The scheduled start of the 2020 NFL draft is roughly two weeks away, and teams are starting to zero in on their preferred draft choices.
For the Philadelphia Eagles, that preferred choice appears to be a wide receiver. However, they're not going after Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb—both of whom may well be off the board by pick No. 21. According to Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller, the Eagles are honing in on LSU receiver Justin Jefferson.
On the Stick to Football podcast, Miller recently stated that this is the chatter he's heard:
"Just go ahead and put this one in ink. ... When I write a mock draft, the way I do it, picks that I've heard are going to happen, I submit them in and then work around them. So, Derrick Brown at eight, Justin Jefferson at 21 ... I will go ahead and believe Justin Jefferson is an Eagle even if someone else drafts him because we've had this happen so many times."
So, at this point, Miller feels pretty confident that the Eagles will target Jefferson at 21. He should feel confident—at least that they'll target a receiver there. Receiver was a position of need entering the offseason, as Philadelphia struggled to field healthy wideouts toward the end of 2019. They then lost Nelson Agholor in free agency.
Alshon Jeffery, it seems, could also be on his way out of Philadelphia, though it's unlikely.
According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles have been trying to trade Jeffery since the start of last season. Getting anything worthwhile in return, however, could prove difficult.
Jeffery struggled in 2019 before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury. He had just 490 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games, which won't entice teams to take on his $15.4 million 2020 cap hit. Neither will health concerns.
"While Jeffery remains available to other teams, per league sources, the GM knows that the combination of salary, injury and performance makes a trade unlikely," McLane wrote.
With more than $26 million in dead money remaining on Jeffery's deal, cutting him probably isn't an option, either. That shouldn't stop the Eagles from grabbing a new No. 1 receiver in the draft.
Ravens Also Looking at Receivers
The Baltimore Ravens are also expected to dip their hands into what is considered to be a deep rookie receiver pool. According to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, they're likely to do so earlier than later on draft weekend.
"A wide receiver will be under consideration with the 28th overall pick," Zrebiec wrote. "If the Ravens don't take one in the first round, they'll likely come out of Day 2 with at least one new target for Lamar Jackson."
While wide receiver may seem like an odd priority for the league's No. 1 scoring offense (33.2 points per game in 2019), it really isn't. While Jackson has an elite tight end in Mark Andrews and a speedy deep threat in 2019 first-round pick Marquise Brown, he lacks a legitimate No. 1 target on the perimeter.
That lack of a reliable go-to wideout didn't cost Baltimore often in 2019—the Ravens lost just two regular-season games—but it may have played a role in the team's early playoff exit.
In the divisional-round loss to the Tennessee Titans, Jackson passed for 365 yards. However, the Ravens were 11-for-18 on third down and 0-for-4 on fourth-down attempts.
Continuing to build the offense around the league's reigning MVP should be a priority.
Xavier McKinney Drawing Major Draft Interest
While wide receiver is believed to be one of the deepest position groups in this year's draft class, not every team will be angling for a pass-catcher on Day 1. Some teams will take the opposite approach and try to bolster their secondaries to counter this incoming crop of receiving threats.
One defensive back is generating a ton of draft buzz, according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer:
"One player who got more love than I expected when I was calling around this week: Alabama S Xavier McKinney. I got an Earl Thomas comp out of one of the NFL's most respected evaluators, and not a lot of disagreement when I ran that by a couple of other veteran evaluators. Another called him 'premium … one of the best safeties I've ever watched.' Teams love his athleticism and his versatility to play up, back or in the slot."
This is a pretty interesting tidbit, as McKinney hasn't been widely touted as one of the top defensive prospects in this draft. He's been mentioned as a possible first-round pick, to be sure, but he hasn't been mentioned in the same breath as guys like Chase Young and Isaiah Simmons.
Miller recently mocked McKinney to the Las Vegas Raiders at 19. That's a strong draft position, but if teams are really as high on the Crimson Tide star as Breer suggests, there's a good chance he won't last that long.
While it's not fair to compare McKinney to Earl Thomas before he's ever played an NFL down, that sort of potential will likely have teams scrambling to snag the rookie on the opening night of the draft.