Draft a wide receiver.
Ask any 10 Eagles fans what the franchise needs to accomplish in the NFL Draft and nine of them will likely give you some variation of that sentiment.
It’s easy to understand that mindset considering Carson Wentz and company made the playoffs last season despite having QB-turned-receiver Greg Ward Jr. as his top threat by season’s end. It was especially difficult for fans to take that Wild Card round loss to the Seahawks as they saw D.K. Metcalf, a rookie that possessed every physical characteristic you’d ever want in a football player, dominate Eagles defenders to the tune of 7 catches for 160 yards and a TD.
The Eagles passed on their chance to add the most unique athlete at receiver in last year’s draft. If they don’t want to make that mistake again this year, they’ll target Chase Claypool.
The Notre Dame product lit up the combine with his combination of size, speed and athleticism. With a tight end’s stature at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds, Claypool ran a 4.42 40-yard dash. He also put up 19 reps on the bench press while also showcasing a vertical leap over 40 inches. It was the type of performance that left experts invoking the name Calvin Johnson.
The physical tools are eye-popping with Claypool but the performance hasn’t always been. After three pedestrian seasons in South Bend, the Canadian-born receiver finally broke out in his senior season. But even then, he posted a very good, but far from spectacular, 66 catches for 1,037 yards. He did have a nose for the end zone, averaging a score a game in 2019.
It’s that dichotomy between tools and production that leaves Claypool as one of the most polarizing players in this year’s draft. Some projections have him going late in the first round. Others have him falling as low as the fourth round and there’s been a ton of landing spots in between.
Would he be a reach for the Eagles with the 21st overall selection? Perhaps. Will Claypool still be there in the 2nd round at Pick 53? Flip a coin. But make no mistake, this is a player that makes a great deal of sense for the Eagles as the rare “high floor, high ceiling” selection.
Under Doug Pederson, the Eagles have placed a premium on versatility. Claypool would aid that philosophy in a number of ways. Undoubtedly, the best run blocker in this class of receivers, Pederson could deploy Claypool along with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to create matchup nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators. Or you could see him working on the inside in multiple receiver sets and blowing past linebackers in coverage.
It’s not all hearts and flowers however. There’s no doubt Claypool lacks polish. His route-running needs to improve. He struggles to avoid defenders after the catch. A player with his size and straight-line speed should be better against press coverage. Those are the areas he’ll need to go to work on as a professional.
But even if he fails to make significant gains in those facets, Claypool will bring value to a roster. As previously mentioned, he’ll help the run game with his willingness and ability to maul defensive backs on the outside. He’ll be a red zone threat due to his ability to high point the ball. Plus, he was Notre Dame’s best special teams player for each of the last two seasons, so he’ll be able to contribute immediately on all coverage and return units.
The pressure will be on Howie Roseman to take a receiver with the Eagles’ first-round pick. But if he plays this right, the Eagles’ general manager might be able to land this year’s version of D.K. Metcalf while also addressing other areas of need.
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