One of the best parts of every year’s draft process is seeing unheralded and under-the-radar prospects rise to create buzz around the NFL and in the national media.
This year Western Michigan receiver D’Wayne Eskridge is one of those prospects. Eskridge had his 2019 season cut short by a broken collarbone which needed surgery to repair. And despite playing just six games in 2020, Eskridge had his most productive season, averaging more than 20 yards per catch and scoring 8 touchdowns.
While the New York Giants certainly need a true “number one” receiver who can man the X position on an every-down basis, an explosive receiving threat shouldn’t be ignored.
Could Eskridge give the Giants the weapon they’ve lacked through the air?
Prospect: D’Wayne Eskridge
Games Watched: vs. Toledo (2020), vs. Central Michigan (2020), vs. Ball State (2020)
Red Flags: Broken collarbone (required surgery - 2019)
Games Played: 43
Yards (YPC): 2,244 (18.5 per catch)
Games Played: 6
Yards (YPC): 768 (20.3 per catch)
Best: Speed, quickness, agility, explosiveness, ball skills, body control, competitive toughness
Projection: A starting receiver in a west coast or spread-based offense.
Western Michigan receiver D’Wayne Eskridge is an undersized but explosive offensive weapon. Eskridge primarily lined up as a slot receiver in Western Michigan’s offense but he is also capable of lining up outside when asked. He shows a good ability to defeat press coverage at the line of scrimmage with quick hand work clearing jams, an explosive burst off the line of scrimmage, and his play strength.
Eskridge is a solid route runner, who’s routes show good precision and timing throughout. Eskridge was a two-way player at Western Michigan, lining up at cornerback as well as receiver. He puts that experience to use in his route running, finding soft spots in zone coverage or weaknesses in man coverage. Eskridge shows great ball skills at the catch point, naturally locating, tracking, extending, and catching the ball in the air. He also shows very good body control to make difficult, contorting catches seem routine.
Predictably, Eskridge is dynamic after the catch. He is a dangerous kick returner and uses those same instincts as a ball carrier. He shows good vision, contact balance, creativity, and explosive athleticism when picking up yards after the catch.
He has surprising play strength for a player his size, along with great competitive toughness in his blocking. Eskridge is a very willing blocker and has enough strength to match up with most corners and control them in the run game.
Eskridge’s primary limitation is his size. While he doesn’t appear slender, and at 188 pounds he has solid thickness, he lacks the length or mass to match up with bigger defensive backs. He struggles to box out longer defensive backs in contested catch situations, struggle to break tackles, or be overwhelmed by bigger defenders as a blocker.
Overall Grade: 7.5 - This prospect has some unavoidable physical limitations, but a high floor and undeniable athletic upside. He should be a dynamic contributor early and a starter in the right system.
Eskridge projects as a dangerous offensive weapon in the right scheme. He should be able to start as a slot receiver in any offense, but will have his greatest impact in a system which allows him to play across the offensive formation.
His size will likely pigeonhole him as a slot receiver in the eyes of many at the NFL level, but he has the ability to line up across the offensive formation. He isn’t fit to be an every-down X receiver, but he has a varied and efficient release against press coverage, giving the offensive coordinator the freedom to line him up there if a favorable matchup is identified.
Eskridge not only has the ability to turn any routine slant route or mesh concept into a game-changing play, but he has the speed and ball skills to be a legitimate deep threat as well. Eskridge doesn’t quite have true 4.2 speed, but his unofficial 4.33 speed is likely accurate and is more than enough to take the top off of most defenses. He also has the ability to outplay his listed height, with a good leaping ability to maximize his catch radius, as well as impressive body control to adjust, contort, or spin his body in mid-air to make difficult catches and truly high-point the ball.
His competitive toughness is impressive as well. Eskridge is a physical and determined player who never shies away from contact. He might not be able to dominate some defenders, but he will block anyone, anywhere on the field.
Eskridge will need to land with a team that has a plan for how to use him, but he is a player with the ability to change the complexion of a game on any play.