Even before the departure of DeSean Jackson, there was a very good chance that the Philadelphia Eagles were going to spend a high draft pick on a wide receiver. That need became even greater when the Eagles decided to part ways with Jackson leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.
Heading into the draft, many analysts and fans predicted that the Eagles would take a wide receiver with their first-round pick. However, as per usual, the team went in a different direction in the first round, and took a relatively unknown linebacker in Marcus Smith. Fast forward to the 42nd overall pick, with Philadelphia on the clock, it was time to fill a major hole — which is exactly what the Eagles did by drafting wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
Matthews hails from Vanderbilt University, where he set SEC records for receptions and receiving yards in a season during his 2013 campaign. He brings much needed size with a 6-foot-3 and 212-pound frame, along with the ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point. This will be a welcomed sight for Eagles fans, as this is something Philadelphia has been missing since the departure of Terrell Owens.
Indications from Chip Kelly are that Matthews is going to compete for the slot position early on. Entering training camp, Brad Smith holds a less than firm grip on that spot, so it should not take much for Matthews to solidify his place on the depth chart. Kelly loves internal competition and is big on players earning their spot, especially when the player is not proven. Matthews fits that bill, but should have no trouble beating out Smith and earning his time on the field.
While he is listed as the slot receiver now, Smith may not be the guy Matthews has to worry about in the position battle. Fellow rookie Josh Huff played under Kelly at Oregon, and is destined to see time in the slot. This of course is a good problem for the Eagles to have, as rookies never want to take anything for granted.
Even with the departure of Jackson, Philadelphia has an abundance of playmakers. Matthews is just another piece of the puzzle, but he may carry the most upside at the wide receiver position on the team. While he will most likely be entrenched in slot duties for the early portion of the season, Matthews’ ability may force Kelly’s hand to give him even more snaps.
Kelly is a master at moving his players around on the field and exploiting one-on-one matchups. I expect this to be no different when he is drawing up a game plan for Matthews.