Wake-Up Call: Draft Offers Options At Receiver

NFL: NFC Wildcard Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles

A record 98 underclassmen have declared for the 2014 NFL Draft. Within that wave lies  a group of talented receivers that has enriched the position significantly.

“When you talk about the underclassmen, that’s where the guts of this draft is. Last year was more senior-heavy,” said Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout for the Eagles. “This year we’re talking about 9-10 underclass wide receivers that are first, second-round players in my opinion.”

Jeremiah sees seven receivers being selected in the first round, which would be the most since 2004. And they are: Sammy Watkins (junior, Clemson), Mike Evans (redshirt sophomore, Texas A&M), Kelvin Benjamin (redshirt sophomore, Florida State), Marqise Lee (junior, USC), Paul Richardson (redshirt junior, Colorado), Jarvis Landry (junior, LSU) and Davante Adams (redshirt sophomore, Fresno State).

Mel Kiper, incredibly, has nine going in the first round in his latest mock draft. (He projects LSU junior Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Eagles at 22.)

Howie Roseman agrees with the sentiment that this is a strong class of wideouts, and must decide how much — if at all — that will impact some key decisions that are before him.

 It’s hard to imagine things being more up in the air. Two of their own — Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin — are set to become unrestricted free agents. The latter is coming off an ACL tear. Jason Avant, who saw a dip in production last year, is due a $1 million roster bonus on March 15 and is not a lock to back. It’s DeSean Jackson at one spot and a bunch of question marks over the rest, in other words.

Jackson is making a base of $10.5 million this season; Avant is owed a total of $3.25 million if he sticks around. Arrelious Benn, Jeff Maehl, Brad Smith and Damaris Johnson are due a combined $3.4M, though it’s unlikely all will be back. The Eagles have some $20 million in cap space but have other areas to address (safety, outside linebacker, etc.). How much money do they want to allocate to the position? Can they re-up both receivers without short-changing another spot?

Roseman has maintained that he is open to the idea of bringing both Cooper and Maclin back, and would probably do so if he could score a pair of team-friendly deals. If he can’t, he at least knows that a crop of promising, young receivers awaits in the draft.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Peter King mentions the Eagles as one team that likely wouldn’t think twice about drafting Michael Sam.

“[W]hat he draws up is definitely not normal.” Brad Smith talks Chip Kelly.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Several Eagles gave their thoughts on Michael Sam, including Evan Mathis, who had this to say (via CSN Philly):

“If a team is scared to draft him because he’s gay, I think they are overestimating the problem or distraction it would cause. The 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year has the confidence and the bravery to come out publicly two months before the NFL draft. If a team takes him off the draft board because of his sexuality, they never deserved a shot at him in the first place. All that matters to me is if the guy can play football or not.

“NFL players shouldn’t judge Michael Sam based on his sexuality, but some guys will. MLB players shouldn’t have judged Jackie Robinson based on his skin color, but some did. Whether or not the NFL is ready for it, it needs to happen. There are still people on this earth who lived through the prohibition of alcohol and the Civil Rights Movement. They can look back and reflect on how primitive those times were. Current generations will look back at marijuana prohibition and gays having to fight for equal rights and think how primitive those times were.”

A few former Eagles found new employment this week. Quarterback Mike Kafka signed with the Bucs, safety David Sims was picked up by the Colts and former Eagles center Hank Fraley was hired to be the Vikings assistant offensive line coach.

COMING UP

Free agency opens up one month from today.

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