Takeaways From Eagles’ Round 1 Pick Of Jalen Reagor
The Eagles’ selection of Jalen Reagor on Thursday at 21st overall drew its typical mixed reaction from fans.
Those expressing their satisfaction that Howie Roseman took the TCU speeder to shore up one of the team’s most glaring team weaknesses – explosive playmaker who can get behind a defense – were seemingly drowned out by those more enamored with the name value of national champion Justin Jefferson or by those infuriated that CeeDee Lamb came within a sniff before landing with rival Dallas.
(Not all fans were thrilled that the Eagles picked TCU’s Jalen Reagor in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, 21st overall)
Jefferson, after all, did catch four touchdown passes in the national title game — the first half, actually. Lamb, thanks to the parade of mock drafts, was widely viewed as a top-10 prospect.
The premature bashing of a first-round pick before he’s even set foot on the field has become somewhat of an annual rite of passage for prospects drafted into Philly.
Some criticisms are fair and warranted. Others are simply the combination of impulse and ignorance. Just because you didn’t see Reagor catch four touchdowns in a national title game doesn’t automatically qualify him as unworthy of his draft stock.
The difference between the public’s view of certain prospects and the NFL’s can often be profound. Just look at the Lamb plummet. Widely regarded as a top-10/12 pick, the Oklahoma product came with no reported red flags about his medicals or character. Yet several receiver-needy teams picking in the top 15 passed on him, including the Jaguars, Raiders, Jets, 49ers. The Broncos took Jerry Jeudy despite questions about the receiver’s durability because of knee issues.
The NFL told you through its actions Thursday that its of Lamb didn’t match the media attention and brought to light some concerns about the Oklahoma star’s natural position at the pro level. Some scouts weren’t sure if the long-striding Lamb was a true “X” or more of a move “Z?”
About 10 minutes after Roger Goodell announced the Eagles’ pick, I received this unsolicited text message from a longtime scout from an AFC North team.
“Great pick. That was my guy.”
Prior to the draft, that same scout had told me Reagor ranked among his top-five receivers. Another longtime scout, from an NFC team, described Reagor as someone who plays “angry with the football” – that’s a good thing – with the open-field burst and explosion seen from top-tier running backs, noting also that Reagor needs to clean up drops and fumbles.
Here are some other points to consider before you judge the Reagor decision:
* Most teams don’t have 32 players with first-round grades.
Teams generally have a dozen or so prospects assigned with first-round grades, depending on the year. Most of the legit first-rounders are off the board by 20th overall. Plenty of picks in the back end of the first round are prospects who either have second-round grades or would be second-rounders for another team. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.
* The 21st pick isn’t typically a spot for superstar talent.
Be reasonable with expectations for Reagor, especially in his first few seasons. Consistently producing anywhere from 850-1,000 yards should be the target number over his first two or three seasons.
Ravens wideout Marquise Brown went 25th last year and totaled 584 yards on 46 catches with seven touchdowns, a good season by most rookie metrics for a player picked after 20. Panthers wideout D.J. Moore, picked 25th overall in 2018, totaled 788 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie before jumping to 1,175 and four last year. You’d love to see that same trajectory for Reagor.
But the bag is mixed for receivers picked between 20 and 25 since 2010: Calvin Ridley, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell, Nelson Agholor, Brashad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Bejamin, DeAndre Hopkins, Cordarelle Patterson, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins, Jonathan Baldwin, Demaryius Thomas, and Dez Bryant.
There are some really good ones in there, and some real stinkers. There’s also a bunch of good-to-average receivers.
* Reagor wasn’t “overdrafted”
I keep seeing comments that Reagor could’ve been taken in the second round and that very few mock drafts had penciled Reagor into the first round.
I’m not sure where people go for info, but both Daniel Jeremiah and Lance Zeirlein, two of the best in the business at NFL.com, mocked Reagor in the first round. Jeremiah had Reagor going 24th to the Saints and Zierlein slotted Reagor to …. the Eagles at 21.
It’s true that Jeremiah rated Reagor as his 56th overall prospect, so why did the former Eagles front-office staffer pick Reagor for New Orleans in the first round? Because he knows teams prioritize perimeter speed and that only a small handful of this year’s wideout crop possessed game-breaking speed.
* Reagor vs. Jefferson
An NFL comp for Justin Jefferson I’ve heard often was Keenan Allen. An NFL comp for Reagor I’ve heard is Emmanuel Sanders. Both have made multiple Pro Bowls and both had have multiple 1,000-yard seasons. They’re just different types of wideouts.
Allen plays inside and outside and wins mostly with size, high-pointing, catch radius and body control. Sanders wins with quickness, speed, sharp cuts and precise route-running.
You can make an argument that Sanders or Allen would immediately be an upgrade for the Eagles’ offense. No matter who you liked more between Jefferson or Reagor, there’s no reason to bash one to prop up the other.
In the end, it’s a matter of taste and fit. Roseman wanted speed. He thought of Carson Wentz’s thirst to push the ball downfield and the glaring lack of any vertical element to last year’s offense.
Remember, Doug Pederson employs more 12 personnel (two tight ends, two receivers) formations than any other NFL team. When Zach Ertz or Dallas Goedert flexes to the slot, both wide receivers must play the outside. The Eagles – and many other teams – questioned whether Jefferson could consistently win on the outside, which made the Eagles lean toward the faster, more explosive Reagor.
(Side note: Yes, I’m aware Jefferson clocked a 4.4 at the Combine and Reagor timed closer to 4.5. Two notes on that: First, almost every scout I’ve spoken to said Jefferson’s play speed isn’t 4.4 and the tape shows his lack of speed separation from defenders. Second, Reagor arrived at the Combine about 10 pounds heavier than his normal playing weight. He dropped the weight soon after and apparently clocked a 4.22 while training in Texas. It really doesn’t matter. No scout I’ve spoken to has questioned Reagor’s game speed.)
* Why not trade down for Reagor?
Another common misconception is that Roseman could’ve traded down and still taken Reagor, along with adding another pick.
The rest of the first round revealed the risk in that thinking. Wide receivers went in two of the four picks after 21. Jefferson went one pick later to the Vikings – who recently traded away speedster Stefon Diggs and did plenty of homework on Reagor, per a source — at 22, and Brandon Aiyuk went 25th to the 49ers. One teams in that span that didn’t take a receiver, the Saints at 24, were among teams that were reportedly looking to add perimeter speed.
* Reagor vs. Kenneth Murray
To me, this is the fairest criticism. I’m a stickler on best-player-available, and most scouts and coaches I spoke to billed Murray as an elite talent worthy of a first-round pick.
The Eagles passed on an opportunity to arm Jim Schwartz with a sideline-to-sideline, three-down linebacker who’d be an ideal middle complement to their bread-and-butter D-line and Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay. They might regret that decision down the road.
In final, this post isn’t intended to be an endorsement of the pick. I try not to judge immediately, unless something smells really fishy.
I think it’s strange to criticize a prospect who was drafted where he was projected to go before he even sets foot on the football field. It’s not like Roseman took Chase Claypool or Bryan Edwards there. I understand the franchise’s dubious recent history of drafting wide receiver, so any and all skepticism is fair.
But there’s a difference between skepticism and criticism. There will be plenty of time for booing and second-guessing if Reagor doesn’t pan out.