Quarterback or wide receiver in the first round? Let’s debate

Posted on March 4, 2021

While the Eagles’ biggest draft need was long thought to be wide receivers, the Carson Wentz trade has suddenly made them quarterback suitors in the eyes of many.

So, which one would make sense for the organization? There are game-changers in both positions that will be available.

Yes, there’s always the chance the Eagles go an entirely different way. Tight end Kyle Pitts has been a name that’s floating around more and more. Patrick Surtain II has a promising future at cornerback.

But QB and WR have been the positions most attached to the Birds in mock drafts. So for right now, we’ll assume those are the two prime candidates.

The Case For/Against Quarterback

A quarterback is far and away the most valuable position in sports. They can change an organization’s outlook in a hurry. That alone warrants heavy consideration of taking a quarterback first.

The quarterbacks projected to go in the top 15 of the first round (Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson) are all graded much higher than Jalen Hurts was.

You don’t get to pick in the top-10 often, and especially not when there are three quality quarterbacks up for grabs. If you go by that line of thought, then the Eagles would be smart to capitalize on this opportunity.

Of course, the downsides to going with a QB are aplenty. Their young quarterback in possession, Hurts, showed plenty of promise last season. While there were struggles, there was nothing to signal he would be a total bust. Giving him a full offseason of training and coaching could do wonders.

Additionally, there’s a chance the Eagles might have to trade up in order to get the QB they want. Given the team’s status of needing as many young players as possible, giving up assets wouldn’t be ideal.

The Eagles also have a ton of issues throughout their roster. Linebacker, cornerback, and wide receiver all not only played a part in Philadelphia’s abysmal 4-11-1 record last season, but have been thorns in the team’s side for years.

The ability to grab a player who could anchor one of those units for the foreseeable future might be too good to pass up.

The Case For/Against Wide Receiver

There isn’t much effort when it comes to making a case for a wide receiver selection. They need one. Badly. Let’s take a look at every Eagles’ wide receiver leaders since 2016:

  • 2016: Jordan Matthews, 804 yards (next closest- Dorial Green-Beckham, 392 yards)
  • 2017: Alshon Jeffrey, 789 yards (next closest- Nelson Agholor, 768 yards)
  • 2018: Alshon Jeffrey, 843 yards (next closest- Nelson Agholor, 736 yards)
  • 2019: Alshon Jeffrey, 490 yards (next closest- Nelson Agholor, 363 yards)
  • 2020: Travis Fulgham, 539 yards (next closest- Greg Ward, 419 yards)

It’s now been two straight years since an Eagles’ wide receiver had over 600 receiving yards. It’s also been six straight years since a WR had over 1,000 yards here (the last player to achieve that was Jeremy Maclin in 2014, with 1,318 yards).

Draftees like DeVonta Smith and Ja’Marr Chase would give the Eagles a true #1 receiver, a playmaker who can stretch the field and come down with the ball. That kind of threat doesn’t come around often.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

The case for going against taking a wide receiver really depends on two things: whether Philadelphia values other positions/players more highly, and betting on other current receivers to improve.

After all, the team did just invest a first-round pick into a WR last year by taking Jalen Reagor. The selection certainly looks iffy, especially with Justin Jefferson’s domination.

Still, he’s only 22 years old. Giving up on him now would be beyond foolish. If the team believes he and the other youthful receivers can grow and turn into productive players, then the need of adding more WRs might not be as urgent.

There’s also free agency, where a number of solid veterans like Will Fuller, Corey Davis, and T.Y. Hilton will be available. The Birds won’t have much financial room to work with- they still need to clear plenty of cap space.

Still, if they opt to pick up a receiver with the limited amount of money they’ll have, then other positions will have to be filled through the draft.

Which Argument Wins?

Unless the quarterback the Eagles are looking at blows them away, and I mean really blows them away, it’s hard to see why they would continue to ignore their lack of weapons.

Throughout Carson Wentz’s tenure here, the talent surrounding him at wide receiver was always questionable. Beyond Jeffrey and Agholor’s decent two-year span, wide receivers were either older and losing juice, inexperienced, or simply being relied on more than a player of their skill set should’ve been.

Putting in a new quarterback without the help he needs would continue to lead to struggles, and leave the Eagles in the same place they are now.

Instead of running off to get the next “great” QB, a better strategy might be to build around the one they have now. Howie Roseman was able to build a Super Bowl-winning team with a young quarterback once. He’ll now have a chance to do it again.

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Drew Rhoades

If there’s one thing you need to know about Drew Rhoades, it’s that he knows Philadelphia sports. A graduate from Saint Joseph’s University, Rhoades has previously written about Hawk sports for The Hawk Newspaper and covered baseball at Phillies Nation. In his spare time, he loves to volunteer at his local animal shelter and bike.

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