Following reports that USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor was slated to meet with the Eagles, rumors surfaced linking Arizona State receiver Jaelen Strong to Philadelphia as well. While both could fill a glaring need at outside receiver, with the departed Jeremy Maclin, the two differ in style of play like day and night.
While Agholor is the more polished receiver, relying on technique and moderate athletic ability to make plays, Strong’s name may as well be an epithet to his game. The Sun Devil is 6ft 4in, 217 lbs, and uses every bit of his massive frame to create big plays. Strong’s size becomes most useful in the red zone, where he can make plays by rising up over defensive backs, as he did often in college. In a game against Utah, Strong leaped up over the defensive back to get the Sun Devils two minute drive going. This areal presence will allow NFL teams to use him on fade routes and deep, “jump-ball” like passes, similar to the way Kelvin Benjamin is used in Carolina. Strong is able to control his body well, and times his jumps so that he is always at the height of his leap when the ball arrives.
Strong’s size also plays a part at the line of scrimmage. With his long arms and upper body strength, he proved in college he was able to create separation against press cornerbacks. When defenses played off of Strong, he was still able to outrun the coverage in some instances, shown in a stellar 4th & 18 conversion against Stanford, where he found the hole in the zone, and caught a long pass on the right sideline. On run plays, Strong is able to use his tentacle-like arms to hold off corners in blocking, and can hold blocks for long after the ball is handed off, allowing the run play to develop.
While Strong lags behind in technical aspects of his game, he still shows bright spots. Strong illustrates consistent concentration when he makes over-the-shoulder catches, and is able to sell the back-shoulder throw well to cornerbacks. Unlike Agholor, Strong struggles in running crisp routes. This can become a problem in the NFL, where tall press corners can match up with him, and shut him down if Strong cannot beat them by cutting on routes. He also drops passes at a concerning—but not alarming—rate, and must improve to gain the trust of an NFL quarterback and coaching staff in key situations.
Our friend Walter CHerepinsky of WalterFootball.com writes of Strong’s senior season:
Strong put together a string of steady performances for the Sun Devils. He held his own going against Washington cornerback Marcus Peters. Strong beat Peters for a 16-yard touchdown on a slant and a 23-yard reception along the sideline. Peters had his share of wins as well. Strong finished with three receptions for 55 yards. A week earlier versus Stanford, Strong had another quality outing with eight receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Ideally, the Eagles would like to draft both Agholor and Strong. This combination could replace both Jeremy Maclin and—if he is cut post June 1st, when the cap hit is lessened—Riley Cooper. Agholor fits the playing style Maclin offered, and Strong’s game resembles Cooper’s (in fact, Strong uses his height and frame much better and more consistently than Cooper does). If Chip Kelly does go for the Mariota power play, expect the team to draft Agholor on the second day of the draft. The Eagles will almost certainly wind up with at least one of the two receivers,, and based on NFL readiness and draft value, Agholor may be the wiser option. But if the Eagles stand pat at pick number 20, Strong’s raw talent and upside would be tempting bait.