The NFL Draft is just over a week away, and the Eagles are slotted to make ten selections in this year’s draft, with two of these picks coming in the first round. Having multiple number one selections in back-to-back drafts gives Howie Roseman plenty of ammunition to either trade up and go get one of the top players in the draft or use these picks to acquire a star receiver like Deebo Samuel or A.J. Brown. Philly has been connected to receivers like Christian Kirk, Allen Robinson, and Calvin Ridley throughout the beginning of the offseason, but Howie was not willing to pull the trigger. Given the current state receiver market, it is likely the case that Howie Roseman elects to use one of these first-round picks on a receiver and save money rather than paying them upwards of $25 million per-year.
If Roseman and company were to stay at pick 15, it is pretty evident that the Eagles need a receiver. In 2021, the Eagle’s passing attack was not a strength of their team, as they were the eighth worst passing offense last season. You can blame some of this on Jalen Hurts’ struggles as a first-year starter, but Hurts was one of five quarterbacks to have no pass-catchers considered “open” by PFF on at least 19% of his drop backs. Philly signed former Colt’s receiver Zach Pascal to a one-year deal, adding depth to the receiver room. If the Eagles want to give Hurts a fair shot to prove that he is the guy for the future, they will need to add another receiver through the first round of the draft. Fortunately for the Eagles, this is another loaded receiver class with plenty of guys that could be difference makers at the next level. Today, I’ll be taking a look at my three favorite wideout prospects for Philadelphia and break down how they fit into Nick Sirianni’s offense.
WR, Alabama: 6'1.5", 179
Jameson Williams is one of the most polarizing players in the draft and was a surefire top ten pick before he tore his ACL in the National Championship game against Georgia back in January. The knee injury is certainly worrisome for Williams, but he is ahead of schedule on his rehab and is expected to maintain his sub-4.3 speed. Even after only one year of production in college and being just three months removed from a severe knee injury, Williams put an amazing season on tape in his lone season at Alabama, reeling in 79 catches for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in 15 games. Williams was also extremely dangerous as a kick returner, averaging 35.2 yards per-return along with scoring two touchdowns on only ten kick-returns. With all of this, Williams did enough for me to stay atop my receiver rankings at no.1 on my draft board, and I think he is a prime trade-up candidate for the Eagles.
What Williams Does Well:
Jameson Williams may be the fastest player in the draft, but he is much more than that. His ability to get in and out of breaks along with his stop-start speed are both next-level good. Williams threatens defensive backs with his game breaking speed on go-routes, and his ability to put his foot in the ground and stop dead in his tracks, then get back to full speed within just two seconds makes him a nightmare to cover. Oh, and he is arguably the best player in the draft at getting yards after the catch (YAC). Williams was used primarily as a deep threat at Alabama, but he showed the ability to run routes at all three levels of the field, and he was ultra-smooth doing so. When people think of a deep threat speedster with legit sub-4.3 speed, they automatically think this player won't translate that speed to the next level, but that is not true for Williams. The first play of the tweet below shows Jameson’s ability to separate off the line against press-man and get to full speed in just two seconds, along with his ability to stop dead in his tracks without wasting any steps, then get right back to full speed after faking the hitch, as he finishes off the play with an amazing over the shoulder catch for the touchdown. What makes Williams so scary is that he is so quick and sudden with his lightning-fast movements and he does everything with a purpose, rarely wasting any steps on his routes. He is already an extremely polished route runner with a very diverse route-tree, and he knows how to set up defensive backs at an elite level, as his blazing 4.25 speed is just the sugar on top.
