reagor? Evaluations are relatively consistent on his strengths and weaknesses.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein offers a relatively standard Reagor report, with a noteworthy question regarding his competitive focus.
Spotty quarterback play helped cause a production drop, but his focus and competitiveness also seemed spotty at times. Reagor is a smooth athlete with blazing speed who has more playmaking talent than receiver skill and play-callers need to account for that when determining how to utilize him. He's electric with the ball in his hands so getting it to him quickly rather than asking him to consistently make plays for himself as a ball-winner could be crucial. When 2019 is balanced against his 2018, the grade and projection begin to climb with a versatile receiver who's able to spice the offensive gumbo. [NFL.com]
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report hits most of the same notes:
Reagor is a fan favorite, but there are concerns with drops, focus and limited routes. However, his potential as a speedy threat with the ball in his hands or working as a vertical option are intriguing. He could dominate in a scheme that lets him work down the field and highlights his speed and agility. [Bleacher Report]
Where you fall on Reagor probably depends on whether you think his regression last season is the fault of his quarterbacks or if Reagor is partially to blame for that issue. With pieces of his technique in question, there will be some burden on Philadelphia's coaching staff to polish him up and get him ready for the NFL, and their track record developing receivers has been poor for basically my entire life, so he's not the slam dunk some may have wanted.
It's an upside shot, that's for sure, and now the pressure is on Reagor to justify Roseman's confidence in him. Welcome to Philadelphia, rook.
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