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Eagles in the market for a big wide receiver

INDIANAPOLIS -- In a different era, Kelvin Benjamin could have been moved to tight end or defensive end. But he's instead one of a new breed of wide receivers -- specifically, ones with the size of tight ends or smaller defensive ends.

The Florida State standout officially measured at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds in this week's NFL scouting combine, and confessed he carries only four percent body fat. Benjamin tried to think of any receiver in football whose measurements compared to him.

"Measurements? No," Benjamin said. "But I try to steal a lot of (skills) from a lot of receivers and put it in my game."

Eagles coach Chip Kelly popularized the expression, "big people beat up little people." It's his justification for trying to get bigger across the roster. One of those positions is wide receiver, where the Eagles could lose Riley Cooper in free agency. Listed at 6-3, Cooper was the Eagles' biggest receiver last season.

This is a good year to be looking for size at the position. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman raved about the receiver depth in this year's draft class, saying there could be a receiver in every round that is appealing to the Eagles. And the prototype Roseman seeks is big and fast.

He repeated Kelly's catchphrase about big people, adding the importance of length and hand size. Roseman said drop rates tend to be higher with receivers who have smaller hands.

"The more guys you can have with size and speed and be able to break down and run a variety of routes and be a mismatch for defenses, the better you're going to be," Roseman said. "Those guys typically go high in the draft, and they're hard to find."

They're easier to find in Indianapolis this week. The players will undergo on-field testing on Sunday, but their measurements looked appealing. Eleven receivers measured at least 6-3, including likely first rounders such as Benjamin and Texas A&M's Mike Evans (6-5, 231 pounds). Four had hands that were at least 10 inches, including Benjamin, promising Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews, and LSU standout Jarvis Landry. Seven had arms at least 33 inches long, with the longest going to Evans, whose 35 1/8-inch arms are longer than all but three offensive linemen in the draft.

And those lists do not even include two of the finest receivers in the draft. Clemson's Sammy Watkins is expected to be the first wide receiver selected, and he is only 6-1 and 211 pounds. USC's Marqise Lee was four tenths of an inch shy of 6-feet and weighed 192 pounds, yet Kelly will likely remember Lee's 20 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns in two games against Kelly's Oregon teams in 2011 and 2012.

Then consider players such as Penn State's Allen Robinson, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, Fresno State's Devante Adams and LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., and it's conceivable that there could be a dozen receivers off the board in the first two rounds.

Among the big receivers, the Eagles would be fortunate if Evans or Benjamin fall to them at No. 22. Both could go off the board in the top 20. Benjamin must work on his hands, but he still finished with 54 reception for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns, including the winning score in the national championship.

His 18.7 yards per catch shows his run after catch ability. Benjamin hopes to run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, which would be especially impressive at his size. His speed and agility came, in part, from chasing rabbits as a child in his native Belle Glade, Fla.

"Everybody chased rabbits back in the day, when you were small," said Benjamin, who has met with the Eagles in Indianapolis. "They're really good (to eat) if you've never had them before. But that also helps you with speed and agility, and stuff like that."

Benjamin, 23, is more than three years older than Evans, 20, who finished with 69 catches for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Aggies.

"Mike Evans really one of the most physical, one of the best receivers I've seen play college football," said Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who might go No. 1 overall. "The guy's 6-5 and (can) go up and get any ball you throw his way."

One of the less heralded receivers in the draft is Ohio State's Corey "Philly" Brown, a Cardinal O'Hara alum who will keep his nickname in the NFL. In fact, the back of his league-issued sweatshirt read "P. Brown." He's used to being called Philly, which allowed for a good laugh when meeting with Eagles coaches.

"They said it's only right that we get you since your name's 'Philly'," Brown said. (His high school quarterback, Tom Savage, is also at the combine this week after attending Rutgers, Arizona, and Pittsburgh.)

The Eagles can also improve their receiving corps with a player who is neither big nor even a receiver -- Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas, one of the most dynamic players in the draft. Thomas is listed as a running back, but he was a do-it-all player for Kelly at Oregon who could contribute as a rusher, receiver, and returner.

Thomas is close with DeSean Jackson and attended the Eagles' playoff game as Jackson's guest. The 5-9, 174-pound Thomas believed he would thrive under Kelly in the NFL in the versatile role he held at Oregon.

"I feel that's the best way to use me as a player," Thomas said. " ... I feel like that would be a great system for me. (The Eagles) pretty much ran the same kind of plays. They just have different terminology of the plays."

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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