In the NFL, it’s very unusual to see a team draft a wide receiver in the first round of three subsequent NFL Drafts. Teams have a multitude of needs, draft classes vary dramatically in terms of talent and player availability, and conventional wisdom would suggest that two wide receivers drafted in the first round would be able to shoulder enough of an offensive load to mitigate the need for a third .
The Philadelphia Eagles, unfortunately, might be one of those rare teams to join that club.
Despite their best efforts, and having drafted Nelson Agholor, Jalen Reagor, and DeVonta Smith in the first round over the past seven seasons, the Eagles find themselves with a unique opportunity to go back to the NCAA’s wide receiver factory yet again with one of their two first-round picks and a pretty big need at the position to justify such a move. Factor in the incredible prices being paid out to even WR2s in free agency, and securing a pass-catcher for five years on a contract well below market value is an incredible proposition.
Fortunately, in a very advantageous twist of fate, the top-ranked wide receiver in the 2022 class, at least according to NFL.com, grew up a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles and would like nothing more than to wear midnight green like his heroes this fall.
The Philadelphia Eagles have a fan in OSU wide receiver Garrett Wilson.
Do you remember the pre-Carson Wentz, post-Donovan McNabb era of Philadelphia Eagles football, when Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson ran wild for Andy Reid and Chip Kelly? The offensive was dynamic, the passing game was electrifying, and the threat of Vick and LeSean McCoy ripping off a big run made it incredibly difficult for teams to stack the box between the tackles.
Garrett Wilson remembers because that was the era of Eagles football that made him a fan.
That’s right, before he was catching passes at Ohio State, making waves in the pre-draft process, or headlining the NFL.com’s wide receiver grades, he was a teen growing up in Ohio and then Texas as a fan of the Eagles. But wait, it gets better; not only is Wilson a fan of the Eagles but, according to Josh Tolentino of The Philadelphia Inquirer, he became fast friends with head coach Nick Sirianni during the pre-draft process and called playing for the collegiate Mount Union wide receiver a “dream come true.”
Yeah, I think fans can work with that.
Of the two OSU wide receivers expected to hear their names called in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Wilson is the least polished of the duo but may just have the highest upside. Unlike Chris Olave, the polished route runner who visited the Eagles on Thursday, Wilson is at his best when he gets the ball in his hands and has a chance to make plays. While he doesn’t juke would-be defenders out of their shoes all that often with his pre-throw route-running, his ability to effortlessly control his body when the ball is in the air is incredible, as is his ability to accelerate and decelerate to trick would-be tacklers into the open field.
In a league where Deebo Samuel is about to be a very rich man, Wilson’s services should be in very high demand.
So how, you may ask, would Wilson fit with the Philadelphia Eagles? Well, that’s not too hard to imagine. Any team that selects Wilson will play him either in the slot or at the flanker spot and will surely spam him with easy catches within five yards of the line of scrimmage. He’ll receive more than a few screen passes per game, split his total yardage between receiving and rushing depending on where he gets the ball, and produce YAC at a higher level than any player the Eagles have employed in years.
That’s the good news. The bad news? The Eagles already have a roster loaded up with players suited to take snaps from the Z and slot, and bringing in Wilson would force a receiver like DeVonta Smith and/or Quez Watkins to play a high percentage of their snaps out of position at the X wide receiver spot.
If Wilson weighed 200-plus pounds or committed himself to adding strength without sacrificing his 4.38 speed, maybe Wilson could play the X receiver spot like Samuel does in San Francisco, as the pride of the Bay Area is built more like a running back than a traditional wide receiver, but if not, he’ll have to have a good bit of his production manufactured early on much like Watkins in Nick Sirianni’s scheme in 2021.
Still, not every team in the NFL has to have a 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver on the outside who feasts on a steady dose of 50-50 balls. For every team like the Cincinnati Bengals, who start three wide receivers who each measure in at over 6-foot-1 or taller on the way to the Super Bowl, there are teams like the Buffalo Bills, who didn’t regularly start a single 6-foot-1 receiver in 2021. Is that the style the Eagles want to run? Do they want a YAC specialist, an expert route runner, and a speedster with a good bit more height than your typical deep threat with the hopes that Zach Pascal can help to keep those traditional X plays in the playbook? Or would they rather close out their homegrown Big 3 with a prototypical X receiver who can provide the typical parity that allowed the team to win the Super Bowl back in February of 2018?
This is going to be interesting.
Garrett Wilson might just be the most polarizing wide receiver atop the 2022 NFL Draft. Some will surely view him as a Deebo Samuel-esque weapon who will become an even better player once he can take advantage of a professional team’s player development program, while others view him as a player who is more gadget than technician. Which side do the Philadelphia Eagles fall on? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.