We’ve seen countless mock drafts where the Philadelphia Eagles go wide receiver in the first-round. If that happens, it’ll be the third year in a row the team selects a wideout in round one. If they select one within the first two rounds, it’ll be the fourth year in a row they’ve selected a wideout in either the first or second round.
Yet, the position remains a need for the Eagles. Leaving day two of the NFL Draft without a receiver seems unfathomable at this point.
There’s a good chance Howie and Co. opt to take one of the top tier wideouts in round one, but there are several receivers worth waiting for in the second or third round. Here are five receivers the Eagles could potentially target on day two of this year’s NFL Draft.
George Pickens, Georgia
After tearing his ACL last spring, George Pickens didn’t suit up for the Bulldogs until the final regular season game of the year in 2021. Despite that, he still managed to have an impact down the stretch during Georgia’s championship run, recording a career-long 51-yard reception in the National Championship Game against Alabama.
Pickens looked like a clear-cut WR1 in the NFL during his outstanding freshman season, racking up 49 catches for 727 yards and eight touchdowns, along with posting a PFF overall grade of 85.5. He didn’t really build off his strong freshman outing in the years that followed, but it’s clear that the ability is still there.
He’s a natural catcher of the football and one of the best hand catchers in this year’s class. His ability to high point the football and contort his body to keep himself in bounds is a thing of beauty.
The Eagles desperately need a physical presence on the outside. Standing at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Pickens has the makeup of a true go-to threat. At 51st overall, he could be there for the taking if the Eagles are still looking for a pass catcher in the second-round.
Christian Watson, North Dakota State
Physically speaking, Christian Watson is one of the most exciting wideout prospects in this year’s class. He was a standout at the scouting combine, running a 4.36 and posting a 38.5-inch vertical along with a 11-foot-4 broad jump. That explosiveness is evident on tape, too. Couple that speed with a 6-foot-5, 208 pound frame, and you may have the makings of the next DeAndre Hopkins.
That’s obviously a pretty bullish comparison, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities when Watson possesses the kind of physical gifts that he showcases. With that said, you’re probably wondering why he’s included in a list of receivers that could slip into day two of the draft. The answer is pretty simple — Watson has a bit of a drops issue and he wasn’t all that productive during his collegiate career.
The lacking production can somewhat be attributed to the offense he played in at NDSU. They want to run the ball as much as possible, even if they have a talent like Watson lined up on the outside. But, part of the lacking production also falls on Watson. His drops can be painful to watch at times.
A lot of his drops come down to concentration, which is certainly fixable. But it’s still not ideal for his pre-draft outlook.
Nevertheless, the Eagles would get tremendous value if they selected Watson in the second-round. There are a few wide receiver needy teams lurking at the bottom of the first-round who could snatch him up. But if Watson makes it past day one, falling to 51 is not out of the question at all.
Calvin Austin III, Memphis
Calvin Austin is tiny, which is typically the first thing every scout says when discussing him. Standing at 5-foot-8 and weighing in at 170 pounds soaking wet, it’s fair to assume that he’ll just slide into the slot and be a gadget type of player. However, his athleticism and physical prowess can help mask his smaller stature.
Austin played a lot on the outside during his time at Memphis. The fear with Austin is that he’ll just get man-handled playing on the outside in the NFL. But if a press corner can’t get his hands on you because you’re so damn quick, that whole thought process gets thrown out the window. It’s similar to how scouts would criticize DeVonta Smith last year. Even though Smith was smaller than a lot of the wideouts entering the draft, he was so quick off the line of scrimmage that it didn’t even matter. The same can be said for Austin, though his route running acumen isn’t as polished as Smith’s was entering the draft.
When Austin gets the ball in his hands, he’s a big play threat. He averaged 7.2 yards after the catch per reception last season. He’s the type of player you just want to get the ball to and figure the rest out later.
Due to his small size and the tendency for scouts to pigeon hole him as a slot receiver only, there’s a good chance Austin falls into the Eagles reach in the second-round.
Jahan Dotson, Penn State
Like Austin, Jahan Dotson is one of the smaller receivers in this year’s draft class. But he does play with a level of physicality that Austin just doesn’t have. His ball skills are elite and can play at any alignment, but he may be at his best functioning from the slot.
Operating out of the slot, Dotson can be a real difference maker. His speed and explosiveness is just too much for safeties or nickel corners to handle. Dotson can cut on a dime and leave defenders in the dust. He also has some of most reliable hands in the country, posting a drop rate of just 4.9% since 2019.
Dotson is a true vertical threat out of the slot, something more and more teams are prioritizing in the NFL. He knows when to cut up field and his suddenness in doing so leaves defenders looking for answers. If the Eagles want to add a slot guy with vertical ability, Dotson is their guy.
Kyle Phillips, UCLA
Kyle Phillips is an intriguing prospect. Not because he has all the plus physical abilities like a Dotson or Austin, but because he has a complete skill set that should work in any NFL offense.
Phillips is a more traditional slot receiver. He wins in his sudden route running and ability to separate from defenders. And he also brings a lot of physicality to the position, whereas guys like Dotson or Austin just don’t have that. Phillips is a dog in the running game, and while that may seem like an afterthought, there are coaches that do prioritize that in slot receivers. Nick Sirianni is one of them.
It’ll be interesting to see where Phillips ends up falling come draft weekend. Although he has a lot of the skills you want in a slot receiver, he’s just not as big and fast as some of the top tier guys in this draft. He could still be available in the third-round, where the Eagles have two picks. Using one of them on Phillips wouldn’t shock me at all.