Welcome back to part 2 of 4 in the draft series on Wide receivers. In Part 1, the discussion involved elite prospects in the NFL draft next week. Today, I’ll dive into some options the Eagles may have available if they stay at their current slot of 21, or who they could draft if trading down in the first round.
Stay at 21
The recent emergence of Justin Jefferson surging up draft boards complicates things for Howie Roseman. If the top 4 Wide receivers are off the board by the time we reach the 21st pick, I’d strongly consider trade back options. However, for the sake of this article, let’s discuss two prospects I wouldn’t mind taking at their current draft slot.
Denzel Mims has been the flavor of the week in the tri-state area. The senior from Baylor University mentioned this week on Philadelphia radio that the Philadelphia Eagles have contacted him more than any other team. Well, it looks like Howie has a favorite leading into the draft.
The 6’3, 207 lb senior, is coming off a stellar season at Baylor. He recorded 66 receptions for 1,020 yards with 12 touchdowns. The production in his final season earned himself 1st team All Big-12 honors. Mims has a unique skill set unlike others in this draft class. The combination of his size and speed (4.38 40 yard dash) is something that could be very successful at the next level.
Denzel Mims is an excellent vertical receiver. He exhibits good straight away speed and demonstrates the ability to get up and win the ball at the highest catch point. Mims plays with competitive toughness, especially in the blocking game. He’ll get physical with the defender and stalk block effectively. He plays with a high motor finishing each play at a high level. Finally, Denzel Mims possesses an above-average catch radius.
The first thing that stood out when analyzing Denzel Mims is being lackadaisical. Let’s start at the snap of the ball. He tends to telegraph the type of play being ran just by his footwork. Pass= Choppy feet before release. Run= no footwork, proceed downfield. It comes off as pretty lazy to me. Also, he can be inconsistent with his hands. Mims can make a terrific catch in coverage, but drop a routine ball on the next play. Finally, his route running will need to be improved at the next level. Mims can get downfield, but lateral movement across the field is where he can improve. If Mims can fix these minor flaws, he’ll be a matchup nightmare in the NFL.
Jalen Reagor is a 5’11, 196lb junior from Texas Christian University. Eagles fans might remember the name “Reagor.” Jalen’s father Monte Reagor played multiple seasons in the NFL. He played one season in Philly, where he was the recipient of the Ed Block Courage award. Needless to say, there’s an excellent football pedigree in the Reagor household.
Jalen arrived on campus as a freshman and made his impression felt early and often. He finished the freshman campaign with 33 receptions for 576 yards with 8 touchdowns. He earned himself Co-offensive freshman of the year for the Big 12 conferences. Reagor also earned a spot on the 2017 True Freshman All-American team. In the following two years, Jalen earned 2nd team ALL Big 12 honors despite lackluster play at the quarterback position.
Jalen Reagor can be labeled as a playmaker. He’s a versatile football player and can play every skill position on the offensive side of the football. You’ll see him in the backfield, running a jet sweep, catching a deep ball, and returning kicks. Reagor displays explosiveness after the catch. He establishes reasonable body control at the point of contact. Finally, Reagor’s shows off good footwork and has tremendous field vision.
The one area of improvement for Jalen Reagor demanding attention: Concentration Drops! In the NFL, you need to be consistent, or you’ll be gone. If a receiver is dropping routine balls, you’ll be cut before you know it. Reagor is a burner on the field. He’s not very physical and has a difficult time reeling in contested catches. Finally, when playing at receiver, he lined up exclusively on the right side. This shouldn’t be a huge issue for him down the road as he gets acclimated to the NFL style of play.
The following two prospects are players that should be available via trade down in the first round of the draft. They could still be reliable options for the Eagles should the draft board not fall in their favor. Let’s examine the college careers of Laviska Shenault and Tee Higgins.
The 6’1, 227lb Junior from the University of Colorado began to flash as a freshman in limited work. He managed to average almost 25 yards per reception. The coming-out party occurred in his sophomore season. Shenault averaged 9.6 receptions per game, which led the nation in that category. He finished the season with 86 receptions for 1,011 total receiving yards on the season. He was named team MVP and had a spot reserved as a member of the 1st team ALL PAC 12.
Laviska Shenault has a solid build at 227lbs to hold his own against defenders. He plays with physicality and is explosive while performing tremendous ability after the catch. Laviska has excellent vertical receiving skills. Shenault is a versatile player on offense. He can play anywhere on the field. Shenault lines up inside or out, in the wildcat, or as the H back. He recorded 280 rushing yards over his collegiate career at Colorado.
While Shenault can be the man responsible for many tasks on offense, there are a few areas of improvement in his overall game. The first area of concern is route running. Shenault, being involved in all areas of offense, has affected him running crisp routes. He’s out there finding holes in the defense to get open. Blocking could be improved upon as well. He could bring more contribution to the run game with more focus on getting physical off the ball. Finally, Let’s address Shenault’s durability. He’s experienced a few injuries that could raise question marks. He suffered a torn Labrum and experienced a turf toe injury in 2018. More recently, he suffered a groin injury in 2019. Hopefully, those injuries are behind him and can enjoy a successful career in the NFL.
Tee Higgins is a terrific athlete who just completed his junior season at Clemson University. He stands tall at 6’4 and weighs 216lbs. He came to Clemson as a highly recruited athlete out of high school. Higgins began to make an impression as a sophomore. He led the team in receptions (59) and finished with 936 yards receiving. Higgins earned 2nd team ALL ACC honors for his production. As a junior, he collected 1,167 yards receiving, which led the team. Higgins finished his collegiate career with 27 receiving touchdowns. This placed Higgins in a tie for most touchdowns in Clemson football history. The others with 27 touchdowns include DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. That’s pretty good company!
The first thing that stood out in evaluating Higgins game is his footwork in a press release. He does a good job of breaking off the release. Higgins establishes good body control and can adjust well to the ball. He’s a versatile playmaker who’s excellent in the red zone. Higgins has exceptional hands and demonstrates a terrific catch radius.
Blocking: There’s no reason why Higgins can’t dominate a DB physically in off the ball situations. He needs to use a killer instinct when stalk blocking. Route running needs to be improved at the next level. Higgins needs to get crisper with cuts in his routes. While he can make contested catches in tight windows, Higgins sometimes drops the routine ball due to lack of focus.
What Would Howie Do? The first round of the 2020 NFL draft will be very interesting for the Eagles war room (via Zoom I’d imagine) and for Eagles fans across the globe. It’ll be fascinating to see how the draft board falls as we get to the middle portion of the first round. Does Howie make a move up the draft board? Does he stand pat at 21? Perhaps the top 4 receivers fly off the board, and the Eagles decide to trade down for additional draft capital. Regardless of what happens, it should be exciting to watch. Tune in Monday for part 3 of the wide receiver draft series, as I evaluate options in the middle rounds of the draft.