Twenty-five years after the Philadelphia Eagles selected future star Cris Carter in the NFL Supplemental Draft, the Birds may be on the verge of selecting another wide receiver from the same source.
Josh Gordon is believed worthy of teams sacrificing a 2013 second or third-round pick in Thursday’s Supplemental Draft.
The 6’3, 222-pound receiver formerly of Baylor had 42 catches for 714 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2010.
In addition to the usual drills that one would run at the February Combine (which included a 4.52 on the 40-yard dash), Gordon also passed a urine test, which is crucial, given that his suspension, and undoing, at Baylor involved a failed test (Gordon says it was for marijuana).
Gordon also took the Wonderlic test, where his actual score was not revealed, but draftinsider.net analyst Tony Pauline reported that it was “equal to a score teams want from a quarterback.”
Between Josh Gordon’s athletic capability, demonstration of cognitive aptitude, and clean bladder, the one-time target for No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III will tempt a number of teams, particularly the 21 who watched Gordon go to work on Tuesday. Come Thursday’s draft, they’ll have to decide if they’re willing to mortgage a high future pick for his services.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who were also represented at Gordon’s Pro Day, will have to make that same decision.
On the surface, the Eagles seem rather deep in the receiver position. It’s still the same quartet (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper) that Michael Vick successfully aired the football to in 2010 as a patient pocket passer.
In 2011, Vick experienced a drop-off, thanks to many turnovers early in the season. Jackson dropped a number of passes in a year where he and the team squabbled over his contract, although he would sign a five-year deal this past March, showing renewed faith in him from the club.
As the offensive line gets better with experience and time together (though Jason Peters’ injury could lead to chemistry issues for newcomer Demetress Bell), Vick should be able to return to 2010 form, with a group of receivers he’s worked with since then.
Beyond those four, the Eagles also employ a pair of rookies; Iowa sixth-round selection Marvin McNutt, and pocket-sized Tulsa non-draftee Damaris Johnson. There’s also Chad Hall, the beloved Air Force second lieutenant who became Philly’s version of Danny Woodhead at times. Rounding out the group is Mardy Gilyard, a former fourth-round choice for the Rams in 2010 who’s spent more time off the field than on it.
What would Josh Gordon bring to the table, should Philadelphia cash in one of their picks on him?
Over the past two seasons, Cooper has been the only receiver with exceptional height. Jackson is 5’10, Maclin and Avant top at 6’0, one-year-visitor Steve Smith is 5’11, and Hall was the runt at 5’8. Cooper is 6’3 or 6’4, depending on the source, and thought to be the jump-ball target in red zone situations (Note: McNutt is 6’4, but of course has yet to play an NFL down).
Cooper’s output in two seasons doesn’t exactly stand out, posting 23 receptions for 431 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Whatever the issue is, whether Andy Reid doesn’t use Cooper to his fullest, Vick doesn’t defer to him, or Cooper just isn’t ‘that guy’, the Florida standout has yet to deliver.
Gordon is cut from the same cloth as Cooper in some ways. Gordon brings the same height (he’s also been listed at 6’4 from some sources), and he too had a Heisman-winning quarterback to connect with him (Cooper had Tim Tebow at the inception of ‘Tebowmania’). He also is known to have trouble winning jump ball battles, as Gordon has made a bad habit of letting the ball come to him instead of pursuing and finishing.
But Gordon’s size and strength have given him the ability to bump smaller corners with a subtle touch, allowing for separation. With just that simple push near the line, perhaps his biggest positive, Gordon can accelerate into the secondary where Vick (accuracy permitting) can hit him in stride the way he’s done for Jackson on home run heaves.
Gordon also has some other rough edges. Dan Kadar at mockingthedraft.com scouted Gordon extensively, noting that the wideout struggles with footwork, route running (“He doesn't use fakes to get open and he looks a little stiff in his movement”), and initial burst of speed. But most wide receivers coming out of college have those trouble spots that are worked out with help from pro coaches.
Gordon’s only real disadvantage right now is that he’s late to the party. He hasn’t seen a playbook, or worked out in anyone’s OTA’s. Whoever picks him up, he may not be as immediately effective as a Justin Blackmon or a Michael Floyd.
But looking at the Eagles' receiving corps once more, is there truly “depth”? Jackson and Maclin are your clear one-two punch, as Jackson signed a huge deal to remain in green, and Maclin is projected by some fantasy outlets to have a better statistical year in 2012 than D-Jax. Avant’s ability to make drive-saving catches on third down fills a needed niche.
Beyond that, there are no other proven playmakers. You have two rookies, and three players who joined the NFL in 2010: one that spent all of 2011 out of football (Gilyard), one who resides mostly on Philly’s practice squad (Hall), and the other struggles to even get noticed in the No. 4 spot (Cooper).
Assuming McNutt doesn’t wrest No. 4 away from Cooper, or even supplants Avant as a reliable third-down target, could Gordon be the answer?
His raw talent and impressive size alone have drawn interest from many teams, in spite of his youthful mistakes at Baylor, and skillset that needs fine tuning for the pro level. Someone will be willing to outbid the rest in order to mold the talent with the intangibles and the in-house system, in the hopes that the end result is the best wide receiver taken in the Supplemental Draft since Cris Carter.
If Josh Gordon can become that player, and the Eagles select him, for their sake, they’d better not let this one go.