The Eagles selected Stanford receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. One of the criticisms of the pick is that he doesn’t have deep speed, but fans shouldn’t be worried about that at all.
Although it wasn’t necessarily an immediate need, many experts had mocked a wide receiver to the Philadelphia Eagles early in the 2019 NFL Draft. Sure enough, the team selected a wide receiver, but it wasn’t the type of player that many had thought.
The belief was that the team needed a deep threat or a “burner” type, but instead, they selected JJ Arcega-Whiteside out of Stanford. Immediately, one of the few criticisms of the pick was that he didn’t have that top-end speed that the Eagles were supposedly looking for, and that he might struggle to create separation.
Here’s the thing. That fear might be a bit overblown, and Eagles fans shouldn’t worry about his ability to get open. Let’s examine.
Let’s talk about that speed.
With that being said, a player’s speed, mainly his 40-yard dash team seems to be given more weight than it should. You can look back a previous drafts and see plenty of evidence of this.
Players like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Stephen Hill were drafted far higher than they should have been because they blew us away with great 40 times. Yes, speed is important, but a great 40 time can be a little misleading.
The fastest time for a wide receiver at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine was 4.31 seconds. Arcega-Whiteside’s 40 time at his pro day, was 4.49 seconds.
Now, let’s do a quick experiment. Take out a stop watch or a phone, and try to start and stop the timer, with only allowing .18 seconds to go by.
If you were able to do so, chances are you tapped the button back to back, very quickly. The time you took to press that button twice, is the gap between the fastest 40 time at the combine, and Arcega-Whiteside’s.
Is that oversimplified? It probably is, but it illustrates the bigger point. There isn’t as much of a gap in speed between these 40 times as we are led to believe.
Philly’s newest receiving threat has been compared to Alshon Jeffrey. He’s thrived in the NFL, and that should make Eagles fans rest easier at night.
Here is another 40 yard dash time to take into consideration, 4.54 seconds. That’s the time that rising superstar JuJu Smith-Schuster ran at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. Again, this time might be looked at as one of the more slower until you realize that Smith-Schuster has touchdowns of 97 yards in back-to-back seasons.
Yes we said 97 YARDS. That’s a lot of ground to cover without being tackled. Again, it’s not that he beat the defense back in a 97-yard foot race, but he did have enough speed to not get caught en route to the endzone.
Even if you believe that the Eagles needed a faster wide receiver, the one thing you can’t argue with are the numbers Arcega-Whiteside put up at Stanford. As a senior, he had 14 touchdown catches and over 1,000 yards receiving.
A good chunk of those touchdowns came on jump balls too. So if the argument is that he isn’t fast has your attention, then, at the very least, you have a redzone target that Carson Wentz can just throw it up to. In today’s pass-happy league, you can never have too many receiving threats, and Arcega-Whiteside is another big time weapon that will make this Eagles offense even more potent.
No need to panic
After the NFL and College Football season ends, attention immediately gets turned toward the draft process, and a huge part of that process is the scouting combine. Most fans and experts succumb to recency bias and focus on how fast players run, or how many times they can bench press 225 pounds.
While these numbers help get the full view of a prospect, they can sometimes be looked at in favor of production numbers. When you look at the stats and turn on the tape, one thing becomes abundantly clear, JJ Arcega-Whiteside is a flat-out baller, and the Eagles are lucky that they got him when they did.