By Peter Banchoff
The Eagles are still completing replenishing their coaching staff, but it won’t matter a whit if new boss Nick Sirianni is any good if they don’t start replenishing their players.
In Mel Kiper Jr.’s first mock draft for ESPN, the Eagles select a wide receiver from Alabama.
Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith is off Kiper’s board to the Jets at No. 2 overall, and he projects the Eagles to select Smith’s teammate Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Waddle, 22, got off to a hot start to the 2020 season with 25 catches for 557 yards (22.3 yards per catch) and four touchdowns in the first four games of the season before he suffered an ankle injury on the opening kickoff of the fifth game.
He returned for the College Football Playoff title game against Ohio State where he caught three passes for 34 yards, though he was clearly hampered by the ankle.
Despite playing in a loaded wide receiver corps for the majority of his career — Alabama had two wide receivers picked in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft — Waddle finished his three-year career with 106 catches for 1,999 yards (18.9 yards per catch) and 17 touchdowns.
Waddle also averaged 24.4 yards per kick return in 2019 and scored three return touchdowns in his three seasons.
The Eagles had a disastrous 4-11-1 season, with quarterback Carson Wentz regressing and getting benched for rookie second-rounder Jalen Hurts. And yes, Wentz, was not very good, but his receivers didn’t exactly give him much help. They got only 20 total catches from veterans Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson due to injuries, and 2019 second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside barely got on the field. So even though Philadelphia drafted Jalen Reagor in Round 1 a year ago, I still see this as a hole in the offense. Waddle, one of the fastest prospects in this draft, could be the go-to target in new coach Nick Sirianni’s offense. He was one of college football’s most electric receivers over the past three seasons, even if he was overshadowed at times by teammates Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith. His ceiling is as a No. 1 pass-catcher at the next level.