2021 NFL Draft Profile: D’Wayne Eskridge

D’Wayne Eskridge NFL Draft Overview

Position: Wide Receiver
Height: 5’-9”
Weight: 190 pounds
School: Western Michigan

D’Wayne Eskridge 2021 NFL Draft Profile

Speed kills in the NFL. D’Wayne Eskridge has some to spare. The wide receiver prospect out of Western Michigan turned heads at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and is flying up draft boards. Eskridge is an explosive deep threat and a clear home run hitter from anywhere on the field. Playing at Western Michigan, the level of competition is always going to be the knock, and Eskridge is not a polished route runner. However, his elite speed for the pro level makes Eskridge an enticing prospect. 

Eskridge was born and grew up in Mississippi before moving to Bluffton, Indiana prior to High School. He ran track and played football for Bluffton High School. Only two FBS schools offered Eskridge a scholarship and he committed to play college football at Western Michigan over Ball State. Eskridge was a backup receiver as a freshman before moving into a starting role as a sophomore and junior. He caught 30 receptions for 506 receiving yards in 2017, and 38 receptions for 776 yards in 2018. 

Having spent the offseason learning how to play cornerback, Eskridge entered his senior season as a starter on both offense and defense. However, he broke his collarbone four games into the 2019 season and used a medical redshirt in order to come back in 2020. Eskridge returned as a redshirt senior and the production exploded in 2020. In only six games, Eskridge caught 33 receptions for 768 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged 23.3 yards per reception and is also dynamic in the return game. MAC named Eskridge Special Teams Player of the Year to go along with First Team All-MAC honors in 2020. 

Strengths

  • Explosive speed – Threat to go the distance on every play;
  • Scary burst – When the cornerback whiffs in press Eskridge is open in a flash;
  • Elusive runner – cuts on a dime, good potential for YAC whenever he touches the ball;
  • Proven deep ball threat – Average 20+ yards per reception final three seasons;
  • Stretches defenses deep from any receiver spot – Outside and in the slot;

Weaknesses

  • Limited route runner on tape – Not asked to run a full route tree at Western Michigan;
  • A lot of drops early in his career – Has the speed to get open, but consistent ball tracking a question;
  • Smaller stature – can get bumped off routes by better cornerbacks;
  • Hesitant on crossers and routes to the middle of the field;
  • Level of competition – Go Routes, posts and slants got him open in college.

NFL Comparison: Mecole Hardman

The Kansas City Chiefs value their speed merchants Hardman and Tyreek Hill very highly. While Hill has developed into an advanced route runner, Hardman still relies more on his elite track speed to create separation. An electric kick returner, Eskridge has similar potential on special team’s duty. The chiefs are creative in finding ways to get the ball in Hardman’s hand. Eskridge has similar potential in the right offense. 

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Teams With Need at Position: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals

Projection: Fourth Round

Bottom Line on D’Wayne Eskridge

There’s a popular theory that wide receiver groups in the NFL should look like a basketball team. A mix of size and different skill sets combined to give an offense flexibility in how they attack defenses. Eskridge fits the bill of the smaller-sized, blazing speed receiver that is becoming increasingly popular to have on the team. The success of Hill with the Chiefs in recent years has almost single-handedly boosted the draft stock of smaller-sized receivers with a particular skill set. 

Eskridge faces competition in this class that is deep at the wide receiver position. Jaelon Darden (North Texas),  Elijah Moore (Ole Miss), and Eskridge are fighting it out to be the top receiver of this class built in this mold. Eskridge is listed slightly heavier than Moore and Darden, which could be enough to convince a team he is more likely to hold up to the physical nature of the league. However, Eskridge did not line up in the slot consistently for Western Michigan, where a player of his size projects to play on Sundays. Both Moore and Darden possess more experience as slot receivers and Eskridge will be 24 as a rookie. Scouts will question if he can still develop as a route runner. 

Regardless, even if the aforementioned receivers are taken before Eskridge, he will hear his name called at some point. Speed is valued as highly as any attribute by scouts at the wide receiver position and Eskridge is electric. Additionally, his Senior Bowl performance will work wonders for his draft stock, and the kick return production is a bonus for teams looking for a boost in special teams. 

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