On Friday night, about an hour after the Eagles took J.J. Arcega-Whiteside with the 57th pick in the 2019 draft, the Stanford receiver was asked which NFL players have influenced his game.
The first name he said: Alshon Jeffery.
That is certainly understandable. The similarities between the two are plentiful. Jeffery is six years older than Arcega-Whiteside but age is one of the few things they don’t have in common.
Both grew up in South Carolina.
Both have a basketball background.
Both are known for winning 50-50 balls.
And now both will be members of the 2019 Eagles roster.
When I grew up watching Alshon, being from Carolina, it's like, that's a guy that everybody in the state knew. As a kid, it's like, dang, I want to be him one day. I want to be playing college football, like representing my state, having all the kids look up to me. That was me. On top of that, when I get to Stanford and he's tearing it up in the league, like dang, I've got to do whatever he's doing because whatever he's doing is working and I want to emulate the same kind of style.
If Arcega-Whiteside wants to emulate Jeffery, he’s already off to a good start. They were drafted six years apart but were very similar prospects.
Take a look:
Arcega-Whiteside will certainly face a higher level of competition in the NFL, but the Eagles don’t seem worried about how his game will work at the next level. Eagles head personnel chief Joe Douglas said “strength translates” to the NFL. And Howie Roseman called Arcega-Whiteside “crafty” in his ability to use his basketball skills to separate. Sound familiar?
Now it’ll just be up to Carson Wentz to get the ball to these guys, even if they’re not wide open. In 2018, according to the NFL’s NextGen Stats, Wentz had an aggressiveness percentage of 16.2 (18th in the NFL). That means that 16.2 percent of his passes were thrown into tight coverage with defenders within one yard of a receiver. In 2017, he was at 25.7 percent, the highest in the league that season (h/t The Athletic).
If during the pre-draft process the Eagles had any doubts about Arcega-Whiteside’s skills translating, they could simply look at Jeffery to alleviate those fears. Now, just because Jeffery has had success in the league, it doesn’t mean Arcega-Whiteside will. But it is proof that those skills can translate.
It's fair to question why the Eagles would draft a receiver that is so similar to a guy they already have. But the answer is simple: They thought they got great value with Arcega-Whiteside and things can change. Jeffery is already 29 and has cap hits over $15 million in 2020 and 2021. If Arcega-Whiteside grows quickly and Alshon gets old in a hurry, the Eagles could pull a switch and save a ton of cap room for a team that will eventually have a QB making over $30 million per season.
But don’t expect Jeffery to be intimidated by the newcomer. In fact, the two have already been exchanging text messages. And then, there’s this.
“I’m excited to learn from him,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “And I think [Jeffery is] excited to just kind of guide me and teach me whatever he's done that's worked.”
It would make sense if Jeffery sees a lot of himself in Arcega-Whiteside. Heck, the rest of us already do.
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