Need For Speed: Eagles Must Surround Wentz With Speed in Draft
After sitting out of the wide receiver free agent market, despite a needed overhaul at the position, it’s expected that the Eagles will turn to their top draft pick (maybe top two picks) to address the position. The receiver(s) that they end up selecting from this historic crop of prospects remains to be seen. However, after watching both the Eagles’ glaring offensive weaknesses in 2019 combined with the strengths of teams like the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, it’s obvious what is needed: Speed.
The first reason speed is so desperately needed is simply the current lack of it, aside from 33-year-old DeSean Jackson. Yes, if healthy, Jackson remains an elite deep threat with game-breaking ability. However, a 16-game season out of Jackson in 2020 would be foolish to depend on. The Eagles have Jackson under contract for two more years, possibly his final two years in the NFL, but it’s time to draft his replacement.
Mentoring purposes aside, having Jackson in the lineup with another elite deep threat on the field will create endless opportunities for this offense to get creative and light up the scoreboard. The Chiefs - featuring Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman - have demonstrated the versatility and explosiveness of an offense with multiple elite deep threats around a young, strong-armed QB.
The second reason is the skillset of Carson Wentz. Everything the Eagles do offensively needs to revolve around him and maximize his ability, and the Eagles know this. While Wentz and WR Alshon Jeffery have had some success together, there is a cautionary tale in their on-field relationship in that Wentz is not the type of QB to throw up 50/50 passes on a regular basis to his wide receivers. He has instead shown the tendency to prefer throwing to already-open targets.
Wentz has elite arm strength and he knows it, and would rather chuck a ball downfield to a streaking receiver than lob up a 50/50 pass. Having multiple receivers who fit the “50/50” bill, as the Eagles do with Jeffery and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, while already having two great tight ends to occupy the middle of the field, severely limits what the offense can do and does not best suit Wentz’s skillset as a passer.
Wentz has also shown to be at his best when improvising and moving out of the pocket, even post-ACL reconstruction. The more speed that the Eagles put on the field, the longer defenses are forced to cover all that speed while Wentz moves around and eventually finds someone breaking free.
There is factual proof of Wentz's effectiveness with deep threats on the field. Whether connecting downfield or simply using the additional space in the middle of the field to work, the stats show an elite QB.
Since Week 1, 2017, when Torrey Smith made his Eagles debut, through now with DeSean Jackson, here are Wentz’s stats with and without Smith or Jackson on the field:
14 games with: 257 YPG, 36 TD, 7 INT, team record 12-2
26 games without: 261 YPG, 45 TD, 14 INT, team record 13-13
When Wentz has been afforded a home run threat, the difference is staggering. It makes sense for a strong-armed QB who can put the ball anywhere on the field. He played one game with DeSean Jackson and threw multiple 50-plus yard touchdowns.
It’s time to give Wentz a group of offensive weapons to suit him. Getting him multiple speed threats to take advantage of his downfield cannon can take this offense to heights we haven’t seen in the Pederson/Wentz era.
So, who will they pick?
It remains to be seen if the Eagles will attempt to trade up to grab one of the elite of the elite prospects of this class, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, or Henry Ruggs III. Odds are none will be available at 21, the Eagles’ selection. Ruggs has Tyreek Hill-like speed, while someone like Jeudy brings everything (size, speed, incredible route-running) that will likely make him an elite WR right away.
If the Eagles stay put at 21, they will likely have a shot at someone like Baylor’s Denzel Mims, who while having a 6’3” frame and all the size you could want, he does bring legitimate speed to the table and can get open downfield.
With plenty of selections in the 2020 draft, the Eagles have the resources to move up and it’s time for Howie Roseman to get serious and get one of the elite - a weapon to help reconstruct this offense to fit Carson Wentz’s obvious skillset, in the mold of Kansas City’s speed machine.