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NFL Draft

Is JJ Arcega-Whiteside In Better Position To Succeed In 2020?

  • The Draft Network
  • July 21, 2020
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With as much communication as the NFL draft community has nowadays on social media, a lot of opinions can come together to form some group-think. We’ll share opinions and articles on how we see a player translating in the NFL, and as long as you’ve aggregated your news sources correctly, these are generally trusted views that could sway or fortify your own. 

With that, there are plenty of big boards that will look similar, but there should always be a handful of prospects (at the very least) that differ on your personal rankings. A common way to identify these players is by saying those players are “your guys”—players you’re higher on than most.

In the 2019 draft pool one of those players, for me, was Stanford wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

I loved Arcega-Whiteside. He’s 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and had 28 career receiving touchdowns in three seasons of play. He got better every year at Stanford. Given his basketball background, how naturally he could “Moss” defenders in the air, how good he was using his body as a shield, and how naturally he caught passes with his arms fully extended (getting the most of his long arms and bigger frame), I thought he was going to be a money down monster in the NFL.

The Philadelphia Eagles saw that potential, too, as they selected Arcega-Whiteside 57th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Arcega-Whiteside was entering a pretty strong group of receivers that already featured Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor (I understand some of you will disagree about Agholor, but I digress). However, with as much “heavy” personnel as the Eagles liked to use with their tight ends, there was certainly groundwork to get a guy like Arcega-Whiteside into the game plan, even in his rookie season.

That didn’t exactly happen, or at least not to the success many had hoped or predicted. 

Arcega-Whiteside finished the season with just 10 catches for just 169 receiving yards and a single receiving touchdown. On the year, he only saw 22 total targets.

As we move into 2020, a burning question for draftniks and Eagles fans is what a realistic expectation is for Arcega-Whiteside. Are we talking about a guy who is on his way to being a bust? Does the situation look better for him to take a step forward in 2020?

When you look at the Eagles receiver room entering 2020, on paper it seems like it might be even more difficult for Arcega-Whiteside to produce. They may no longer have Agholor, but they added rookies Jalen Reagor and John Hightower in the draft, as well as Marquise Goodwin from the San Francisco 49ers. With Jeffrey and Jackson still on the team, that doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Arcega-Whiteside.

Or does it?

It does because there’s more than meets the depth chart to this story.

Arcega-Whiteside had a decent preseason that showed some promise as an “X” receiver. This was to be expected, as being a big body, taking defenders one-on-one at the sideline, and dealing with physical play and press coverage are all tasks of an X receiver that also fit Arcega-Whiteside’s skill set. Jeffery is the starting X receiver for the Eagles, so the plan was to train Arcega-Whiteside in that X role to be a backup or sub player for Jeffrey in his rookie season. In theory, this made sense; train a young player based on what he naturally does well to get his confidence up and get the most out of him early on.

But the problem was once the Eagles’ injury bug hit the receiver room hard, they had to then try to use Arcega-Whiteside in different roles. This led to some expected poor production and uncomfortability on the field.

Though the depth chart for 2020 is more crowded, in theory, it is also more streamlined. With more bodies for skill sets that are not that of Arcega-Whiteside, even if there are injuries to the starting players, there are now correct backups for their roles.

Even if Arcega-Whiteside is asked to play more than just the X position in his sophomore season, there are reasons to believe he will be able to handle them better, starting with the man coaching him to do so, Aaron Moorehead. Arcega-Whiteside’s former coach at Stanford, Bobby Kennedy, spoke on why that should be a good fit for the young wide receiver.

“I think Aaron Moorehead is the perfect guy to coach him,” Kennedy said to EJ Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I know Aaron, I know what type of coach he is and what type of person he is. I think J.J. will really flourish under him because I think Aaron is a really good teacher and I think he’ll be able to teach J.J. maybe some of those things that he has to get better at.”

Arcega-Whiteside will be coached once again to continue growing as an X receiver behind Jeffery, and with Jeffrey currently rehabbing from a Lisfranc foot injury, Arcega-Whiteside might be the Eagles’ starting X sometime in September.

If that is the case, I believe we’ll see a better Arcega-Whiteside than the previous season. How much better will be on him and his confidence level after a disappointing rookie season.

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