2020 NFL draft: Lance Zierlein thinks Eagles' John Hightower and Quez Watkins have a chance


Conventional wisdom says speedy late-round wide receivers John Hightower and Quez Watkins will probably never make an impact for the Eagles.

Hightower is a fifth-round pick from Boise State, and Watkins is a sixth-round pick from Southern Mississippi. 

Drafting receivers in the fifth round or later is generally a losing proposition. 

Other than 1990 fifth-round selection Calvin Williams and 2010 fifth-round pick Riley Cooper, you have to go back to Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael, a seventh-round pick in 1971, to find an Eagles’ late-round receiver that’s made any sort of impact in an Eagles uniform.

One of the world’s leading NFL draft experts, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, believes this year could be an exception to that conventional wisdom.

Zierlein, who studies film of more than 500 draft-eligible players every year, appeared on the Eagle Eye podcast Tuesday and discussed how Hightower and Watkins might fit in on an Eagles offense desperate for speed.

Hightower, a JUCO transfer, caught 82 passes for 1,447 yards and 14 TDs in just 23 games at the BCS level.

But he’s 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and ran a 4.43 at the Combine.

“John Hightower is a big-time traits player,” Zierlein said. “He’s got height, weight, speed, he had a very good workout when he worked out, he’s a player that I can see from a trait standpoint outplaying his fifth-round selection. And I know John Hightower was a player some scouts were high on as a Day 3 sleeper in this draft. So I think John Hightower in the fifth is one of those really sneaky value selections where you could end up plugging him in as a wide reciever 6 and keep him around, keep him alive on your roster, until he continues to find his way as a route runner and learn the NFL game.”

Watkins ran 4.35 at the Combine, third-fastest of all wide receivers, behind Henry Ruggs of Alabama (4.27) and Javelin Guidry of Utah (4.29).

He had 159-for-2,404-17 in three years in Hattiesburg and had nearly 1,200 yards this past year.

“Quez Watkins, blazing speed,” Zierlein said. “I didn’t love his tape, but there were some teams that had a fourth-round grade on him when I was going through the process of figuring out my draft slotting. I know at least two teams that had fourth-round grades on him and that was based primarily on their projections of him as a player as opposed to just what they saw on tape.”

Because this draft was so deep in wide receivers, some guys who would normally be first-round picks were bumped down into the second round, guys who would be second-round picks dropped to the third, and so on.

Hightower and Watkins may still be long shots. But they’re long shots that one of the most highly regarded draft analysts think have a chance.

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