The Eagles wanted to juice up the wide receiver room in the 2020 NFL Draft and that's exactly what they did, selecting three players and adding veteran Marquise Goodwin in a trade. They brought in juice. Mission accomplished.
Now what? There are 14 receivers on the current roster, and that number will likely be pared down to five, maybe six when the 53-man roster is established in early September.
"We added a ton of competition and for us, we didn't want to take just one shot at it," General Manager Howie Roseman said in an exclusive interview for the Eagles Insider Podcast. "Someone said, (in the midst of the draft), 'Let's take this weakness, this team speed weakness, and make it a strength.' Hopefully we will have some hard decisions to make on our roster."
It's so very early to make any predictions and the uncertain nature of what's ahead in the NFL makes it really hard to even project, but why not take a look at the Wide Receiver 14 and see how it stacks up at this point? It's fair to think, at least out loud, that Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Jalen Reagor are pretty strong candidates to make the roster – resisting the idea that anyone is a "lock," even though most of them probably are barring any setbacks. That's four receivers already. From 14 to five (maybe six) … how is it all going to shake out?
The plan is for Alshon Jeffery to be a major part of the offense as he recovers from his Lisfranc injury. He has to complete his rehab, of course, and Jeffery is in the course of doing so. The Eagles have made sure this offseason to get the word out that Jeffery is being counted on and Roseman has had conversations to that extent with having No. 17 in the picture. A healthy and fully focused and hungry Jeffery would be a huge boost for the offense. He eats up defensive backs and the Eagles are fully aware that the last complete game Jeffery played was at Miami, on December 1, and he caught nine passes for 137 passes and a touchdown. He was dominating. Having Jeffery back all the way is an important piece in the offensive puzzle for 2020.
On track to be 100 percent healthy after an injury-plagued 2019, DeSean Jackson has a lot to prove to anyone who thinks he's not a factor in the season ahead. Can he still run past defensive backs? Can he stay healthy? Jackson insists that he's ready to go, that he's got incredible motivation to be at his best. That's good to hear. Jackson should be ready to go for the season as he has rehabbed his groin/abdominal injury since having surgery last fall. The Eagles need both Jeffery and Jackson for 2020 to lead the way in this changing wide receiver room.
It's on to Year 2 for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside after a rookie campaign in which he caught 10 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. The 2019 second-round pick has worked hard throughout the offseason and he'll need to come back when the NovaCare Complex opens in the best shape of his life and more refined with his routes and his technical skills. The Eagles expect Arcega-Whiteside to make a significant step forward in Year 2. The tough part is that Arcega-Whiteside would have benefited greatly from the on-field work in the spring. That's not going to happen, at this point, anyway. Every rep he takes is an important one.
What is next for Greg Ward after making the most of his promotion from the practice squad to the active roster last season, contributing 28 catches for 254 yards and the game-winning, leaping touchdown grab from Carson Wentz to beat Washington in a critical late-December game? He's got a chance to be a highly productive slot receiver who will be that much better after his successes in 2019. At the same time, is Ward guaranteed anything? Probably not, given the four receivers the Eagles added on draft weekend. The competition should be great at wide receiver whenever the Eagles get back on the field.
The Eagles made a low-risk, high-upside move late in the draft, swapping draft selections with San Francisco in the sixth round in acquiring Marquise Goodwin, who certainly brings speed to the equation. He's a world-class track star who plays fast on the field. The problem for Goodwin is that he hasn't been healthy since 2017. He's in Philadelphia looking for a fresh start. How Goodwin fits in isn't clear, but maybe that's the point. The Eagles want to see how it all shakes out with so much talent vying for a limited number of spots. Goodwin has to come in and earn a roster spot and show he can help on special teams as well as in the passing game.
The team's first-round draft pick, Jalen Reagor has a chance to contribute in his first season. He's got big-time game speed based on what he showed in college at TCU and he can help the offense on gadget running plays – jet sweeps, maybe direct snaps, inside handoffs, etc. The Eagles have a lot to work with in Reagor, who potentially could move around the formation and get some significant touches as a rookie.
Robert Davis made some progress last season as a big-bodied receiver who can run. He's got his work cut out for him making the roster now, as most of these receivers do. With a new receivers coach in Aaron Moorehead, Davis is looking to advance his game. The reps are going to be a bit limited if – and this is a big if – the NFL goes right into Training Camp and the preseason and then the regular season. We don't know how it's going to work. But Davis has to impress from Day 1.
Sure-handed and a good route runner, Deontay Burnett came in late in 2019 and contributed. His diving catch against the Giants was a beauty. He's not a speed receiver, so he will have to catch every ball thrown his way to earn some notice in this crowded field.
Don't forget that Shelton Gibson has the speed to just about match up with any of the Eagles' receivers. That has never been a problem for Gibson. Consistency has been his challenge. The Eagles re-added Gibson to the roster late in 2019 and he was in uniform for the playoff game against Seattle, drawing a pass interference penalty. Is this the summer when Gibson puts it all together?
Probably best suited for the slot, Marcus Green knows the offense after being here on the practice squad in 2019. With such a limited study sample, Green has to open eyes every time he's on the field in Training Camp and in the preseason.
A fifth-round draft pick, John Hightower showed big-time speed and the ability to get down the field and past defensive backs at Boise State. How that translates to the NFL is the big question. He's probably like every rookie in that Hightower needs work on his technical game getting a free release and, certainly, needs to have more precision with his routes. There is some talent here, so the Eagles will do what they can do to get Hightower up to speed and give him a chance to compete for a roster spot in 2020. It's going to be competitive, no doubt.
The Eagles had a comparable grade on Quez Watkins as they had with Hightower, so this sixth-round draft pick is going to be thrown right into the competitive mix. Can he run out of the slot and give the Eagles more quickness and down-the-field speed than Ward? Can Watkins play outside? He had some big games at Southern Mississippi, and he is in the team's virtual offseason now learning in the classroom. He needs to translate that to the on-field work, whenever that begins.
A former linebacker, Manasseh Bailey has been playing wide receiver only since 2017, so even though he put up some strong numbers at Morgan State, Bailey has to make a significant leap to the NFL level. He's certainly worth a look as Moorehead wants to develop depth and competition up and down his room preparing for 2020 and beyond.
A stud quarterback at the University of Arizona who compiled 6,318 yards passing, 2,285 yards rushing, and 75 total touchdowns there, Khalil Tate attempts to make the transition to wide receiver in the NFL. Ward can share the tales of how tough that move is but look at how much Ward has improved. Tate is a long-term project worth a look through the spring and summer.