DeSean Jackson has played his final game in a Philadelphia Eagles jersey. I have read enough reports over the last week to believe that head coach Chip Kelly doesn’t want DeSean to be a part of this team any longer. Why he might feel that way is still unknown. We know DeSean held out for part of training camp in 2011 and asked for more money immediately after the 2013 season. We also know that he is a cocky s.o.b. who doesn’t always put the team first.
More than likely the real reason Chip wants DeSean is pretty justifiable and won’t be known to the fans for quite some time. For now Eagles fans will need to trust the powers that be, who led this team to the postseason last year following a 4-12 2012 campaign.
Instead of breaking down every single bleeping DeSean Jackson report that has come about over the last week, I thought we could instead look at some potential replacement for DeSean via the 2014 NFL Draft(which is insanely loaded at wide receiver).
Here are the top 10 potential draft replacements for the Philadelphia Eagles:
1) Mike Evans/Texas A&M 6’5 230- Evans is locked in as my number one ranked wide receiver in this year’s draft class. It’s easy to see why at 6’5, 230 pounds with a 37 inch vertical jump and 35 1/2 inch arms. That is a serious catching radius. It isn’t just the size with Evans, it’s the fact that he uses his size better than anyone else in this class. He wins most contested battles against defensive backs, he comes back to the football and he knows where to go with his route when the play breaks down.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- Evans is open even when he is well covered. He is too tall, with too long of a reach, with too high of a jump and too strong not to win most contested battles at the next level.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- He lacks elite quickness to beat good presses and create immediate separation. That’s okay because it isn’t his game. He still ran nearly three tenths of a second faster than Kelvin Benjamin in the 3-c0ne drill at the combine. He isn’t a slow receiver, but he won’t be labeled as quick on either.
HOW HE FITS- Chip Kelly wants his receiver to block well and gets yards after the catch. Evans can do both at the next level. He ran a 4.53 40 at the combine, good enough to show that deep speed that can lead to some big plays after the catch. He also showed a lot of ability as a blocker in college. With his length and strength only a lack of effort would prevent him from being a dominant blocker at the wide receiver position.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- What made DeSean great in this offense was the threat of the big play on every single play. Safeties had to play further back on his side. Evans doesn’t have that speed, but no corner can physically match-up with him alone. This requires safety help, or at least the attention of the safety. That will open things up for the running game, the tight ends over the middle and the outside wide out on the opposite side.
DRAFT PROJECTION- Most draft experts believe Evans will fall sometime between picks 10 through 15 of the first round, meaning the Eagles would probably have to trade up. Having said that, he isn’t the top wide receiver on most experts’ boards and could fall due to a very deep draft class at several positions.
2) Jordan Matthews/Vanderbilt 6’3 212- Matthews is the most technically sound wide receiver I have ever scouted. That isn’t a long enough history to put him ahead of Jerry Rice(who is actually his cousin), but it’s impressive nonetheless. He has a nice combination of size and speed, but it’s his route running, hands and body control that should allow him to be a number one receiver at the next level.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- He does all the little things extremely well. He has great hands and doesn’t lose concentration before the ball is secured. He finishes all his routes in practice and finishes each catch into the end zone to create a positive mental image in his head. He also runs crisp routes and blocks well. Basically everything he does on a high level isn’t measured at a pro day or at the combine.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- Consistent separation for Matthews is a concern. Scouts question whether or not he has the explosion off the snap to gain immediate separation against press coverage and the true deep speed to get open down the field.
HOW HE FITS- It’s a myth that Chip Kelly wants five wide receivers that could be world class sprinters. Football is far more complex than that. Blocking, hands, consistency and yards after the catch is what Chip is after. Matthews would fit in as a more athletic version of Riley Cooper. He can gets extra yards off bubble screens, block down field, make plays in the red zone and be that reliable target on third down that Nick Foles so badly needs.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- He replaces DeSean by being the anti-DeSean. Humble, consistent, physical and crisp. He won’t sell as many jerseys as DeSean, but you will thank God you have Matthews instead of DeSean when the Eagles are faced with a critical third and 8 in a playoff game.
DRAFT PROJECTION- Matthews could go top 20, but then again he could still be available for the Eagles in the second round. It all depends on who you talk to. Some see elite wide receiver, others see a nice possession guy. We all know how much character and consistency matters to Chip Kelly, so don’t rule Matthews out with the Eagles 22nd overall pick in the draft.
3) Odell Beckham Jr/LSU 5’11 198- Versatile and physical for a receiver of his size. He fires back to the football, wins contested catches and is a dangerous return man. He is more quick than fast, but has plenty in both areas and finds another gear when the ball is in his hands.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- It’s easy to point out his athleticism or quickness(38.5 inch vertical, 6.69 3-cone drill), but it’s his physicality for his size that jumps out at me. He has big hands and knows how to use them. He cuts off his defender when the ball is thrown his way. He blocks well and gets a good release from press coverage.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- Despite all the quickness Beckham showed at the combine, he doesn’t get as much separation on film as you would expect to see. What is really to blame for that? His speed? His route running ability? The offense he played in? It’s hard to say, but it is a concern for a team that looks at him as a first round pick.
