Losing former Philadelphia Eagles and current Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson has prompted many fans to call for the Eagles to draft a wide receiver in the first round. While this is a route to look at if there truly isn’t higher-ranked defensive player on the Eagles’ draft board by the time pick number 22 rolls around, I don’t think that will really be the case. Eagles General manager Howie Roseman has made it clear they will not draft for need, though labeling wide receiver as a “need” is a bit of a stretch at this point. The Eagles have a solid group of pass-catchers, like wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, but what they really need is depth at wide receiver; teams don’t generally draft for depth in the first round.
If last season proved anything, it’s that defense wins championships. The Denver Broncos, despite fielding a historically great offense, were easily thwarted in the Super Bowl by the Seattle Seahawks’ historically great defense. Why would the Eagles draft for offensive depth in the first round when they have so many needs on the defensive side of the ball? While the idea of having another exceptional wide receiver is intriguing, it isn’t something that the Eagles should waste the number 22 overall pick on, especially when this draft has such a deep class of wide receivers.
There are many options that the Eagles could pursue in the middle rounds that would be solid additions. If the Eagles are really intent on “replacing” Jackson’s skill set, they could draft De’Anthony Thomas, who played for Eagles head coach Chip Kelly at Oregon, in the middle rounds. I believe that Thomas, who is already familiar with Chip Kelly’s system, could come in and immediately make an impact. He wouldn’t need to put up the same numbers as Jackson either, as the Eagles have Jeremy Maclin to carry the majority of the load.
With their first pick in the draft, the Eagles should really pursue a starting-caliber defensive player to improve their subpar defense. Drafting an opportunistic safety or a true nose tackle could vastly improve their defense, which should be the focus of the draft, especially considering the fact that there is less depth at those positions than at wide receiver.