For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, the Eagles have drafted two wide receivers in the first three rounds of the draft.
After releasing DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, who had the top two reception totals of any Eagles receivers over the past two decades, the Eagles moved to replace them on Friday.
They began the day by selecting Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews in the second round (see story) and finished it by adding Oregon receiver Josh Huff in the third.
“It’s lovely to be reunited with him,” Huff said. “When I saw that 215 come up on my phone, I started to cry. It’s a dream come true for me. Can’t wait to get out there and come to work.”
Huff (see bio), the 86th player taken in this year’s draft, is the first Oregon player Chip Kelly has drafted since he left the Ducks to become the Eagles’ head coach last year.
Huff said Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost told him recently the Eagles would draft him in the third round.
“Obviously, I know him extremely well,” Kelly said. “Outstanding young man, great position versatility. Josh played every wide receiver position at Oregon, played a little running back early in his career, he’s returned kicks, he’s an outstanding special teams player.
“He’s a physical football player, a shade under six feet, he can run, he’s got a nasty presence about him. Really excited to see if we can add him to the group.”
Huff said the fact that he was drafted by his college coach means he’ll have to work that much harder to show he’s not just here because of who he played for in college.
“Go in and prove myself and prove that the reason he drafted me isn’t just because I played for him,” he said.
This is the first time since 1990 the Eagles have taken two wide receivers within the first three rounds. That year, they drafted Mike Bellamy in the second round and Freddie Barnett in the third -- then added Calvin Williams in the fifth.
And there could be a third on Saturday, when the Eagles have picks 101, 141, 162 and 237.
"We're not averse to taking another one tomorrow, either,” Kelly said.
But even though the Eagles went into the draft with only Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper on the roster as experienced wide receivers and this was considered the strongest wide receiver draft ever, Kelly said the Eagles weren’t necessarily focused on taking wideouts with two of their first three picks.
It just worked out that way.
“We’re following exactly the way [the board] was,” Kelly said. “It’s staring you in the face. He was the highest-ranked guy we had. … You just keep picking the names off the board and look up, who’s the highest-ranked guy?”
Huff caught 144 passes for 2,366 yards at Oregon and had a breakthrough season last year with 62 receptions for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 18.4 yards per catch last year -- one of the top-20 figures in Division I -- and 16.4 in his career.
Huff also returned kickoffs as a freshman, averaging 24.7 yards on 23 returns.
It wasn’t until his senior year that Huff even had 500 receiving yards in a season. But he made a huge jump this past year.
“Just hard work, dedication and just staying patient and waiting my turn,” he said. “I had a great offensive team at Oregon, a lot of off weapons and I had a great quarterback in Marcus Mariota.”
The Eagles went into the third round with picks 83 and 86 but traded No. 83 -- acquired Thursday from the Browns -- to the Texans in exchange for two Saturday picks -- No. 101 overall in the fourth round and No. 141 overall in the fifth round.
Kelly said he considers Huff a potentially outstanding special teams player as well as receiving depth.
“He’s got an opportunity to play in the National Football League and he’s graduated from college,” Kelly said. “He’s a great young man.”
Kelly said he removed himself from early talks about Huff, since he coached him in college, and he didn’t want his relationship with his former recruit to shade his opinions.
“I try to divorce myself from that situation,” he said.