With each new day, the idea that the Eagles' 2014 roster may not include DeSean Jackson gains more and more credence. From a fan base perspective, beginning to look at who might replace Jackson's production before he's gone is akin to telling a child, "Sorry Billy, your dog is dying, but here's a brochure for some tropical fish."
As it happens, the 2014 WR class is extraordinarily deep and talented, and is a buyers market. There's a decent chance a WR may be the top player on the Eagles' board when they're picking in the first 3 rounds, so whether Jackson is an Eagle this season or not, a WR could be in play if the Eagles stay true to their "best player available" mandate. Here are, in my opinion, the Top 10 WR draft prospects in the upcoming 2014 draft, with highlight videos and Combine numbers.
Sammy Watkins, Clemson (6'1, 211)
Watkins is the near-unanimous #1 WR prospect in this draft, although he's not on the level of prospects like Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green. Watkins has incredible hands, body control, run after the catch ability, and great speed. He is unquestionably a top 10 pick, and probably top 5.
The Eagles have no realistic chance of drafting Watkins, who will be long gone by the time they pick at 22.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M (6'5, 231)
Evans is a huge target at 6'5, 231 with 35 1/8" arms and a 37" vertical jump. His catch radius in this class is unrivaled, and his measurements are extraordinarily rare. Evans doesn't even need to be open to be open. Just throw it up, and he'll go get it. There isn't a better player in this draft at winning on contested catches. His freakish size aside, Evans can run after the catch, and he ran a 4.53 40 at the Combine, a great time for a player his size.
Here's what he did to Alabama this year:
Like Watkins, the Eagles have no realistic chance of drafting Evans without moving up, as he will be long gone by the time they pick at 22. However, it is interesting that the Eagles reportedly scheduled Evans to visit them in Philly.
Marqise Lee, USC (6'0, 192)
Lee put up huge numbers his freshman and sophomore years, but as a junior he played injured and his production fell off a cliff. Lee could wind up being a tremendous value to whoever takes him. Lee is quick, game fast, gets yards after the catch, and is thought to have great toughness and intangibles.
There's an outside (although unlikely) chance he'll be on the board when the Eagles are picking in the first round.
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State (5'10, 189)
We profiled Brandin Cooks in quite a bit of detail here a couple weeks ago, and he's an enormously talented player. Cooks has incredible run after the catch ability, he catches balls in traffic, he's a good route runner, he has good hands, he returns kicks, and is thought to have good character.
Cooks had better production in college than DeSean Jackson, and also outperformed him at the Combine:
The biggest knock on Cooks is his size, at 5'10, 189, but he's likely to be drafted in the first round, and could be an attractive option to the Eagles at 22.
Odell Beckham, LSU (5'11, 198)
Beckham's production in 2013 is particularly impressive, considering he shared targets with Jarvis Landry, another very talented receiver likely to be drafted reasonably high this year. Other receivers across the nation are the focal points of their offenses, and therefore have more gaudy numbers.
Beckham has big, strong hands, great RAC ability (a common theme among this WR class), and would be a far more explosive big play threat than Jason Avant out of the slot. Beckham is also a dangerous kick and punt returner.
Like Cooks, Beckham is a potential target for the Eagles at 22.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State (6'5, 240)
Like Texas A&M's Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin is a huge target with long arms. However, he is far less athletic, and therefore less appealing. Still, Benjamin may land in the 1st round if a team falls in love with his size, but unlike a large number of the other prospects in this draft, Benjamin's run after the catch ability is lacking, and he doesn't have good hands.
Benjamin would be the "big WR" many Eagles fans have been desired for years, but, there are better WRs who will likely be available at 22.
Davante Adams, Fresno State (6'1, 212)
Adams' numbers are a little out of whack because of Fresno State's pass-heavy offense. Fresno State QB Derek Carr attempted 659 passes in 2013, the 2nd most in the country, so Adams had far more targets than other receivers around the country. Still, Adams is only a redshirt sophomore, and his numbers are ridiculous, as he caught 38 TDs in his 2-year college career.
Adams doesn't have the 'shake and bake' that Cooks and Beckham possess, however, he is very good at breaking tackles after the catch. He's also great at catching balls in traffic, and is obviously a very good red zone threat.
Adams isn't likely to be an attractive option where the Eagles are picking in the first round, but if he somehow slipped to the Eagles in the 2nd (unlikely), he would be tremendous value.
Allen Robinson, Penn State (6'3, 220)
Robinson has great size at 6'3, 220, and he had a vertical jump of 39" at the Combine. Like Mike Evans, Robinson is another "Throw it up and let him get it" guy. Robinson's straight-line speed isn't anything to marvel at, but he has very good quickness, especially for his size, and does a great job breaking tackles after the catch.
Robinson is a very physical receiver who could be a target for the Eagles in round 2.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt (6'3, 212)
Matthews has great speed (4.46) for his size (6'3, 212), and is known as a hard worker. He is the only Senior on this list, and in my view, was the best WR at the Senior Bowl. A knock on Matthews is that he drops a lot of passes. Sometimes that is correctable, sometimes it isn't, but Matthews is a very intriguing prospect on his size, speed, and production.
Matthews could be a Round 2 or 3 target
Jarvis Landry, LSU (6'0, 204)
Landry is more of a football player than he is an athlete, as he had a very disappointing Combine. However, he almost never drops passes, has deceptive speed and run after the catch ability. He is also a tremendous blocker (a huge plus with Chip Kelly), and fearless over the middle. He's the kind of player you can plug into the slot on day 1, and expect results on special teams coverage. Watch him destroy this poor Auburn player at the 0:48 mark:
Landry probably hurt his draft stock with his poor showing at the Combine, but if he is available to the Eagles in Round 3, that would be an absolute steal.
Other very good receivers:
• Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
• Paul Richardson, Colorado
• Martavis Bryant, Clemson
• Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
• Josh Huff, Oregon
• Robert Herron, Wyoming
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