Areas For Improvement:
If a team is drafting Williams, they are not taking him for immediate production, but rather for the upside he possesses. Medical aside, the biggest concern with Williams is his frame. Being just 6'1.5", 179 is a bit questioning for his ability to be a true X receiver that plays along the line of scrimmage (LOS), as he is quite vulnerable to press-man. Williams would have to be a slot or Z receiver at the next level that lines up off the LOS, but some teams may shy away from drafting him as a slot because of his run blocking concerns. Often times as a run blocker, Williams is either out of position or on the ground, and that is a big red flag for teams that motion their slot receivers into the box and ask them to block. Williams is also a guy you'll want to put in motion and find ways to scheme the ball into his hands and get him in space. If he can add some more mass to his frame and fight off press man, that would take his game to a whole other level, but for now, he is extremely limited to where he can play on the field, but it shouldn’t cause him to fall down draft boards. The good news for the Eagles is that DeVonta Smith is already the X receiver in Philly, while Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal have the slot locked down, allowing Williams to come in and be the Z receiver of the future once he has recovered from his knee injury.
WR, Ohio State, 6'0", 183
It is extremely unlikely Garrett Wilson falls past pick 11, and there are three teams between picks 8 and 11 that likely have him at the top of their draft boards, so the Eagles will most definitely need to trade up if they plan of selecting the former Buckeye’s star. Garrett Wilson has drawn comparisons to different NFL stars like Stefon Diggs and Calvin Ridley, but I think my favorite player to compare him to is the former Heisman Trophy winner and current Philadelphia Eagle DeVonta Smith. First off, Wilson and Smith's builds are extremely similar; both are tall, lengthy receivers with long arms and a big catch radius, but they are also both skinny as scouts worried about their ability to separate off the line against press-man. The unique trait that both these receivers have is the ability to not let press corners bully them at the top of the routes by not letting the cornerbacks to get their hands on them and dictate the route. If the Eagles were to pair their young stud receiver in DeVonta Smith with a seemingness clone of himself in Garrett Wilson, I think this receiver duo would be one that could create major problems for secondaries for a very, very long time.
What Wilson Does Well:
Like I mentioned earlier, Wilson has the unique ability to not allow press-man corners to get their hands on him at the beginning of the route and bully him. But the other thing Wilson does so well is that he is virtually always open. In 11 games while sharing the field with two future first round picks at receiver and the most explosive collegiate running back since Saquon Barkley, Garrett Wilson looked like the best player on the field. Wilson's stop-start ability and change of direction are both very unique, and he can use these skills to create separation at an extremely high level. Wilson is not a burner like Williams, but he has just about everything you want in a receiver, and let's not mention the fact that he ran a 4.38 40-time at the combine, which is very impressive for somebody that is not considered a “deep threat”. Like current Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith, Garrett Wilson has unique ball skills and has made some circus catches in his time at Ohio State, having a 61.5% contested catch rate. Another thing that makes Wilson unique is his YAC ability. Williams forced 19 missed tackles in 11 games during his last season in Columbus, and he averaged 6 YAC per reception. In the tweets below, we see how both Wilson's release off the LOS, ball skills, and suddenness in and out of his breaks make him a very intriguing receiver prospect.
Areas For Improvement:
There really aren't many concerns for Wilson, but perhaps the biggest one is his size. Earlier I said that Wilson has a unique ability to not allow receivers to bully him at the LOS, but he is still extremely vulnerable to being bullied off the line when corners do get their hands on him because of his lean frame. However, he can be completely taken out of the progression because he fails to get off the line when corners do get their hands on him, as he is not great at fighting through contact. The only other real concern with Wilson's game is that he gets out bullied on his routes. Wilson will never be the type of receiver to bully defensive backs, but he needs to improve at not getting pushed around on his routes. If Wilson can become a little bit more consistent with what he does, he can be a future Pro-Bowl receiver, but he needs to improve the consistency aspect of his game.
WR, Ohio State, 6'0", 187
Chris Olave is the all-time leader in touchdown receptions at Ohio State with 35, and that is saying something for all the impressive receivers that have been through there. Olave is not a player the Eagles would trade up for, but if they don't move up and snag Garrett Wilson or Jameson Williams, I fully expect Chris Olave to be the pick at 15. First off, Olave is going to be limited to the Z receiver role at the next level, as Z receivers usually align off the LOS and are on the same side of the field as the tight end. Because the Z receiver cannot be pressed at the beginning of the route, they are usually your deep threat burners that take the top off the defense, and that is exactly what Chris Olave does. Olave would come into an Eagles offense that is in desperate need of a second receiver and be a big time weapon next to DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.
