Be honest: When JJ Arcega-Whiteside played college football, you were sleeping.
It was interesting watching the Arcega-Whiteside backlash Friday night after the Eagles drafted the Stanford wide receiver in the second round.
A lot of fans were critical of the pick simply because they hadn’t seen Arcega-Whiteside play or didn’t know much about him.
That’s not surprising considering Pac-12 games generally start at 10 or 11 p.m. ET and finish in the middle of the night.
“Sometimes these West Coast guys who play late, they get a little underrated because people aren't watching those late games,” Howie Roseman said.
“This guy's a baller. He’s got a very good skill set and I think when our fans get to know him, they are going to be really proud. He symbolizes Eagle mentality, Eagle football.”
Arcega-Whiteside isn’t a household name on the East Coast, but the Eagles hope he becomes one.
They certainly didn’t need a wide receiver with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor already in the fold, but they weren’t going to let the 6-foot-3, 225-pound former basketball player slip by.
They were captivated by Arcega-Whiteside’s unusual skill set. He doesn’t have world-class speed, but he’s a big body with good leaps and knows how to use his body to gain position on opposing cornerbacks.
And he did run a 4.49 at his pro day.
“I think people sleep on my speed and when I ran a [4.49] at pro day, I think that kind of went out the window a little bit,” he said. “But at the same time, that’s not really my game. I like to play under control and give the quarterback a great position to throw the ball.”
Check out Arcega-Whiteside’s progression over the last three years:
• 2016: Caught 24 passes for 379 yards and led Stanford with five TDs.
• 2017: Led Stanford with 48 for 781 and nine TDs, second most in the Pac-12
• 2018: Led Stanford with 63 for 1,059 and 14 TDs. The 14 TDs tied a 41-year-old school record, led the Pac-12 and ranked third in the nation. He had five 100-yard games, ranked 21st in the BCS with 88.3 yards per game and had a 226-yard game against San Diego State.
It just happened while we were all sleeping.
“You know, the rankings and all of that doesn’t really matter,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “At the end of the day, they are going to turn on the film and see who balls and who doesn’t, no matter what time of the day it is. I think for the most part, with the general population that doesn’t stay up to watch these games, yeah, they don’t get to see the excitement of Pac-12 football that we bring every weekend. But at the same time, at the end of the day, I’ve always said that I want to go to a team and organization that wants me for what I bring to the table. Whether I’m overrated or underrated, doesn’t matter. I’m a Philadelphia Eagle.”
Arcega-Whiteside has that reputation as a jump-ball specialist, a guy who knows how to gain leverage and position and go up and get the football in traffic.
But he also said he’s more than that.
“I love to have that tag with me, as a contested-catches and jump-ball receiver, but at the same time, I’m not limited to that,” he said. “Any route that you give me, I’m going to run and I’m going to do my best to get open. …
“I’d rather have the jump ball in the end zone, but what receiver doesn’t? But at the same time, that is a skill that I have and that I’ve learned, but it’s not a skill that I am limited to.”
Arcega-Whiteside’s days of playing football while most of the U.S. is sleeping are over. Whether he succeeds or fails, we’ll all definitely be wide awake this time around.
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