HOW HE FITS- Beckham is a perfect fit for this offense and really this entire team. He plays hard one very snap, he blocks well, he can return kicks and he is a YAC monster.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- DeSean always seemed to disappoint on bubble screens. He has the speed to be a threat there, but he quickly ran for cover and didn’t trust his blockers. This is where Beckham comes in. He won’t run for cover, he does have speed to be a threat on screens and he will trust his blockers. He has the right combination of patience, speed and toughness to be a threat on screens and quick swing passes.
DRAFT PROJECTION- He probably falls sometime after the 20th overall pick. He doesn’t offer enough to be thought of a top 15 pick, but what he does offer is still enticing enough for a team to spend a first round pick on.
4) Sammy Watkins/Clemson 6’0 211- A consensus top 10 pick by most, while others don’t see him as one of the top two wide receivers in this draft. His true value is debatable. He is explosive out of his breaks, but is a limited route runner. Does he have the potential to be top 10 draft pick? There is a big difference between A.J. Green and Jeremy Maclin.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- Nobody catches away from their body better than Watkins in this class. That allows him to make more grabs over his head and it allowed him to have success hauling in passes from such an inconsistent and flawed quarterback like Tajh Boyd.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- Watkins is a pretty limited route runner at this point. That will be coached up at the next level, but there is a good chance that his immediate production will be a lot lower than expected. The more complex offense he goes to, the more likely he will struggle in his rookie season.
HOW HE FITS- He is a bubble screen master. At times that is all Clemson would run, simply because Watkins and the blockers around him worked so well together. It was tough to defend and it opened the rest of the offense up.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- The YAC ability that will be lost with DeSean can almost immediately be gained with Watkins. You also get more size, better hands and a pretty good return man as well.
DRAFT PROJECTION- A couple months ago I predicted that Watkins wouldn’t be the first wide receiver taken in the draft, but I have yet to see a report or any speculation that would signal otherwise. Until I do, I will project Watkins as a top 10 pick, even though I don’t agree with it.
5) Bradin Cooks/Oregon State 5’10 189- What happens when you get a mix of Steve Smith(the Carolina version) and DeSean Jackson? Bradin Cooks happens! He has the toughness of Smith with the speed(4.33 40) of DeSean. Lack of height is irrelevant if you have elite speed and the toughness to boot. He gets separation consistently and has the skill set and toughness to make a lot of contested catches.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- Explosive in the open field. If you don’t get a jam on him, he will find an opening and if the first defender misses in the open field, he is incredibly dangerous. He will find the soft spots against a zone and he has to be defended a certain way against man coverage.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- Size. If he was 6’5, he would be the top pick in the draft. His size limits him in contested situations against bigger corners and his frame will affects his durability at some point, even though he has never missed a game at any level of competition.
HOW HE FITS- This one won’t take much explaining. He is the deep threat needed to open things up for the rest of the offense and he is perfect for the screen game as well.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- Uh, he is DeSean. Maybe even faster than DeSean(Cooks 40 was 4.33, DeSean’s was 4.35). You will never find a more similar prospect to DeSean Jackson ever again, except Cooks is a little more physical.
DRAFT PROJECTION- Cooks’ size will scare off a few teams in the first round. More than likely He will be available when the Eagles pick 22nd overall.
6) Marqise Lee/USC 6’0 192- I heard somebody compare Lee to a shorter version of A.J. Green. You can see it at times on tape, but that doesn’t mean he will be a top five pick like Green was. Green is a lot bigger and doesn’t have quite the injury history that Lee has. Still, there is a lot to like about Lee. He is one of the more well-rounded receivers in this class and he can be a deep threat and a solid possession receiver because of his natural ball skills.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- Lee has straight line speed and good quickness when running his routes, but it’s his ability as a blocker all over the field that caught my eye. He can physically dominant you at the line and he makes the correct blocks down the field. This trait won’t make him a lock for the first round, but it will keep him on the field longer than most.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- He never seemed to be healthy during the entire 2013 season. It was just one injury after another which has led many evaluators to wonder whether or not he can stay healthy at the next level. It doesn’t help his case that he is only 6’0, 192 pounds.
HOW HE FITS- He is a deep threat who can win contested catches and is an elite blocker. Yeah I think Chip Kelly would take that in a heartbeat.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- He isn’t as dangerous in the open field, but he has enough speed and athleticism to be that deep threat needed in this offense.
7) Davante Adams/Fresno State 6’1 212- A rawer version of Marqise Lee without all the injury concerns. He has good quickness and straight line speed and excellent leaping ability(39 inch vertical). Basically if you miss on Lee in the first round, trade up in the second round and make sure you get Adams. I’m not trying to say there are exactly the same, but what they can bring to your offense is very similar.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- Adams is the best of both worlds at wide receiver. He isn’t quite as fast as a Cooks or Watkins and he isn’t quite as physical as a Brandon Coleman or Kelvin Benjamin, but he gives you a little bit of both. He’s quick enough to gain consistent separation and athletic enough to win a lot of jump ball situations.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- Adams is a really raw receiver. His route running is inconsistent and his ball skills need work. He comes from a pretty simplistic offense and will fall behind early because of it. Because of this he will probably rely too much on his physical gifts and not enough on football skills like crisp routes and his timing. This could lead to him starting slow in his rookie year or never reaching his potential.
