It’s no secret the Eagles need to upgrade their defense, and next month’s draft is their last chance to make a significant addition there.
But they also need to reinforce the wideout position after cutting ties with three-time Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson, an elite vertical threat, and longtime slot wideout Jason Avant, who had the best hands and blocking technique among the team’s wideout corps.
It stands to reason that the Eagles will use their 22nd overall pick (assuming they stay there) on either a pass rusher, defensive back or receiver.
If they decide to pounce early on this year’s elite crop of wideouts -- some say at least 12 receivers in this year’s group can make an immediate impact in the NFL -- they could be looking for a field-stretcher in the mold of Jackson.
Several analysts have the Eagles targeting speed threats Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU) and Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) at 22, but NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah thinks too much is made about Chip Kelly’s desire to replace speed with speed.
“I think a lot of people have been kind of hung up on the speed receiver,” Jeremiah said in a conference call hosted by the NFL Network, “saying they’re going to find someone to replace DeSean Jackson. I think Kelvin Benjamin, who’s a little bit of a polarizing player out of Florida State, that would be a name I would keep an eye on.”
Benjamin and Jackson share few similarities, except position. While the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Jackson terrorized opposing defenses with pure speed, Benjamin isn’t beating most receivers in a sprint.
At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Benjamin’s a few trips to Tony Luke’s from having his position changed to tight end.
But there’s no question Benjamin can get open against man coverage -- a big stickler for Kelly, obviously -- and has some of the desirable physical characteristics that fit Kelly’s blueprint, not the least of which is an 83-inch wingspan.
When Kelly talks about “big people beating up little people,” Benjamin is the kind of prospect who personifies that motto. In his NFL.com mock draft, Jeremiah has the Eagles taking Benjamin in the first round.
“Because Chip Kelly at Oregon, everybody focuses on the pace and the tempo and they kind of assume that he likes little, small, fast players,” Jeremiah, a former scout for the Eagles under the Andy Reid regime, said. "But on the outside they always have some big, physical receivers.
“I would think adding more size, if you add Kelvin Benjamin, now you've got Riley Cooper and then you throw Jeremy Maclin in the mix, now they're going to be able to move the ball in between the 20s. But you get down in the red zone, you've got two guys you can throw the ball up to. That Kelvin Benjamin to the Eagles to me is one I keep an eye on."