Eagles rookie WR explains the advantage of unusual size

Eagles rookie WR explains the advantage of unusual size originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

When you hear about a 6-foot-6, 231-pound receiver, the next question is naturally about a potential move to tight end.

That’s not how the Eagles view sixth-round pick Johnny Wilson.

“I play receiver,” Wilson said at Eagles rookie camp last week. “A lot of people have their opinions on what I should be. But I’m on this team, I’m playing for the Eagles. There’s been no talk of me being a tight end.”

The Eagles really do see Wilson as a receiver. And while there aren’t many receivers as big as him in the NFL, they think his size can be an advantage and they see more quickness than you’d expect given that size.

After drafting Wilson in the sixth-round out of Florida State, the Eagles were consistent about their plan to keep him at wide receiver.

“He’s — what’s the word?” GM Howie Roseman said.

“He’s unique,” head coach Nick Sirianni filled in. “He’s unusual.”

Yeah, Wilson really is unusual. At the Combine, he measured in at 6-6 3/8 and 231 pounds, putting him in the 99th percentile in height among receivers and the 97th percentile in weight.

But the measurement that really stands out is his 84 1/2-inch wingspan. That’s the largest wingspan ever for a receiver at the Combine, according to ProFootballFocus.

“Being this size and being able to do some of the things I can do with my body, getting in and out of my breaks and having super long arms, sometimes it’s an advantage, especially against a lot of smaller corners and smaller defenders,” Wilson said. “Over the years, I’ve tried to do a lot of training and just use my body to my advantage.”

In his two seasons at Florida State, Wilson averaged 18.0 yards per catch. But after a five-touchdown season in 2022, Wilson caught just two touchdown passes in 2023 and they came in the same game. So he was surprisingly kept out of the end zone in nine of 10 games last season.

That’s such a surprise because you’d imagine that a receiver that’s 6-foot-6 would be a weapon in the red zone. And Wilson clearly thinks of himself as a red zone weapon.

When asked about his favorite target down there, Wilson confidently said the fade.

And when asked how teams tried to defend it, he said, “If I drop it.”

In his two seasons at Florida State, Wilson caught 84 passes for 1,514 yards and 7 touchdowns. Wilson caught 19 of his 42 contested catch targets, according to PFF. He also projects mostly as an outside receiver; over 90% of his targets came outside in 2023.

The Eagles see Wilson as a receiver because his production at Florida State came on the outside, running routes, not blocking defensive ends.

“I think he can run the full route tree,” Roseman said. “I think a lot of times you do that when guys don’t have the lower body flexibility to get in and out of their breaks. We don’t see that with Johnny.”

Sirianni is a former college receiver and has coached that position in the NFL. He likes what he sees from Wilson.

“I value the play strength, and so it doesn’t necessarily ever have to be about the actual size,” Sirianni said. “If they play strong, you love that, right, because it’s a game that requires strength.

“That doesn’t matter if you’re in the interior of the offensive line or out there playing wide receiver. Again, the strong guys can come in all shapes and sizes. So, we really value that in the wide receiver position. The quickness, the play strength, and he has that. For his size he has good quickness. So, we’re really looking forward to working with him.”

What the Eagles do see is a giant receiver who can use his unique frame to his advantage. While there aren’t very many receivers his size in the NFL, he has had a few to look up to. Perhaps, Wilson was pandering a bit last week, but he mentioned Harold Carmichael specifically.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer was a star in Philly in the 70s and early 80s and was known for his size at 6-foot-8.

“I loved seeing his highlights and his film play,” Wilson said.

Carmichael is around the team quite often these days but Wilson hasn’t yet met him just yet. He will. And Carmichael can give him some tips.

But most of Wilson’s coaching will come from receivers coach Aaron Moorehead. While Moorehead isn’t quite as big as Wilson, he did have an NFL career at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, so he knows about the advantages of using a bigger frame.

“He was a great receiver when he played. He’s definitely tall too,” Wilson said. “Since I started building that relationship with him since we first met, when I came on my 30 visit and he was at my pro day, he has always been trying to give me those tips.

‘You’re a bigger guy, so you can always use this to your advantage.’ Having a guy that has somewhat of the same build as me, it’s definitely helped a lot.”

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