HOW HE FITS- Bubble screens and fades. Chip called a lot of those in 2013 and Adams probably ran more of those type of routes than any other wide out in this class. Even if he struggles with more complex routes, we know he can be a good screener and red zone target in the back corner from day one.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- He has all the physical tools you need in a number one receiver to make this offense pop. We just don’t know if he can be that guy early in his career.
DRAFT PROJECTION- Adams is talented enough to be a first round pick, just not this season. This is a really deep draft and you can easily make a case for 32 players being more deserving of a first round pick. Still, it only takes one time to like him enough to make him a top 32 pick. It’s highly unlikely that the Eagles can scoop him up with their 54th overall pick, but he would make sense if the Eagles trade down from their 22nd overall pick.
8) Robert Herron/Wyoming 5’9 193- One of the toughest wide receivers to press in this class and therefore, could become an elite slot receiver. He has a great combo of speed and quickness and he knows how to set up his blocks. What’s impressive about his time at Wyoming is that he wasn’t surrounded by great offensive talent. He had a good quarterback in Brett Smith, but not much else. He still put up big numbers week after week. Imagine what he will do in the NFL surrounded by other weapons.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- He as really good deep speed, but it’s his quickness that wows me. He is going to be really difficult to cover in man coverage because of it. If he improves his hands he can develop into an elite slot target.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- He’s small and he will drop more passes than I’m sure he’d like to admit. Hands can improve, but size will stay the same. As long as his hands improve and he gets tougher over the middle, the size won’t really matter. It just limits what he can do inside the 20.
HOW HE FITS- Elite speed plus elite quickness equals ideal screen wide out. The Eagles weren’t as successful on their bubble screens as I thought they would be in 2013. Herron would go a long way in changing that.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- He has all the speed and quickness you would need to adequately replace Jackson. It’s just a matter of properly utilizing those gifts to become a consistent wide receiver in the NFL.
DRAFT PROJECTION- I have Herron listed as a top 75 prospect and most scouting services have him as a round three or four draft pick. The Eagles could use their first two picks on defense and still replace DeSean in the third round.
9) Allen Robinson/Penn State 6’3 210- Most Eagles fans are pretty familiar with Robinson’s abilities as he as the star of the Penn State offense in 2013. At times he carried the Nittany Lions offense including during a big come from behind victory against Michigan. He is still a little raw in some areas, but his athleticism makes you jump out of your seat when you watch him on tape.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- He has deceptive speed when the ball is in his hands and he is difficult to cover in a jump ball situation. His size, strength and leaping ability make him an outstanding fade target in the back of the end zone.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- He is really slow in his breaks at times. He transitions slowly between routes and doesn’t show the speed and agility to consistently get open at the next level. Separation will be a big question mark in the NFL.
HOW HE FITS- He created a lot of big plays off the screen game while at PSU. He uses his size and athleticism to dodge defenders(or stiff arm them) and to turn small gains into big ones. That skill will translate from day one in this offense.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- The biggest need when/if DeSean is dealt will be the ability to command double teams or extra safety help. DeSean forced the safeties to play further back. Robinson doesn’t have that kind of speed, but his size and leaping ability will make it difficult for the average 5’10 corner in the NFL to handle him on an island.
DRAFT PROJECTION- It all depends on who you talk to. Some see borderline first round ability, while others see closer to the second or third round of the draft.
10) Josh Huff/Oregon 5’11 205- I don’t think I am allowed to write anything draft related about this team without mentioning at least one prospect from Oregon. Huff and Chip will know each other very well and that familiarity would make this a good fit. Huff played mainly in the slot where he was a reliable receiver and a very good blocker. He finished his senior year with well over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns.
BIGGEST STRENGTHS- He is an ideal slot receiver. He has good body control, runs crisp routes, make the tough catches over the middle, finds the soft spot in a zone and is a solid blocker.
BIGGEST WEAKNESSES- Huff’s hands will really frustrate you on tape at times. It’ s not a size thing or anything to do with his ability, it’s just a matter of concentration.
HOW HE FITS- He was the perfect fit in Chip’s offense at Oregon and should make an even better fit with his NFL offense. He would come right in and be the second best blocking wide receiver on the roster(only behind Riley Cooper). He would also gives this offense a quicker option over the middle of the field, something they lacked last season with Jason Avant.
HOW HE REPLACES DESEAN- DeSean and Huff and night and day apart. DeSean needs space, Huff doesn’t(even thought he can find it). Huff is a more physical receiver who is already a better blocker and can make consistent plays over the middle of the field. DeSean opened things up over the middle because of his speed, Huff would do the opposite. He would open things up to the outside because would require more attention over the middle.
DRAFT PROJECTION- Huff has been consistently projected between the third and fourth round. I don’t see any reason why he could sneak into the second round, but I also don’t see a scenario where he falls into the fifth. Look for him to fall somewhere between picks 70 and 95.