As the Eagles finalize their 2022 NFL Draft preparations, many of the mocks are suggesting that, yes, the Eagles could make it a hat trick and use one of their two first-round picks on the wide receiver position.
We'll see how it plays out on Thursday night as the very deep and very talented wide receiver class is addressed throughout the league, but this much is certain: The landscape at that position has changed in a significant way during a turbulent NFL offseason, and the Eagles have certainly taken notice.
"I think every year a position kind of becomes – I like that word, 'the boom.' It's like the new mining town, right? You have pass rushers, you have offensive linemen, and now you have wide receivers," General Manager Howie Roseman said on Wednesday. "So, I think at the end of the day – and we talked about this a little bit when we were at the league meetings – it's just you have to make a decision on what your priorities are on building the team, whether you're going to kind of go with the flow or you're going to kind of figure out what is the most important thing for your team and if there's some value in being different and figuring out what now is kind of the next area.
"I think we spent a lot of time, Coach (Nick Sirianni) and I talk about this all the time, if we're going to be the same as everyone else, we're probably going to finish in the middle of the pack. Sometimes you have to take risks and you have to stand out there and do something different than everyone else. So that doesn't mean that there aren't right decisions to make at that position. But at the same time, if you're doing the same thing that everyone else is doing, you're probably a step late."
The Eagles have invested heavily into the position over the recent years with draft picks – DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, and Quez Watkins to name three – and in this offseason they brought in Zach Pascal to add toughness, versatility, and production to the group.
The young Eagles have made promising progress in the last year – Sirianni has gushed about Smith, spoken highly of Watkins' progress and expressed confidence that Reagor, who needs to be more consistent with his production, is taking steps forward – and there is every reason to believe that Smith will build off his franchise-best rookie season (64 receptions, 916 yards, 5 touchdowns) and that Watkins will ramp up after a breakthrough second season in 2021 (43 receptions for 647 yards, a strong 15-yard-per-catch average).
But what Roseman and the Eagles need to balance is the consideration that this wide receiver draft class is said to be loaded and that, looking down the road, veteran wide receivers are in a different stratosphere with their salary and compensation game.
So, what to do?
"I think you're constantly evaluating the things that you do wrong, and you also want to learn from the things you did right and lessons that you have from that," Roseman said. "We discussed that a lot about the scenarios where we've done good things and how obviously this is a hard process. You're going to mess things up, but what can you learn from those picks that didn't work out? I would say with Jalen, obviously I know he gets a lot of attention in this city and I know he's working his butt off, and when you look back – we were having this conversation this morning with our strength and conditioning staff – that was a hard year for some guys because you had COVID, you didn't have an offseason program, and so sometimes the book isn't necessarily written on all those guys.
"You can only do what the board allows you to do. There's obviously a lot of time between now and the time the first game starts for us to continue to address the needs of this team. We'll go into the draft, and we'll follow the board. We have had a lot of discussions – a lot of good discussions – about the players in this draft, and we just have to make sure we take the best players and not look at the draft as just a short-term fix."