PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles are going after a wide receiver (or two) in this month’s NFL draft, have you heard? Of course you have. It’s the worst-kept secret outside of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow going No. 1 overall.
The intrigue lies not in whether they’ll take a wideout, but who and when and how. To that end, it’s worth exploring whether Philadelphia’s path to landing its receiver of the future will involve a trade. Here’s why:
The Eagles are slated to pick No. 21 overall in the first round. By then, the top three receivers — Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III — are projected to be off the board. The next highest-ranked receiver by most accounts is Justin Jefferson of LSU, and indeed, plenty of mock drafts have the Eagles selecting him at 21.
Perhaps that’s how it goes down. But that assumes he’ll still be on the board — no sure bet for a player who led the NCAA in receptions last season with 111. If the Big 3 get scooped up quickly — and that could happen — receiver-needy teams will start getting antsy. Every one of those teams knows that Philadelphia is on the hunt for a receiver, too, heightening the chances that someone will leapfrog the Eagles via trade to snag their target before general manager Howie Roseman has a chance to pick.
Ruggs, who ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the combine and averaged 18.7 yards per reception last season, is precisely the Tyreek Hill-like big-play burner that the Eagles are yearning to add to their offense. Yes, it would cost them some valued draft capital, but will anyone care once they see Ruggs zoom underneath a Carson Wentz heave? Jefferson, meanwhile, could be Wentz’s high-volume, red-zone-friendly receiver from minute one.
Whether it’s a pretty significant trade up for Ruggs, or a smaller one for Jefferson, moving up will ensure they land a top-tier impact player.
It’s a deep class, so the Eagles can still find difference-makers if they miss out on Ruggs and Jefferson. Players like Brandon Aiyuk, Jalen Reagor, KJ Hamler and Denzel Mims are notable names in the next wave of receiver talent that fit what the Eagles are looking for. However, they’re largely projected to go after the Eagles pick at 21 and before they’re back on the clock at 53 in the second round.
A small trade back in this scenario would net the Eagles more draft resources (they gave up a pair of picks last month to acquire cornerback Darius Slay from Detroit, knocking their stockpile of picks from 10 to eight) and still allow them the chance to take one of the above players without over-drafting them.
Roseman has a trade-happy history in Round 1. The Eagles have moved either up or back in three of the past four drafts, and six times total since Roseman first became GM in 2010.
Given the way the receiver chips might fall this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him add to that total this month.