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A matter of fit: Eagles feel Jalen Reagor can provide more value to their offense than Justin Jefferson

Paul Domowitch, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Football

PHILADELPHIA -- Four-and-half years ago, after having his front-office power restored by owner Jeffrey Lurie following Chip Kelly's firing, Howie Roseman called former Southern Cal coach Steve Sarkisian to pick his brain about one of his former players, Nelson Agholor.

Agholor, who caught 104 passes for Sarkisian his last year at USC, was taken by Kelly with the 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft, but struggled mightily as a rookie, catching just 23 passes.

Agholor had played primarily in the slot for the Trojans, but lined up outside 89% of the time during his first season with the Eagles because Jordan Matthews was entrenched in the slot. Matthews caught a team-high 85 passes in 2015, 81 of them out of the slot.

Sarkisian told Roseman what he pretty much already knew: Agholor wasn't an outside receiver. He wasn't a "natural" receiver. He told the Eagles general manager that the best ways to use the kid was in the slot and on quick-hitting plays like bubble screens, jet sweeps and end-arounds.

With Matthews still with the Eagles in 2016, Agholor once again was used primarily on the outside by the team's new head coach, Doug Pederson. He lined up in the slot on just 13% of his offensive snaps and caught a quiet 36 passes with only two touchdowns.

A month before the 2017 season, Matthews was traded to the Buffalo Bills in a deal for cornerback Ronald Darby, and Agholor finally was moved to the slot full-time. He had his best season that year, catching 62 passes -- 54 of them out of the slot -- and eight touchdowns (all from the slot) and played an important role in the Eagles' Super Bowl run.

 

Fast forward to the 2020 draft. The Eagles had the 21st pick in the first round. They badly needed a wide receiver.

LSU's Justin Jefferson, who caught 111 passes and had 18 touchdown catches for the national-champion Tigers the previous season, still was on the board and seemed the logical choice. But the Eagles passed on Jefferson and took another wideout instead, Jalen Reagor. Jefferson was taken by the Minnesota Vikings with the very next pick.

The purpose here isn't to rush to judgment on whether the Eagles did the right or wrong thing by taking Reagor over Jefferson. The purpose is to help you understand why they chose Reagor over Jefferson.

The short answer is that Roseman and the Eagles wanted an outside receiver who could put the fear of God into opposing cornerbacks and safeties, and they felt Reagor had the ability to do that better than Jefferson.

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