NFL Draft 2012: 10 Dual Threat Rookies Who Could Replace Eagles' DeSean Jackson
According to an article by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles are planning to put the franchise tag on Jackson, which means they will do one of two things:
First, they could keep Jackson around, but they would have to pay him the average salary of the top five highest-paid receivers in the league.
That amounts to about $9.5 million—almost $9 million more than they paid him in 2011.
Or they could trade him away and receive some sort of compensation for the two-time Pro Bowler.
If that were the case, the Eagles would need to find a dual-threat receiver/returner who could come in and fill the void left by Jackson. The smartest and most inexpensive option would be to draft the replacement.
While there are no clear-cut Jackson replacements projected to go off the board early, there are a handful that possess similar traits and could one day emerge as the type of receiver Jackson has become.
Here are 10 players that Philadelphia could end up seeing as Jackson's replacement.
Florida International receiver T.Y. Hilton is one of those players that doesn't get much media attention because he plays for a non-BCS school.
But scouts and draft experts have had an eye on the 2010 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year for quite some time.
According to CBS affiliate nfldraftscout.com's analysis of Hilton, he is good at a lot of things and his only weakness may be his small frame.
However, Hilton doesn't exhibit elite ability in any particular area, resulting in a fourth-round draft projection.
He is, though, similar to DeSean Jackson in that he can catch passes and be effective in special teams.
He returns punts and kicks, and it's difficult to not be reminded of Jackson when watching his punt return touchdown against Kansas in 2008.
Broyles has had an incredibly successful career at Oklahoma, being named to numerous All-Big 12 teams and becoming a consensus All-American each of the last two years.
But because of his size and his recently-torn ACL, he isn't considered a top-notch prospect.
He would likely fit in more as a slot receiver than a deep threat, but his experience in punt returning could be useful to the Eagles.
Broyles does possess an excellent set of hands and isn't afraid to take a hit over the middle. That's something DeSean Jackson has struggled with over his career, as he'll pull up on occasion when running a route over the middle.
Just like with Hilton, the Eagles wouldn't have to sacrifice a high pick to get Broyles. He is currently projected to go in the fourth or fifth round.
Edwards has been a beneficiary of the wide-open Houston offense that allowed quarterback Case Keenum to break just about every passing record in the books.
But like Keenum, Edwards hasn't been getting much attention in terms of the draft. Despite accumulating over 1,500 receiving yards and catching 18 touchdown passes, concerns over his durability among other things have held him back.
Edwards missed five games in 2008 due to a compound leg fracture, inflicted when running into a cart in a game at Marshall.
He came back from that to put up over 1,000 receiving yards the next three seasons, mostly because of the offensive scheme—not crisp route-running or incredible hands.
What Edwards does have is speed and acceleration.
He was able to use these abilities to give himself a step on defensive backs, much like DeSean Jackson does. He also returned punts for Houston, finding the endzone once in each of the last two years.
Edwards would be inexpensive draft pick, or even an undrafted free agent. If the Eagles are in a pinch, he could be a low-risk, high-reward option.
Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu is a top-five wide receiver in this draft according to every list there is, and he could be a Philadelphia Eagle if he falls to the middle of the second round.
Sanu caught 115 passes in his junior year before declaring for the draft. His 4.57 40 yard dash suggests that he doesn't have eye-popping speed, but he does have great agility for his 6'2", 215-pound frame.
He has the potential to replace DeSean Jackson at receiver, but might not be a good enough punt returner to fill the void at special teams.
Sanu returned punts for Rutgers last year, but never had a return longer than 18 yards and asked for a fair catch on 19 of his 33 opportunities. Having experience at the position would make him an acceptable backup or emergency returner, but nothing more.
The main benefit of adding Sanu is his NFL-readiness. Event though he is leaving Rutgers a year early, he hasn't left much room to grow on the college field and will be ready to start for an NFL team by the fall.
