It seemed the Eagles had just done an admirable job of filling the crater left behind from DeSean Jackson’s release with the selection of Jordan Matthews in the second round of the draft. Now that they’ve also taken Huff in the third, there are almost too many pass-catchers in Philly's offense.
Are there enough balls to go around?
|Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Receiving Statistics|
|Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)||13||112||1,477||13.2||7|
|Jeremy Maclin (2012)||15||69||857||12.4||7|
|Darren Sproles (NOR)||15||71||604||8.5||2|
Head coach Chip Kelly told reporters he has Matthews penciled in at the slot. Jeremy Maclin is set to return from a torn ACL and assume Jackson’s role as the top wideout. Riley Cooper is currently the No. 2, and he likely has a job in some capacity for the foreseeable future after agreeing to a five-year contract in February.
There’s also running back Darren Sproles, who the Eagles traded a fifth-round pick for then quickly signed to an extension. He lines up in the slot quite a bit. And second-year tight end Zach Ertz, who isn’t the in-line blocker Brent Celek is, but he is a talent waiting to breakout. That combination could result in an increase in the number of two-tight end formations.
It would seem that right now, no, there are not enough snaps for everybody.
That doesn’t mean Huff will never see the field as a rookie. The Eagles’ depth at wide receiver is such that just one injury, and he might already be the next man up.
Huff will likely have to find other ways to make an immediate impact, though, namely on special teams. Kelly has emphasized how important success is on special teams ever since his arrival, and he backed up that talk by bringing in numerous free agents who primarily fill that role.
It’s safe to assume the Eagles didn’t use a third-round pick on Huff to have him play exclusively on special teams, but it’s where he’ll carve out his niche at first. Scouting reports indicate he has experience covering kicks and has even returned a few himself.
Huff attempted 43 returns at the University of Oregon, although he wasn’t especially dynamic, averaging 23.0 yards with zero touchdowns. Still, it's an area of need for the Birds, so he could be worth a look.
His prospects for cracking the rotation at wide receiver appear to be dependent upon what happens to the players ahead of him on the depth chart, though.
|Josh Huff Receiving Statistics|
Maclin would only agree to remain in Philadelphia on a one-year deal so he can test free agency once he’s shown the league he’s healthy, potentially paving the way for his departure next offseason. Meanwhile, Cooper is probably the least talented of the bunch, and the Eagles can think about getting out from under his contract as early as 2016 should he eventually get lapped on the depth chart.
So maybe taking two wide receivers with back-to-back selections—two of Philadelphia’s top three picks in this draft—wasn’t excessive after all. Depending on what happens with Maclin and Cooper, the Eagles might have found themselves right back in the same position a year from now, searching for pass-catchers again.
If Huff is able to climb the ladder, he probably projects better in the slot, even if that’s where Matthews will play for now. Huff simply doesn’t have the ideal combination of size and speed to play on the outside, though he could probably get by there.
You can hear the comparisons to Jason Avant already. Huff should get functionally stronger in an NFL conditioning program, at which point he’ll be outmuscling nickel cornerbacks as both a pass-catcher and run-blocker. But for the time being, don't expect to hear too much from him, as the Eagles suddenly find themselves very deep at wide receiver.
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