Eagles use the NFL draft to reshape their wide receivers unit

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 03 Baylor at West Virginia-29042017-0011
Shelton Gibson of West Virginia was picked in the fifth round.

The Eagles continued to reshape their wide receiver depth chart Saturday by picking two receivers on the final day of the NFL draft, adding to a unit that was already bolstered last month with free agents Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.

North Carolina's Mack Hollins arrived as a fourth-round pick (No. 118), and West Virginia's Shelton Gibson came as a fifth-round pick (No. 166). After enduring inconsistencies from their underperforming wide receivers last year, the Eagles will likely have four new receivers on the roster.

"I think it's great," coach Doug Pederson said about the changes at wide receiver. "I'm excited to see who's going to rise to the top and who's going to be there in the end."

Pederson didn't say it, but Dorial Green-Beckham and potentially even Nelson Agholor should be on notice and will need to play their way onto the 53-man roster this summer. Down-the-depth-chart wide receivers such as Paul Turner and Bryce Treggs face long odds to return. Hollins and Gibson could find a role on a team that will likely feature Jeffery, Jordan Matthews, and Smith as the top three receivers. Quarterback Carson Wentz's options will be bigger, faster, and more dynamic.

The Eagles went through the first two days of the draft without giving Wentz any help. Three offensive players came Saturday, with San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey arriving in the fourth round (No. 132).

They also drafted two defensive players on Saturday: Nebraska safety-turned-linebacker Nate Gerry in the fifth round (No. 184) and Washington defensive tackle Elijah Qualls in the sixth round (No. 214). The final draft haul included five defensive players.

"We won't know a lot about the things that we did this weekend for a while here, but as we sit here we feel good about it," said Howie Roseman, the Eagles executive vice president of football operations. "We feel like we did the right things for our team, not necessarily only for this moment but going forward."

The final day was marked by the additions at wide receiver. It started with Hollins, who is 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds and ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash. He was limited to seven games last season because of a broken collarbone and finished with 16 catches for 309 yards and four touchdowns. Roseman indicated that the Eagles believed Hollins would have been a second-round pick if not for the injury. The size and speed combination jumps out about Hollins as does his big-play ability. Even though he caught only 81 passes in his college career, he averaged 20.6 yards per catch and scored on 25 percent of his touches.

Hollins already has a relationship with Wentz after catching passes from him earlier this offseason. The two share the same agency.

"He is the type of quarterback where it's almost like you don't even have to catch the ball. He puts it where it needs to be," Hollins said. "Immediately you can kind of feel that connection with him. . . . He made me feel comfortable as a receiver, running routes with him and putting in some of the stuff he has been doing with the Eagles that I will obviously eventually be doing."

Hollins also presents significant value on special teams as a four-unit player who was touted as one of the best in the draft for special-teams coverage. But that's not the reason they drafted him.

"It was the receiving ability first," said Roseman. "We're not looking to draft [only] special-teams players in the fourth round. . . . We're looking at a guy like that who has the ability to be an eventual starter."

The Eagles did not necessarily plan to add a second wide receiver in the draft until Gibson's ranking outpaced the other players on the board in the fifth round. The appeal of Gibson is his deep speed.

Gibson, who is 5-foot-11 and 191 pounds, is a threat who ran a 4.50 40 at the combine. He has been compared to former Eagles star DeSean Jackson and averaged 22.6 yards per catch in his career. Gibson finished with 43 catches for 951 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and 36 percent of his catches during the last two seasons were for 25-plus yards.

His routes and hands must improve, but the Eagles needed that big-play element in their offense. Gibson said he's faster on the field than his combine test would suggest.

"I think I should have put pads and a helmet on because I am way faster with pads and a helmet on," said Gibson, who was timed at 4.39 seconds at his pro day. "Oh man, I fly. I think I am on the right team to fly, honestly. They are the Eagles, so they fly."

The roles of the rookies will be more apparent as the season approaches and could depend pm what happens with the other wide receivers.

The Eagles kept five wide receivers last season, but it could be six this year. They need to see what kind of summer Agholor and Green-Beckham have. Green-Beckham's spot is in more jeopardy than Agholor's. Matthews, the team's top receiver the last two years, has also been the subject of trade rumors. And there could always be injuries that affect the team's plans. But adding four receivers in the draft and free agency showed the Eagles were not subtle about the need to upgrade the position.

"We're not looking at numbers. We're not worried about what's going to happen in August," Roseman said. "A lot is going to happen between now and August. Best situation we can have is to have a lot of good players at a particular position."

zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm www.philly.com/eaglesblog