For a lot of Eagles fans CeeDee Lamb was the preferred wide receiver in last month’s draft, and seeing him become a Cowboy was tough to watch. Nonetheless, what if I said that Jalen Reagor is going to have a better rookie season than CeeDee Lamb?
I certainly wouldn’t be the first to make that point. For what it’s worth, dynasty fantasy-football rankings are unanimously placing Reagor as the number 1 or 2 rookie WR to add before this season—while that may sound irrelevant, there’s pretty meaningful logic behind that.
The simple reason behind bullish expectations for Reagor’s rookie season comes down to both quantity and quality of opportunity. We’ll start with quantity—it goes without saying that the Eagles need more out of Reagor in year one than the Cowboys will need from Lamb. Dallas didn’t sign Amari Cooper to an $100 million extension to pump the football in another direction, and the safe assumption is that both Lamb and Cooper will split primary looks from Dak, while also battling Michael Gallup for additional balls. And even with all three talented wideouts in the fold, the best version of the Cowboys offense is one that feeds Ezekiel Elliot. Put simply, there just aren’t many scenarios that would compel Dallas to feature Lamb as their number one weapon in 2020.
On the flip side, make no mistake about the fact that Reagor will be the number one wide receiver for the Eagles from day one. They don’t have a Cooper, let alone a Gallup to fight for attention on offense—instead, Reagor has the dusty, injury-prone duo of Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson to compete with. A healthy Desean isn’t really a concern for Reagor, even in his prime he wasn’t a high-volume wideout, and he‘s just a “Z” vertical threat at this point. Obviously a healthy Alshon could cut into Reagor’s touches, but we don’t know if he’ll even be available to start the year in the first place (shoulder).
The only players who would sit ahead of Reagor in the pecking order are Ertz and Sanders, but anyone who’s seen this offense over the past two seasons knows how much the passing game has leaned on Ertz, and it makes total sense to ease his workload and spread the ball around moving forward. Last season his catch rate was his lowest since 2014, and he posted an average depth of target under seven yards for the first time in his career—both signs that the ball is being forced his way.
You’d be foolish to think Reagor has to battle with Ertz for looks, as he will be more than willing to sacrifice a chunk of the ridiculous 292 targets he’s received since 2018. The ideal balance for the Eagles offense has him seeing significantly less balls than the past two seasons, and more on par with a single season target share between the 105-115 he saw from 2015-17.
In terms of early opportunity, there’s not a team who can offer a higher volume of touches to their rookie WR than the Birds. Beyond that, what makes Reagor’s situation more favorable compared to the rest of the rookie class is the player throwing him the ball (quality of opportunity). I’m not here to turn this into a Dak vs. Wentz debate, but Carson just has the arm talent and ability to elevate the weapons around him that Dak just doesn’t possess—I like Dak, but this isn’t very debatable.
‘Wentz-Reagor’ certainly inspires more year-one confidence than ‘Carr/Mariota-Ruggs’ in Las Vegas, or ‘Lock-Juedy’ in Denver; and given the slight edge of Wentz over Dak, and the abundance of mouths to feed in Dallas compared to Philly, it’s fair to like Reagor’s potential as a rookie more than CeeDee Lambs’.
I understand that could sound hypocritical given the love that Eagles fans (and I) had for Lamb leading up to the draft, but I was equally as bullish on Reagor as a prospect before he became an Eagle, and most fans would also have told you that whatever receiver ends up with the Birds would be in the perfect situation to succeed in year one (and beyond). That’s the situation Jalen Reagor finds himself in.