The Corey Davis addition is big, but the New York Jets still need more at wide receiver and D’Wayne Eskridge could be a steal.
Joe Douglas began the 2021 offseason by addressing the wide receiver position aggressively. Targeting Corey Davis and Keelan Cole makes it clear that the New York Jets general manager does not want his next quarterback to suffer through the frustrating Sam Darnold experience.
Davis and Cole, both standing over 6-feet, can line up everywhere on the field. They are both complete players with reportedly good work ethics who will add a lot to the offense. However, every time that I look at the Jets depth chart at the wide receiver position, I still feel that there’s something lacking.
Davis and Denzel Mims are solid outside threats, Jamison Crowder is a great slot receiver, Cole is a top-tier fourth receiver and Braxton Berrios is a great slot backup. The problem is I do not see a player with the skill-set of San Francisco 49ers weapon Deebo Samuel, a man who has big-play potential every time he touches the ball.
What I’m referencing here is a guy who can take jet and orbit motion duties, who can threaten the back-side edge on every down—a guy who simply represents big-play threat ability every down.
I won’t advocate for the Jets to spend a high pick on a wide receiver. Not today, when the team has too many glaring needs (CB, IOL, LB). Especially not when every passing year the draft player pool at the position seemingly deepens further.
But neglecting the importance of an X-Factor wideout for this offense seems like a huge mistake. Having a guy that can threaten the edges even when he does not touch the football will help this team tremendously, both in the running and passing game.
That’s why I believe New York must address the X-Factor position later in the 2021 NFL draft. At least one of the team’s 10 picks will probably be used on a wide receiver, and it must be a guy who can play the Samuel role with the Jets.
In this piece, I will make the case for the selection of D’Wayne Eskridge, a 5-foot-9 wide receiver who has played the last five years for Western Michigan. Eskridge, a guy who has played both on the slot and the outside, can immediately serve as the kick returner, X-Factor receiver and also has the upside to develop into your long-term answer in the slot—all while having the ball skills to play outside, too.
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Eskridge is an incredibly fast player. He is a former track star, winning two state titles for Indiana High School a few years ago. Despite playing against weaker competition, it is still remarkable how much faster Eskridge was than everybody else.
As a calling card, check these two plays below. On the first one, Eskridge, slot on the top of the screen, catches a slant and takes it to the house, scoring a 76-yard touchdown. On the second one, as the slot on the right side, Eskridge catches a hook route, makes a guy miss and shows his elite long speed.
On the following play, Eskridge, the middle guy on the trips left (No. 2 weapon), shows a great blend of elusiveness and speed, making a defender miss as soon as he catches the ball and accelerating through the second level of the defense.
Here’s Eskridge executing a reverse. His speed is evident, and his vision is so great that the play basically speaks for itself. The man also does not back away from contact, as he willingly breaking tackles.
One of the toughest routes in football is the hitch route vs. press. On this play, Eskridge shows some aggressiveness and attacks the cornerback early.
No. 1 is also able to sell vertical, forcing the defensive back to turn his hips. Eskridge gets open and demonstrates how fast he is, manufacturing yards when virtually there is nothing there.
What I possibly like most about Eskridge is his upside. He can be more than a guy that will simply be a gadget for your offense.
Below, on this gorgeous touchdown catch, Eskridge, the boundary receiver, showcases great technique. Facing a soft-press alignment by the cornerback on an RPO concept, Eskridge utilizes a hesitation release with an outside slide (a great release to attack outside leverage), stacked the cornerback and high-pointed the football.
Eskridge runs a lot of slant routes, so he’s smart enough to fool the cornerback by making all routes look the same. This is WR1 stuff, albeit at the collegiate level. It is also clear that the Western Michigan product plays bigger than his size indicates.
The Jets have been looking for an explosive returner since the departure of Andre Roberts, one of the many inexplicable moves made by former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan.
Even though kickoffs may be gone sooner than expected, it’s still an important part of the game, especially in the back half of the season, when the weather cools down and the ball doesn’t travel as far through the air. Eskridge is also well-suited for the kick returner role.
In a nutshell, Eskridge is the type of guy a smart organization takes late on Day 2 or early on Day 3. He’s already a great player who can immediately fill a specific role, but he can also develop into an all-around solid wide receiver in time.
Having an explosive guy to take jet and orbit motion duties is key for this offense’s success—in general in today’s NFL. There is no better way to attack the other team’s edges than by bringing a speedster in motion. Everyone freezes.
If he takes the ball, he already has the momentum to explode with it. If used as a decoy, he takes away at least two players who are forced to respect the edge.
If the Jets are planning to run more 11 personnel due to roster strength, they will need to find creative ways to get the numerical advantage in the box. Motioning an explosive guy like Eskdrige can do this effectively. Look at how Green Bay did It last year:
You have 6 guys blocking, and the orbit motion takes a LB/S away.
It's suddenly a good box out of 11 (Crowder in motion, Mims and Davis on the right side and Herndon, the lone TE on the left)#Jets will have to find ways to run successfully with their best players on the field. pic.twitter.com/rLgkAsQzJK
— Vitor (@VitorPaivaM) April 7, 2021
Moreover, a wide receiver group that has the all-around skills of Corey Davis, the contested catchability of Denzel Mims, the route-running of Jamison Crowder and the explosiveness of D’Wayne Eskridge is a dream for any rookie quarterback.
After dealing a bad hand to former quarterback Sam Darnold, the New York Jets must do it right to the next savior in waiting. Make sure the final piece of the wide receiver puzzle is the one that keeps up with the current NFL times.
Threaten the edge.