T. J. Graham
On the opposite end of the scale to Sanu is North Carolina State receiver/returner T.J. Graham.
Graham has a 4.36 40 yard dash, and that has helped him become a weapon, returning both punts and kicks.
As a receiver, he has grown as considerably as his statistics suggest.
After catching just 12 passes his sophomore year and 25 as a junior, Graham emerged as the No. 1 target in 2011 and finished the season with 45 grabs, including seven for touchdowns.
Sitting at just 180 pounds, Graham would be used more as a returner but could fill a position in a three or four wide set. He's not the next DeSean Jackson, but the Eagles could do worse with a sixth round pick.
The only running back on the list, Texas alum Foswhitt Whittaker is one of those guys that hasn't lived up to expectations in college, but has the talent to break out in the NFL.
The reason I include Whittaker here is that he can catch passes out of the backfield and return kicks as well. He scored two touchdowns on kick returns in 2011, but with LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis easily ahead in the depth chart, he would have to work hard to even earn a spot on the team.
Whittaker could easily be this draft's "Mr. Irrelevant," but he has a skill set that could make him very relevant in the future.
Wright emerged as Arkansas' top receiver in 2011, hauling in 66 passes for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns.
For the Eagles, he could be a legitimate deep threat because of his speed.
Wright's 4.34 40-yard dash is a 10th of a second faster than DeSean Jackson's, and their frames match up almost exactly. Both are 5'10", and at 180 pounds, Wright is only five pounds heavier than Jackson.
In other words, both are fast and undersized.
Jackson has proven that he can get off cornerback jams and make plays down the field. If Wright is selected by the Eagles, he will need to do the same to eliminate any doubts that come with his size.
Wright is currently projected as a fifth round pick, but he's the type of player that could make a big impression with his speed at the combine. His stock will only go up and he would be a great investment for the Eagles.
Maze was the top receiver on the 2011 National Champion Alabama team, but that won't get him any glory as a receiver.
He only had one touchdown grab all season, but he appeals to the Eagles because he can double as a receiver and returner, just like DeSean Jackson.
At 5'10", he's also undersized, but that is something Jackson has proven irrelevant.
Maze is currently projected to go in the fifth or sixth round, and is somebody I see as more of a space filler until the Eagles can find a truer replacement for Jackson.
Wright is without a doubt the best receiver on this list, and his style has a lot of DeSean Jackson in it.
However, he is similar to Mohamed Sanu in that he has some experience returning punts but never had great success doing it.
At 5'10" and 190 pounds, Wright is a guy that uses his speed and agility to make plays. He has great hands and was a big contributor to Robert Griffin III's Heisman run.
Without Wright catching balls, Griffin III would have had to do a lot more on his own.
He will surely be gone in the first round, so it is unlikely that he will end up with the Eagles. Philly has a more pressing need at linebacker and could opt to go for a bigger receiver like Alshon Jeffery instead.
Adams offers a lot of the same attributes as Arkansas teammate Jarius Wright, but is known as more of an all-purpose player.
He has the speed (4.38 40-yard dash) and stats to make a case for a successful NFL career.
In his senior year at Arkansas, Adams returned four punts for touchdowns, including the gem you see in the video here. He is the top return man available in the draft, and he will likely disappear off the board in the third or fourth round.
As a wide receiver, Adams had a respectable 54 receptions for 652 yards. Those numbers wont make anybody do a double-take, but they do say he can play the position.
His speed makes him dangerous on stretch routes and he could do a decent job of being the deep threat that replaces DeSean Jackson.
With that being said, it will be incredibly difficult to replace Jackson if the Eagles decide to trade him away.
There are few players in the NFL—or elsewhere—that can match his impact at receiver and on special teams.
The best the Eagles can do is draft a player with similar skills and hope he develops into something that resembles what Jackson has become.
Here's to hoping the Philly front office takes a chance on Jackson and keeps him around for at least a couple more years.