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Rookie Spotlight - J.J. Arcega-Whiteside


With the 57th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Stanford wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to give quarterback Carson Wentz another big-bodied weapon to boost their offense.

Whiteside wasn't the top prospect in this year's class, but he gives the offense the ability to improve their offensive efficiency in the red zone. He also gives them the flexibility to allow their free-agent-to-be-wideout Nelson Agholor to walk next offseason if they feel they don't want to bring him back. Whiteside has the size to pair with Pro Bowler Alshon Jeffery to give them a look that opposing defenses just won't be able to match up with.

All that stuff is well and good, but what does that mean for Whiteside for you fantasy footballers? That's what we're here to find out.

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It's In the Genes

Whiteside isn't the walking athletic marvel that the Seattle Seahawks got in D.K. Metcalf, but he's no slouch either. He is great in jump-ball situations, and that makes sense considering both of his parents were professional basketball players in some fashion. He also had two uncles that played basketball in Spain, where he's originally from, for the Spanish national team in the Olympics.

Whiteside put up a solid 4.4 40-yard dash at his pro day, and, while he may not have put up elite testing numbers in other metrics, he makes up for by performing on the field where it matters. You couldn't ignore the athleticism that he showed in college. He made plays that other players just couldn't make. That's the type of play that the Eagles are hoping continues to happen at the NFL level for them.

He does have to work on his initial burst and long speed, but the team can also work around that by using him more on short to intermediate routes that take advantage of his size. You just can't teach guys to be that big and play as he does. That all comes from his genetics, and he's only going to continue to develop those skills with experience.

 

What We've Seen So Far

Whiteside scores touchdowns. At the end of the day, the dude gets into the end zone. He scored 14 touchdowns last season despite playing in just 12 games. In college, he scored a touchdown every 4.82 catches. When the Eagles went to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, they were a hyper-efficient offense. That's the exact type of player they're getting in Whiteside. He may not have the long-speed big-play ability, but he does have the ability to go up and win in jump-ball situations.

He is an effective player in the intermediate range of the field because he's strong enough to avoid getting outmuscled by opposing cornerbacks. He had an average of 16.4 yards per catch in college. Among Eagles pass catchers with more than one reception last season, only Jordan Matthews came close to that average, and he was still only at 15 yards per reception. Whiteside will help them work down the field by creating more mismatches for the offense to exploit.

Whiteside is also able to produce no matter how inefficient of an offense he is playing in. Stanford ranked 72nd last season in points per game, but Whiteside was always finding ways to score. That's the type of player Philadelphia needs. A guy that knows how to make a play when the team needs it. Even if that's just a jump ball where he goes and gets it over his guy. It can make all the difference.

 

What to Expect Moving Forward

Whiteside may not have a huge role this season, but that mostly depends on how the Eagles deploy him alongside Agholor and recent free-agent acquisition DeSean Jackson. He has the polish to play as a rookie, but the team may decide that they want him to only come in as the fourth wide receiver. Head coach Doug Pederson comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree that likes to put their players in the best position to succeed. That could be what he decides to do with Whiteside.

Whiteside can line up in two-wide sets where he will likely draw the better matchup with the opposing defenses primary cornerback going to the side of Jeffery. He also may be used only as a red-zone threat to maximize his height and jump ball skills. We'll learn more about how he'll be deployed when we get to training camp later in the summer.

When the season comes to an end, it's likely that Whiteside will have become the team's number two threat at the wide receiver position. The number two wide receiver in this offense last year was Agholor, who finished with 64 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns. Whiteside will eat into those numbers, and his touchdown number should be higher as long as he's deployed properly.

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