Now that the Philadelphia Eagles have released DeSean Jackson—whatever the reasoning—the pressure is on the front office to find an instant contributor in May’s draft to replace the three-time Pro Bowler. Or is it?
While popular thinking would suggest wide receiver just became a necessity in Rounds 1 or 2 in lieu of Jackson’s departure, that’s not automatically going to be the case.
There’s no denying the No. 2 offense in the NFL just took a step back, but the unit isn’t exactly lacking talent at the skill positions. All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Brent Celek all reprise their roles from 2013, while several players will have opportunities to step up in Jackson’s absence.
A healthy Jeremy Maclin—a first-round pick himself in ‘09—certainly helps fill the void. Darren Sproles is no substitute for Jackson down the field, but the veteran back’s production in the passing game should further ease the transition. Expect tight end Zach Ertz’s role to increase in his second season as well.
It doesn’t hurt that the incoming wide receiver class appears to be one of the strongest in recent memory. Potential contributors and perhaps even future starters could be unearthed much later in this year’s draft.
Philadelphia general manager Howie Roseman told Reuben Frank for CSNPhilly.com back in February that there will be a wide receiver the team likes “in every round.”
Then there’s that whole “best player available” strategy, which Roseman has been promoting throughout the offseason. The Eagles aren’t going to push receivers up the draft board all of a sudden, not when there are still holes at every level of the defense.
None of which is to say the Eagles wouldn’t take a wideout early—by my own reckoning, it’s the club’s third biggest draft-day need. Targeting one to take the place of Jackson should be an afterthought though, most of all because replacing a dynamic athlete like Jackson might not be as simple as using a high draft pick.