What Olave Does Well:
Olave ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine, and he translates that speed to the field extremely well. Not only is Olave an extremely silky-smooth and ultra-sound route runner, but he also has the most refined route tree of any receiver in this class. Of all the wideouts projected to be drafted in the first three rounds of the draft, Chris Olave was one of only two receivers to have 4% of their targets spread among at least nine different route combinations. The other receiver was Jameson Williams, where he had at least 4% of his targets come on ten different routes. This is an extremely nit-picky stat, but I believe this is important to take into account because it shows how versatile the receivers route tree is. Often times, receivers really only run go routes and hitches in college, so a versatile route tree is a key indicator of how impactful a player can be at the next level. Olave loves running go routes, but he is also very good on the six-step speed out which is where the first six steps of the route are essentially a go route before the receiver cuts it to the sideline on the sixth step, running an out route to the sideline. Corners have to respect Olave's legit sub-4.4 speed, so this allows him to do the majority of his damage underneath, which he is extremely efficient at because of his silky-smooth route running ability. Another thing Olave does extremely well is his release off the LOS, where he can put a variety of moves on the defensive back before the corner can even get their hands on Olave, leaving them backpedaling while Olave is making his move. Remember, Olave plays the Z position, so it is extremely difficult for corners to get their hands on him in press coverage, which gives Olave more room to create space off the LOS. In the clip below (credit to AlexRollinsNFL on YouTube), we can see how Olave takes three slow steps to the outside to force the corner to turn his hips to defend the go route, and Olave takes a hard cut to the inside on the quick slant where he creates five yards of separation, leaving him wide open over the middle of the field. In the tweet below, we can also see how Olave uses his deep speed to threaten corners vertically before making a quick cut back to the sideline, and he did this against Patrick Surtain II who was a top ten pick last draft.
Areas For Improvement:
When you look at Olave, he is an extremely sound prospect with minimal weaknesses. As I alluded to earlier, he does not have the size or body to play the X position at the next level, and I also think he won't be used as a slot receiver because of his blocking concerns, which we will get into in a second. This leaves him strictly to play the Z position, which is not a bad thing. Jaylen Waddle and Rashod Bateman were both profiled as Z receivers coming into the NFL, and they both were selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Outside of his lack of size, Olave is also not extremely impressive after the catch either, only breaking one tackle in 2021, tied for 444th among all receivers in college football. The one major concern for Olave is his blocking, which may seem cliche, but it is something that could potentially cause him to fall farther than expected. Olave was used to run deep routes to get the safeties and corners away from the LOS, and he did that extremely well. But when it comes to blocking, Olave shies away from contact. There's not much to say here besides the fact that he needs to put more effort into blocking if he is going to be successful at the next level.
Who Should the Eagles Draft?
When it comes to whom I think is the best fit in Philadelphia, without a doubt in my mind it is Jameson Williams. I am a big fan of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, and both would be great additions alongside DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins in the receiving core, but Jameson Williams is everything the Eagles want in a receiver. When you compare Williams to Wilson and Olave, Jameson has the best chance of being the top receiver out of this class. Jameson might miss the first few weeks of the season, but that should not dictate a team’s decision, and I don't think it will dictate the Eagles decision. Remember, Philadelphia just drafted Landon Dickerson in the beginning of the second round after he had a serve injury just four months before the draft, and look how that turned out. Williams is the best receiver in this class, and he can be used in a variety of different ways. If the Eagles want to get Jameson Williams, they will need to trade up to get him, and it likely will take some picks to pull it off, but I would not be shocked at all if Howie Roseman traded up to land either Jameson Williams or Garrett Wilson. If the Eagles stay at 15 however and Wilson and Williams are both off the board, Chris Olave would be hard for Howie Roseman to pass on.