Pro Football Focus has been doing their rounds on ranking position groups around the NFL. On Wednesday, they took a crack at ranking all 32 wide receiving corps from best to worst.
Coming off back-to-back abysmal receiving seasons, it should be to no one’s surprise that PFF ranked the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiving group as the 30th-best in the league entering the 2021 season.
Here’s the full snippet from their article on the Eagles:
Eagles wide receivers have ranked last in receiving grade in each of the last two years, so there’s plenty of room to improve for this unit. They’ve now spent back-to-back first-round selections on receivers, putting the pressure on Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith. Reagor graded at 64.0 overall as a rookie in 2020, picking up 396 yards on 31 catches. It was a slow start, but he has the explosiveness to develop as an outside vertical threat. Smith is a better all-around receiver, and that was on display in one of the best seasons in college football history. He can separate to all levels of the field and is dangerous with the ball in his hands, so look for Smith to develop as the high-volume threat in this offense.
One of the bright sides of last season’s struggles was the emergence of Travis Fulgham, who had bounced around with several teams before posting an impressive 71.2 overall grade and leading the Eagles with 539 receiving yards. Beyond that top three, Greg Ward may have a role in the possession game, as he’s averaged 8.3 yards per reception in his career. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has disappointed as a former second-rounder with just 26 career targets. And 2020 fifth-rounder John Hightower adds another speed component.
At tight end, Dallas Goedert showed that he’s the No. 1 option going forward after grading at 79.5 overall, sixth-best among tight ends. He’s one of the league’s best all-around tight ends — he and George Kittle are the only two tight ends to grade at 80.0-plus both as receivers and as run blockers. Zach Ertz remains on the roster for now, but he’s on the trading block after a career-low 57.3 overall Grade. Ertz has been one of the best route runners in the league in his eight-year career, so he still has something to offer in a complementary role. When and if Ertz is moved, the backup snaps will have heavy competition between Caleb Wilson, Jason Croom, former QB Tyree Jackson and former WR Hakeem Butler.
While Eagles pass-catchers are coming off a couple of rough seasons, Smith provides hope and there are pieces in place to turn things around.“
While I mostly agree with their assessment of the team’s wide receiving corps as it stands entering the 2021 season, there are a few things they fail to take into account that’ll surely help this group this year.
First, the Eagles wide receivers had the worst starting quarterback in the NFL throwing them the ball last season. Carson Wentz was abysmal in nearly every game. He tossed a career-high 15 interceptions in 12 starts, posted a bad throw percentage of 21.7 percent, while completing just 57.4 percent of his passes. He was horrendous, and a lot of it fell on his shoulders and the guy calling the plays, Doug Pederson.
Speaking of Pederson, he did a terrible job putting his skill players in favorable positions last season. Players like Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham suffered the most. Reagor just didn’t seem comfortable all season and Fulgham was inexplicably benched in favor of Alshon Jeffery halfway through the season (he still finished as the leading receiver for the Eagles, too).
Now, we obviously don’t know exactly how Jalen Hurts will fair as the unquestioned starter and how Nick Sirianni will do as a play caller. But, it would be pretty hard for Hurts to do worse than Wentz did last season, and Sirianni has preached putting is players in positions to succeed all throughout the offseason. It’s clearly a focal point of his coaching philosophy.
We can’t forget how pivotal a good pass blocking offensive line is for the pass game as well. The Eagles line was decimated with injuries all season last year. If they can remain healthy for the majority of this season, the passing game will surely benefit. A starting line that consists of Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson stacks up as one of the better offensive line units in the NFL.
Aside from the insertion of a new quarterback and head coach, this Eagles wide receiving group should benefit from a full offseason of development, unlike last offseason. Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins should all take steps in the right direction this year. Fulgham has very intriguing potential, and we all know DeVonta Smith should shine from day one.
PFF doesn’t take potential into consideration when ranking these position groups. But I’m not PFF. Potentially, the Eagles wide receivers could prove to be a middle of the pack crew this year, with room to grow heading into next season. They’re a ways away from being an elite group, but there’s certainly a reality in which they surprise a lot of people this year and boost their stock.