The Seattle Seahawks made their first pick of the 2021 NFL Draft on Friday night, snagging Western Michigan wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge 56th overall. The pick added even more speed to the wide receiver group, something that did not slip past the NFL Network analysts. Daniel Jeremiah, in particular, said that the Seahawks are matching speed with the Cardinals.
The longtime analyst made the comment while discussing Eskridge’s ability to outrun defenders with ease. The receiver has 4.38 speed on the 40-yard dash, making him lethal with the ball in his hands. Jeremiah then compared the selection to the Cardinals taking Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore with the 49th overall pick, saying that the two teams were “matching speed for speed” in the competitive NFC West. He then said that the division is shaping up “to be a track race” after the Rams selected wide receiver Tutu Atwell 57th overall.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pounds Eskridge earned first-team All-Mac honors as a receiver and kick returner while also earning the honor of MAC Special Teams Player of the Year. He also averaged 26.4 yards per reception during a shortened five-game senior season.
“Seahawks WRs in 11 personnel all run 4.3. DK [Metcalf], [Tyler] Lockett, and Eskridge,” tweeted Jim Nagy, the Executive Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl. He was one of many analysts highlighting Eskridge’s ability to outrun defenders on seemingly every play.
Eskridge’s college highlights show off his playmaking ability
The speedy wide receiver did not spend his entire college career at wide receiver. He also contributed at cornerback and on special teams. Regardless of where he lined up, he continued to contribute with big plays for the Broncos. He scored one touchdown on a kick return during the shortened 2020 season, and he ended his college career with 21 total tackles and one forced fumble.
However, Eskridge truly shined as a wide receiver during his college career. According to Sports Reference, the dynamic playmaker caught 121 passes for 2,244 yards and 15 touchdowns. He did not simply score on Go routes; he routinely caught passes on slant routes and then outran the defensive backs on his way to the end zone.
Eskridge will now use this breakaway speed while partnering with Russell Wilson and the talented playmakers in the Pacific Northwest. He will have an opportunity to immediately contribute considering that Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf will be the ones drawing the toughest matchups each week.
Eskridge turned heads during the Senior Bowl and rose up draft boards
Prior to the Senior Bowl, Nagy virtually sat down with Rob Staton of BBC Sports to discuss some of the players to watch heading toward the annual All-Star event. He specifically took time to discuss Eskridge and how he was a top player to watch due to his playmaking ability, versatility, and his mindset.
“D Eskridge is a name you don’t hear about right now,” Nagy said in January, “but the dude is electric. He is a big play waiting to happen. I’ve said a couple of different times: he looked like he was playing at a totally different speed on MAC tape this year. He looked like he was on fast-forward.
“He’s probably going to be a low 4.3 guy, he plays every bit of that,” Nagy continued. “Just get the ball in his hands, whether it’s in the return game or receiver. He’s got a chance to really elevate coming out of this year’s game.”
Eskridge certainly rose up the draft board after Nagy’s interview, resulting in him landing with the Seattle Seahawks. The fans don’t know if he will immediately step into the rotation and contribute as a rookie, but the expectation is that he will use his speed and big-play ability to add even more scoring plays to the stat sheet.