We’re three days removed from Super Bowl LIV, and free agency commences next month. General manager Howie Roseman is tasked with finding the ideal complement at wide receiver, whether that be in free agency or through the draft, to veterans Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson.
Jackson was poised to play a vital role in offensive coordinator Mike Groh’s offense before aggravating a core muscle injury upon his return during Week 9. An abdomenal injury preceded the core muscle injury, as Jackson missed six games. He hauled in two deep passes from quarterback Carson Wentz against Washington for touchdowns, tallying eight receptions for 154 yards. Following week 1, he only caught one pass for five yards.
In Jackson’s absence, Philadelphia didn’t possess a reliable vertical threat at wideout and rarely used shot plays. Nelson Agholor failed as a home run option. Both Jeffery and JJ Arcega-Whiteside are possession wide receivers who can leverage their size for high catch-point receptions. Greg Ward is more viable as a short-yardage Cole Beasley type.
Jackson will return next season, but he’ll turn 34 in December. It would behoove the Eagles to draft a wide receiver with their first two picks and elevate Wentz’s weapons.
The Mock Draft
In Dane Brugler’s latest mock draft for The Athletic (subscription required), he sees the Eagles potentially moving up to select one of this draft’s most skilled wideouts, Brandon Aiyuk. Brugler’s proposed deal moves Philadelphia’s no. 21 pick, a 2020 fourth-round pick, and a 2021 fifth-round pick to Miami for the 18th overall pick. Here’s his analysis on the trade and why the Arizona State product would be coveted:
It is no secret that the Eagles will be looking to add speed on both sides of the ball this offseason. And in this scenario, they jump ahead of the Raiders and Jaguars to secure one of the most explosive pass-catchers in the draft. Aiyuk has speed, length and playmaking skills that would immediately pay dividends in Philadelphia. The structure of this trade would be very similar to last year’s when the Eagles jumped up a few spots to nab Andre Dillard.
Aiyuk was the fourth wide receiver selected in Brugler’s mock draft, behind Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s pair of wideouts in Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Clemson wideout Tee Higgins went one pick later to Las Vegas at no. 19.
Aiyuk Has The Tools, And The Numbers Back That
Ideally for Philadelphia, there is a bevy of talent at wide receiver this draft. Aiyuk’s track athlete-like agility and potential after the catch are traits that’ll expand the Eagles’ playbook.
Following New England selecting former ASU wideout N’Keal Harry in the first round of the 2019 draft, the 6’1″, 206-pound Aiyuk exploded in his senior year. He racked up 1,192 yards on 65 receptions to go with eight touchdowns, while also returning a punt return for a touchdown. He eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark five times as a senior.
Per thesundevils.com, Aiyuk transferred from JUCO Sierra College before the 2018 season.
Aiyuk has been mocked in both the first and second round. He’s yet to perform at the combine and Arizona State’s Pro Day. His athletic testing in those settings will alter Aiyuk’s standing among draft analysts. It is also important to place context into mock drafts, as there could be a run on a specific position. That would influence who becomes a target for teams, especially since the draft’s top three wideout prospects went before Philadelphia’s acquired spot.
The Fit In Philadelphia
Aiyuk turns 22 on March 17 and he’d form quite a trio of young skill-position players between himself, running back Miles Sanders, and tight end Dallas Goedert. Envisioning how he’d be utilized in Doug Pederson’s offense, Aiyuk brings important versatility. He’d be an option in the flat on day 1, while dueling with Jackson for go route targets. Setting him up for YAC opportunities in the intermediate game, via slants and crossers, would also optimize his quickness.
The Eagles run some pop passes–where they motion wideouts in front of Wentz pre-play–and Aiyuk would be an obvious beneficiary. We saw how Tyreek Hill can overwhelm defenses from all three levels. Speed has become an en vogue trait for successful wideouts in modern offenses. Could Aiyuk be Philadelphia’s version?