Former NFL GM identifies under-the-radar Draft prospect as next Julian Edelman

The New England Patriots may look to replace Julian Edelman in the draft, and a former NFL GM has identified a prospect he thinks fits.

Last week, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman announced his retirement after 12 NFL seasons. Even after signing Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency, as well as tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, the Patriots shouldn’t turn down an opportunity to draft another pass catcher.

During a Friday appearance on “SportsCenter”, ESPN analyst and former Jets’ GM Mike Tannenbaum identified a wide receiver prospect who might be an ideal replacement for Edelman.

Via 247 Sports:

They added Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, two guys who had over 450 snaps that played in the slot. So I would want to add somebody explosive like D’Wayne Eskridge from Western Michigan. He played in (the) Senior Bowl this year. He’s a little bit undersized, but boy, he can get down the field, over 18 yards a catch.

And I think he’d be a great complement to the guys like Bourne and Agholor — and, hopefully, for New England someone like N’Keal Harry, a former first-round pick, continues to develop.

D’Wayne Eskridge is an underrated draft prospect

As a senior at Western Michigan in 2020, Eskridge had 33 catches for 768 yards (23.3 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns in six games. An injury shortened his 2019 campaign, and he also made a position switch to cornerback. As a full-time wide receiver in 2017 and 2018, he totaled 68 receptions for 1,282 yards (18.9 yards per catch) and six touchdowns.

Eskridge is small (5-foot-9, 190 pounds) and fast (4.38 40 at Western Michigan’s Pro Day). Lance Zierlein of NFL.com outlined the good and the bad on him.

He’s not a great route-runner, will struggle with contested catches and lacks desired size, but he can really fly and has home run potential from anywhere on the field,” “Eskridge is a linear route-runner with good tempo when working down the field but will need a more limited route tree featuring crossing routes, slants, posts and over routes so he can rely on his speed rather than route-running. He can rise up and get the tall throws but catching through contact is where he is likely to struggle. He has gadget potential in the quick game and is a potentially dangerous kick returner, but his biggest selling point might be as a field stretcher from the slot.

Edelman made his hay as a reliable slot target for Tom Brady. But he also never averaged more than 11.5 yards per catch in a season at his peak, and he was, to use scouting jargon, “more quick than fast.” Used the right way, Eskridge could be an Edelman-type with sub-4.4 speed right out of the gate.

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