2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: D’Wayne Eskridgeby Alex Barbour January 30, 2021 1 comment
Small school stud alert! D’Wayne Eskridge sneakily rose up draft boards the more scouts watched smaller school prospects. He is a former cornerback. The transition is fairly common, but it usually consists of wide receivers transitioning to cornerback. Why is this important? He knows everything they will try to do to him, and that is high-level knowledge, especially from a small school prospect. With his name somehow appearing in the third round conversation, analysts who had not seen Eskridge play were queued to take a peek at this sleeper stud. In short, he lives up to the hype. There are some small red flags, but Eskridge is slowly entering early day two conversation given his polished appearance and solid background.
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Name: D’Wayne Eskridge
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Western Michigan
Class: Redshirt Senior
Weight: 189 lbs
After all of that hype, his report starts average. There are several instances of drops on Eskridge’s tape, but he is given the benefit of the doubt. In short, his quarterback is not great with ball placement (to be polite). Not all of the drops can be put on the quarterback: there are blips on the radar for unnecessary drops, which can be fixed. To clarify: his hands are not bricks, but they aren’t glue, either. The score may look low, but remember that 5.0 is average. His senior bowl tape showed some great catches, but it also showed some head-scratching drops. This may be something to look out for as time goes on, but it appears fixable.
Contested Catch (4.25/10)
He is 5’9″, guys. Give him a break here. To be fair, his skills are very solid given his size. He has shown excellent skills on very few reps (check out the Toledo game this year); however, he also has shown that some hits can knock the ball out. This is far from a concern because he has taken much larger shots on returns, but it still needs to be noted. In short, he can make a great contested catch, but he is not consistent with it (to be fair, when will a quarterback be desperate enough to throw a contested ball to a 5’9″ receiver? Answer: not a good one.) His senior bowl tape showed some nice catches during heavy contact, which is a plus; however, he did drop a couple of unnecessary balls in light contact.
Straight Line Speed (9.0/10)
Eskridge has 4.3 speed. Unlike Rondale Moore, he plays like it. The pure speed Eskridge shows on returns, routes, and after-the-catch plays are eye-popping. Just about every game has at least one breakaway play where he leaves players in the dust. Speed like this is difficult to find.
Short Area Burst (8.0/10)
Watch his play vs. Central Michigan, and his acceleration will be apparent. If Eskridge could have a slightly faster get off on routes (which may be due to him trying too hard to wait for the corner to make a wrong move), then this score would be jumping even higher. This man is a true track star: way more than Moore.
After the Catch (9.0/10)
Watch any tape on Eskridge, and if any word but elite pops up then, something is wrong. Western Michigan knows this, so they use his skinny posts, curls, and returns to allow him to slice through the defense (and return team). He breaks away from just about everybody. He has a great sense for developing lanes, as well as when to step out of bounds and avoid a hit.
Being a former defensive back, it is no surprise that Eskridge has a solid release. If it weren’t for him waiting for the corner’s move every snap, this score could be a 9.0/10 (which, again, is up there with the best in draft history). He has the instinct to feel press, and he is great at hand fighting. The more tape is watched, the more unrealistic his skillset seems to be.
Route Running (8.0/10)
Eskridge is the skinny post, curl, and comeback king. He has racked up touchdowns in every game watched on those routes, especially the skinny post. His senior bowl tape shows insane footwork that leaves high-end corners covering a ghost. It is remarkable how fluid Eskridge can run routes. This said, he had one minor red flag at the senior bowl: he took a corner route on an inside release and could not regain position. This led to a ball that was almost picked off by Camryn Bynum.
Eskridge usually gets some crazy separation due to his great footwork; however, there are times (look at his reps vs. Keith Taylor) when the corner sticks with him. This usually happens on five-yard curls, where he cannot scare corners with his speed, but every other route seems to generate some solid separation. Note: his streaks tend to be covered until 15-20 yards out.
Positional Versatility (8.5/10)
Watch the tape, and it will be apparent how versatile this player is. Eskridge is an amazing return man, for one. His run after the catch ability plays well into gadget plays if not being able to play some snaps at running back at the next level. He has played slot and boundary wide receiver for significant snaps at each position. Overall, Eskridge can play anywhere.
Competitive Toughness (5/5)
Is it possible to put a 6/5 here? Eskridge not only plays his heart out every play, but he does so with extreme sportsmanship, too. He is far from scared to block (and he is pretty good, especially for his size): he even engages with safeties and sometimes linebackers! Talk about a dream personality for a locker room.
Eskridge had a season-ending collarbone fracture last season. Apart from that, his health bill is clean.
There is not enough hype around Eskridge. Every facet of his game is polished apart from his hands. Tony Gonzalez once said that when he dropped a ball, he would catch 300 from the Juggs. With the personality that Eskridge possesses, it would be far from a surprise if he would do the same thing. The only reason he is not being put higher in the draft is due to his age. Eskridge is 24 years old. Eskridge is simply too old to show the ability to completely develop much further into a superstar the way a Rondale or Elijah Moore could at the age of 21. That said, his age cannot hurt him that badly. If age were that much of a factor, Calvin Ridley would never have been drafted as high as he went. This comparison will be a cheap one since it is grabbed from another scouting report; however, Steve Smith‘s tape is eerily similar to Eskridge’s. He truly is the gem of the class.
Final Grade (74.5/100): Late First Round
Player Comp: Steve Smith Sr.