What if your team needs a wide receiver?
Should your team take one in the first round or roll the dice, assuming you can address that position later on in the draft?
And what if your team doesn’t need a receiver? Could the WR class impact who’s available at other positions?
The Philadelphia Eagles serve as a good example of how all this could play out.
Philadelphia’s two biggest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback. But, thanks to free agency, the team likely will also have needs at defensive tackle and safety.
Philadelphia could also use depth at pass rusher and along the offensive line, but those positions were recently addressed by the team, so it’s hard to see them going back to the proverbial well again.
That’s not to say Philadelphia would ignore those (or any other) positions if, say, someone like Georgia OT Andrew Thomas fell to them in the first – which is always a possibility when the draft is loaded at more than one position. It’s just less likely because it means a player the team recently invested heavily in could receive little playing time while another position of need goes unfulfilled.
Andrea Dillard, for example, was the No. 22 overall pick last draft and by all accounts has had a fairly solid rookie season for Philadelphia, starting a handful of games. There’s also a good chance Dillard is the team’s swing tackle next season, and he might be the Philadelphia’s eventual long-term starter at left tackle.
However, Dillard has racked up only 333 snaps on offense through Dec. 10, according to Football Outsiders. Meanwhile, second-round RB Miles Sanders has 489 snaps on offense while J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, a third-round wide receiver, has received 359 snaps on offense through Dec. 10.
Does that mean Dillard is a bust? Absolutely not. It just means it’s less likely that Philadelphia addresses that position again before the fourth round of the 2020 draft, if it’s addressed at all.
You can’t fill all your team needs in one draft (or offseason), so it’s unreasonable to expect them to hit home runs at all those aforementioned positions in the draft.
But, if the Eagles play their cards right and take advantage of the drafts’ strengths, then they could wind up with three to four rookie starters. Remember, anything more than two or three rookie starters is somewhat unusual, especially for teams like Philadelphia who have Super Bowl aspirations.
Philadelphia has five picks in the first four rounds, so this draft lines up nicely with their needs.
It would be tempting to take the “sexy” pick in the first round at a position of need, like Henry Ruggs III of Alabama, who would no doubt provide an immediate upgrade at the position.
But taking a Ruggs or a Laviska Shenault of Colorado, for example, almost certainly means they won’t find a starter at safety in this draft. So, based off their team needs and how the rest of the draft will line up, the team would be wise to give strong consideration to LSU safety Grant Delpit or even fringe first-rounder Xavier McKinney of Alabama, if either is still available.
Under this scenario, Philadelphia still needs to find a defensive tackle, wide receiver and cornerback.
This is where a good GM makes his money.
Because WR and CB are so deep in this draft, it’s therefore logical to assume the team would wait another round to address those needs and take a DT in the second round instead.
However, generally speaking, defensive tackles have less of an impact than cornerbacks or wide receivers in the outcome of a game. And, because this year’s CB crop is relatively top-heavy, you’re less likely to find an immediate rookie starter beyond Round 2 or the early part of Round 3.
Therefore, cornerback seems to be the logical Round 2 choice for Philadelphia with someone like Virginia’s Bryce Hall, Clemson’s A.J. Terrell or Utah’s Jaylon Johnson providing an immediate impact as a Day 1 starter.
So now the Eagles are down to wide receiver and defensive tackle, with three picks to go.
With around five to six WRs going in both the first and second rounds, that means there’s still plenty of really good receivers left who could all potentially start immediately or early on in their rookie seasons.
It would be tempting to “double-dip” at either the CB or WR position with Philadelphia’s two third-round picks, but doing so might mean missing out on a potential starter or immediate contributor at defensive tackle. Plus, teams generally try to avoid starting two rookies at the same position.
So, logic dictates the Eagles draft a receiver and a defensive tackle in the third round. Potential pairings include Florida State WR Tamorrion Terry and Missouri DT Jordan Elliott or Michigan WR Nico Collins and Utah DT Leki Fotu.
That would address all of Philadelphia’s most pressing needs and allow them to truly take the best player available in the fourth round. Here’s where the depth of the wide receiver class makes sense to “double-dip” – something that a WR-needy team like Philadelphia could strongly consider. You’re not necessarily expecting your fourth-rounder to be a starter, but it’s more likely you’ll find one in that round in 2020 at receiver.
So a player like Minnesota’s Tyler Johnson makes the most sense here: a solid albeit unspectacular talent whose floor – and ceiling – is likely that of a solid No. 2 or 3 receiver who plays for 10-plus years in the league.
You couldn’t ask for much more out of a fourth-rounder.
Even if, as expected, several of the underclassmen do not enter the 2020 NFL draft, it’s still shaking out to be historically good, both in quality and quantity.
Of course, there will be the usual surprising misses – the Alabama trio of receivers already has some detractors who point to legitimate concerns. And there will be the usual “steals” at the position.
But the sheer number of quality receivers in this draft means those “steals” can be found much later in the draft than in previous years.