No-22: Why the Eagles Wanted Josh Huff
Update: The Eagles and Huff have agreed to terms on a four-year deal, the team announced.
Whenever the Eagles draft a player that Chip Kelly has coached, the assumption is Kelly is pulling the strings.
And to be fair, that assumption is pretty much on-target. But in the case of Josh Huff, Eagles GM Howie Roseman wanted to make it clear that he and Kelly were on the same page with their interest in the wide receiver.
“I would say if anything that was on me on Josh Huff, and I was as excited as him [Kelly] if not more,” Roseman said. “I just think that as a personnel staff we were really excited about what Josh Huff can do for our offense. The more we watched him and the other receivers and saw his projection, we just got really excited and we wanted him, so that’s where we were on Josh.”
The case can be made that the Eagles should have waited on Huff. They took him in the third round with the 86th overall pick. There’s a decent chance he would have been available later in the fourth round. But the organization decided it didn’t want to risk it, and so the Eagles pulled the trigger on a player they had targeted.
From a measurables standpoint, not a lot stands out with Huff:
He’s 5-11 and ran a 4.51 at the combine. But the reasons why the Eagles wanted to bring Huff on board are obvious. For starters, as we explained yesterday, they prefer limiting the projections with prospects. In Huff, they have a player Kelly has coached. That removes a lot of the guess-work about how he will fit – both in the Eagles’ scheme and in the locker room.
From a football standpoint, the one trait I think the Eagles found most attractive in Huff was his playing personality.
That’s a term personnel people and analysts use to describe a prospect’s overall on-the-field demeanor. On a consistent basis, Huff plays like he wants to punish defenders. Here’s one example against Texas:
And here’s another against UCLA:
Said Kelly: “He has a nasty presence to himself, so he’s not risk‑averse to contact. He’s going to get after people.”
Of course, wide receivers are never drafted because they can block – even in an offense like the Eagles’ that wants to run the ball a lot. With Huff, that physicality shows up when he has the ball in his hands as well.
Here, against Colorado, he lines up in the slot, runs a short out, heads upfield and initiates contact with the defensive back.
In the games I watched, Huff never ran out of bounds. He finishes plays consistently and is always fighting for extra yardage.
“He plays receiver like an old running back,” said Mike Mayock.
Here, Huff drags a Colorado defender 10 yards into the end zone:
As for versatility, Huff said he lined up in the slot on about 90 percent of his snaps last year. Given his skill set, I think that’s where he’ll be most effective in the NFL.
Jimmy Kempski over at Philly.com pointed out that Huff had at least one catch of 20+ yards in every game last year. And he was one of four wide receivers in the country to catch at least 60 balls (62), while averaging at least 18.0 yards per catch (18.39). Huff is really good at finding holes in zone coverage, and he did a lot of damage for Oregon running down the seam.
That’s vintage Huff. Line up in the slot, get downfield, look back for the football, absorb the hit and come down with the catch.
While I don’t see Huff lining up outside a lot in the NFL, he certainly had his moments out there:
Huff runs the deep dig against zone, finds a hole, breaks a tackle and picks up yards after the catch.
Again, you can move him around a little bit. Here, Huff takes the shovel pass, breaks a tackle and gets into the end zone:
There is a toughness to Huff’s game. He does most of his damage in between the numbers, but showed the ability to get vertical. He also had eight red-zone touchdowns last year, tied for seventh in the nation.
Huff is a well-rounded player who is likely to have a situational role as a rookie. In 2015 and beyond, he could be this team’s primary slot receiver. And Huff can contribute on special teams as well.
Some wide receivers taken after him may have more impressive measurables and greater upside, but it’s clear to see why Huff was a player the Eagles targeted.