April 16, 2023
In the leadup to the 2023 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles' biggest needs — defensive tackle, edge rusher, defensive tackle, etc. — have been covered at length. Oh, and Bijan Robinson. I think there might be some articles about him, too. One of the undiscussed needs for the Birds in the 2023 NFL Draft is at wide receiver, and, well, since we love our wide receivers in Philly, let's cover them.
The Eagles' top 4 receivers in 2022 were A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, and Zach Pascal. The only other receiver to get any snaps in the regular offense was Britain Covey, who got 21 snaps in garbage time. The Eagles never needed to dip into their reserves because everyone stayed healthy.
As for performance, Brown and Smith were everything the Eagles could have hoped they'd be and more, while Pascal did his job in the Eagles' "enforcer" role. Watkins struggled as the No. 3, and got a bump in pay to $2,785,415 in 2023 for hitting playing time benchmarks over his first three seasons in the league.
Pascal left in free agency, and the Eagles are super thin at receiver beyond their two star players. They could use a low volume, big play receiver capable of playing in the slot — possibly as a replacement for Watkins — who can also play outside in the event Brown or Smith go down, and they could use another "enforcer" to take over for Pascal. Let's review five players who make sense in each role.
• Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee (6'0, 176, 4.40 40): Hyatt had a breakout season out of the slot for Tennessee in 2022, catching 67 passes for 1,267 yards (18.9 PYC) and 15 TDs. He is a speed receiver with deep ball tracking skills and run after catch ability.
Hyatt would not require a ton of targets, but could be counted on to make the big plays when those opportunities present themselves. He would also theoretically help keep safeties from creeping up into the box to stop the run, fearing his deep speed to beat them over the top. Hyatt would make sense for the Eagles in a trade back from pick 30 in the second round.
• Tyler Scott, Cincinnati (5'10, 177, 4.37 40): Scott averaged 16.9 yards per catch the last two seasons at Cincinnati. He had a season high of just 899 yards (in 2022), but as you can see below, he is a game breaker:
Scott played inside and outside at Cincinnati. He also played running back in high school, and you can see that translate to wide receiver with his run after catch ability. Late Day 2 guy.
• Marvin Mims, Oklahoma (5'11, 183, 4.38 40): Mims averaged 19.5 yards per catch over his career at Oklahoma. Again, he was a low-volume target guy with a season high total of 54 catches in 2022. His speed is obvious, and you can see him separating from defenders down the field when he turns on the jets, but he also has some outstanding concentration catches below:
Late Day 2 guy.
• Nathaniel Dell, Houston (5'8, 165, 4.49 40): Dell had bigtime production at Houston, catching 199 passes for 2,727 yards and 29 TDs over the last two seasons. In that sense, he doesn't fit the "low volume" theme, but he does bring added punt return value to the table, as he averaged 17 yards per punt return in 2022.
Late Day 2 guy.
• Derius Davis, TCU (5'8, 165, 4.36 40): Davis is a tiny-but-quick water bug type of playmaker who had 6 return TDs during his career at TCU. He was also used at times as a gadget guy on jet sweeps and reverses, and he produced his share of big plays.
Britain Covey finished the season on an upward trajectory as a returner in 2022, but Davis is a more explosive athlete with some home run potential.
• Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss (6'2, 220): Mingo is more than just an "enforcer." He is a big-bodied receiver the Eagles would have to try to get involved in the passing game because of his contested catch and run after catch ability.
The rest of these guys below are late Day 3 prospects.
• Elijah Higgins, Stanford (6'3, 235): Higgins went to Stanford, which of course is the alma mater of the original enforcer, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. 😂
Higgins is a hefty receiver at 6'3, 235 with huge 10 1/2" hands who could find work in the NFL as a receiver / tight end hybrid. He is thought of as a good blocker.
• C.J. Johnson, East Carolina (6'1, 224): Johnson has a surprisingly high career 16.3 yards per catch average for a player his size. In 2022, he had 67 catches for 1,016 yards and 10 TDs. He's a talented player with character concerns to sort out.
• Justin Shorter, Florida (6'4, 229): Shorter is larger, at 6'4, 229, with 34" arms that help him outsize defensive backs on deep balls down the field. He also effectively uses that size to his advantage as a blocker.
• Bryce Ford-Wheaton, West Virginia (6'4, 221): Ford-Wheaton has a ways to go as a receiver, but he's 6'4, 221 and he runs a 4.38, so someone is going to draft him. He'll have immediate value as a core special teamer, which makes him something of a poor man's Mack Hollins, which may not sound appealing to Eagles fans, though Hollins has gone on to have a nice post-Eagles career.
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