NFL Draft Brings a Welcome Distraction – and Hopefully a Wide Receiver for Eagles

The NFL draft will be held this week and many people believe the league should postpone the annual lottery because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And even though those people have a legitimate point, I disagree with it. Now, more than ever, we need something to divert us and entertain us.

There is a precedent for this. Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor to push America into World War II, president Franklin Roosevelt wrote a letter to baseball commissioner Kenesaw Landis imploring him not to cancel the 1942 season. In the letter, dated Jan. 25, 1942, Roosevelt said “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” Roosevelt’s reasoning that it would give the American people a “chance for recreation” and “for taking their minds off” the troubles that were engulfing the entire world at the time.

Times change, but not human nature. If the NFL draft can provide entertainment in today’s world, especially with so many people cooped up in their homes, then it’s hard to see how that can be a bad thing.

 

Critics of the decision say that some college prospects will be short-changed when it comes to working out for and impressing NFL teams, and that’s true. At the same time, it seems almost certain that off-season workouts and mini-camps and perhaps even training camps will be shortened or even eliminated, so the sooner the rookies-to-be get their playbooks and start studying, the better prepared they’ll be if/when the seasons gets underway.

Anyhow, with that said, it’s time for our annual examination of the mock drafts that sprout up at this time of year like so many weeds and to see what the experts and not-so-experts believe the Eagles will do with the 21st overall selection.

So, we checked out 55 different mock drafts, the vast majority from reputable sources like ESPN, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Baltimore Sun and other major newspapers.

 

Of course, everyone and his brother – and probably sister – has their own mock drafts posted on the internet, and we included some of them, too, including Draft Utopia and something called The Ralphie Report (and we have no idea whether it was named for the kid from A Christmas Story).

To the surprise of nobody who has been following the Eagles pre-draft, the vast majority of those mock drafts say the Eagles will draft a wide receiver in the first round – 41 of the 55 mock drafts surveyed. That overwhelming choice was made even though the Eagles have only drafted four wide receivers in the first round since 1984, when coach Marion Campbell selected Penn State’s Kenny Jackson with the fourth overall selection, which proved to be one of the worst draft-day decisions in Eagles history.

The other first-round receivers drafted since ’84 were UCLA’s Freddie Mitchell (25th overall in 2004), Jeremy Maclin (19th overall in 2009), and Southern California’s Nelson Agholor (20th overall in 2015).

 

Eight of the mock drafters said the Eagles will take a linebacker in the first round, even though history isn’t on their side – the last time the Eagles drafted a linebacker No. 1 was all the way back in 1979, when coach Dick Vermeil selected UCLA’s Jerry Robinson with the 21st overall pick.

Four mock drafters predicted the Eagles would take a cornerback, even though that isn’t a position on which the team has used a first-rounder very often – the last time was in 2002, when coach Andy Reid selected Florida’s Lito Sheppard with the 26th overall pick.

As for the other two mock drafts, one said the Eagles will pick an edge rusher and the other said they’ll draft an offensive tackle, and history is on their side – since 2000, the Eagles have drafted either an offensive or defensive lineman in the first round 12 times.

 

As for the player the mock drafters predict the Eagles will select in the first round, there is a clear-cut favorite – of the 55 mock drafts used for this very unscientific survey, 20 said the Eagles will select wide receiver Justin Jefferson of Louisiana State with the 21st overall pick.

A distant second in the survey was wide receiver Tee Higgins of Clemson, with six votes. As for other wide receivers, three mock drafters said the choice would be Jalon Reagor of Texas Christian, three said Denzel Mims of Baylor and three said Laviska Shenault of Colorado.

Two predictors said the Eagles choice would be wide receiver Cee Dee Lamb of Oklahoma, and one of them, from a site called Draft-Tek, said the Eagles would make a trade with the New York Jets (whose general manager is former Eagles personnel man Joe Douglas) and move up to the 11th overall pick to do so.

And one mock drafter – Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports – said the Eagles would make a deal with San Francisco to move up to No. 13 overall and pick wide receiver Jerry Jeudy of Alabama, who is generally considered to be the top receiver available. Also, two mock drafters said the Eagles would select another highly-rated receiver, Henry Ruggs III of Alabama, and one of them said the Eagles would have to make a trade to move up for Ruggs — Kevin Hanlon of Sports Illustrated predicted the Eagles would make a deal with Denver to move up to No. 15 overall.

 

The only other wide receiver predicted to go to the Eagles in the first round was Brandon Aiyui of Arizona State.

As for other positions, four mock drafters said the Eagles would select linebacker Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma and four said the choice at No. 21 would be linebacker Patrick Queen of Louisiana State.

Everyone knows cornerback is a position of need for the Eagles, and they made a major trade already to shore up that spot, making a deal with Detroit for Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay. Still, three mock drafters said the Eagles would select a cornerback in the first round, with two votes going to Jeff Gladney of Texas Christian and one vote each going to Kristian Fulton of Louisiana State and C.J. Henderson of Florida.

Finally, one voter said the Eagles will draft edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson of Lousiana State in the first round, and one predicted they would select offensive tackle Austin Jackson of Southern California.

 On Thursday, we’ll find out which mock drafters were right and which ones were wrong, and eventually history will tell us the same about the Eagles.

 


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About the Contributor

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.