Justin Jefferson to Eagles Set in Stone?
We’re still two weeks away from the NFL Draft. Boards are stacked, but not officially set. Still, from many corners of the internet – from draft analysts to fans to anyone else who can see the Eagles’ most glaring hole – it’s been decided there’s an imminent marriage partner for the Eagles at No. 21. According to – well, basically everyone -- the Eagles really like Justin Jefferson and are prepared to take the former LSU wideout if he’s available there when they select.
(Many NFL scouts and draft analysts believe LSU's Justin Jefferson will excel in the slot at the pro level. "A way better" version of Nelson Agholor, one scout told Geoff Mosher.) On the surface, this union makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t the Eagles take a high-volume, highly productive receiver for a reigning national champion? The last Eagles wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season was Jeremy Maclin in 2014. Maclin has been out of football for two years. Jefferson would fulfill the Eagles’ most obvious need, regardless of where he’d line up, in the slot or on the perimeter. But here’s the reality of the dot-connecting between the Eagles and Jefferson: While their interest in Jefferson is real, and while perhaps they’re anticipating the board to fall that way right now, it’s misleading to suggest the Eagles have already decided that Jefferson is the guy, come hell or high water. It’s my understanding that the Eagles wrapped up scouting meetings earlier this week – all done by using web technology to connect personnel staff members from their respective homes – and the process is shifting to input from the coaching staff.
Don’t underestimate the power of coaches’ opinions on the team’s draft strategy. Coaches can have more pull and sway over final decision-makers than scouts can have. Last year, the buzz around the Eagles in early April centered on pass rushers and Josh Jacobs. The Eagles came away with neither, instead trading up for offensive tackle Andre Dillard. There wasn’t nearly as much pre-draft buzz about the Eagles landing Dillard, but after selecting the Washington State product, the team bent over backward to promote offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland’s affinity for Dillard’s footwork and natural pass protection acumen. The Eagles never worked out Dillard privately and didn’t bring him in for a top-30 visit. They never thought he’d drop within their reach. Stoutland called Dillard a few days before the first round to engage in a fact-finding conversation, highlighted in this NBC Philadelphia story.
Point being, if Eagles coaches haven’t yet weighed on this year’s college prospects, how could the pick already be etched in stone? Never mind that nobody has any clue right now which prospects will fall when the draft begins and as the board starts to settle.
Also, just because the Eagles like Jefferson doesn’t mean they dislike other wide receiver prospects or favor Jefferson above all others expected to be selected in the neighborhood of 21. It’s my understanding the Eagles haven’t ruled out any of the top receiver prospects and wouldn’t turn their noses at any of the names frequently mentioned in the 20-to-50 range, including K.J. Hamler, Jalen Reager, Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins and others. Plenty of conversations between Howie Roseman and the team’s scouting, coaching and analytics staffs will take place between now and April 23 as the team prepares to set its final board. So if you’re a Jefferson fan, you can feel emboldened in your optimism. If you’re not, don’t feel resigned into being disappointed. The process is fluid. Parts are moving. Nothing is concrete. We still have about two weeks. - Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is a veteran Philadelphia Eagles and NFL reporter, co-host of Inside the Birds and local sports-talk host. Listen to the latest Inside the Birds podcast here: