Rookie Rundown: WR D'Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan

Rookie Rundown: WR D'Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan

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Rookie Rundown: WR D'Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan

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D’Wayne Eskridge is expected to be a second or third-round pick though he sports an unusual resume. The ex-Bronco enters the NFL at the age of 24, having spent five seasons at Michigan State. He’s rising up draft boards despite never scoring more than eight touchdowns or gaining over 811 yards in any of his five years.

Eskridge was a rare two-way player, serving as both a wide receiver and a cornerback at times. He became a starter as a sophomore and posted 506 yards on 30 receptions in Michigan State’s low-volume passing attack. As a junior, he opened the year with eight catches for 240 yards and two scores versus Syracuse but was limited to only two catches in most games. He averaged 20.4 yards per catch that year.

As a senior, he suffered a broken collar bone that required surgery. Since he had not played more than four games and had not used a redshirt year, he was allowed to return for a fifth season. 2019 had him working more as a cornerback with just three catches over those initial four starts.

His final season saw him explode. While the Broncos were limited to only six games in their COVID-shortened year, Eskridge was nearly unstoppable with over 100 yards in all but one game  and posting 212 yards and three scores on only four receptions versus Central Michigan. He averaged 23.3 yards per catch while he abused MAC cornerbacks.

Height: 5-9
Weight: 190 pounds
40 time: 4.33 seconds

Returning for that fifth season benefitted Eskridge in his bid to land in the NFL. He is a freakishly athletic player in every metric. He squatted over 500 pounds, had a  vertical leap of 37.5-inches, and is a blur when he runs. His limitation was more playing on a team that didn’t throw that much.

WR D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan Stats

Year Games Catch Yards Avg. TD Runs Yards. TD Total Yards Total TDs
2016 10 17 121 7.1 1 6 60 0 181 1
2017 12 30 506 16.9 3 4 13 0 519 3
2018 11 38 776 20.4 3 0 0 0 776 3
2019 4 3 73 24.3 0 0 0 0 73 0
2020 6 33 768 23.3 8 2 43 0 811 8

Pros

  • Gifted athlete in strength, speed and agility
  • Great first step off the line of scrimmage
  • Homerun threat and not just deep passes
  • Tremendous after the catch gains
  • Comfortable at all three levels of the route
  • Cornerback experience helps against defenders
  • Competitive
  • Extra gear gives him instant burst
  • Dangerous return man
  • Stretches the field to help all receivers

Cons

  • Smaller sized hands
  • Under-sized frame
  • Operated in a basic passing offense
  • Smaller size may limit outside work in the NFL
  • Minor drop issues
  • Already 24 years old
  • Relied more on speed than crisp routes

Fantasy outlook

Eskridge heads to the NFL as one of those players that could surprise even as a rookie with blazing speed and great athleticism. Or he may end up like most other receivers that looked great playing on a team that did not often throw using a simplified passing scheme against a lower tier of college opponents. He’ll  be 28 years old at the end of his rookie contract. Consider that against mostly 21-year-olds that inhabit the top of the draft.

That’s not to say he doesn’t have a place in the NFL. But projecting him as a future No. 1 receiver is hard to do given his size, limited experience in a pro-style offense and age. He’ll offer Year 1 value if he lands with a team looking to add a field-stretching slot receiver that can – at least on occasion – offer deep catches. But his consistency as a rookie will be tough to rely on in the best case.

His value is higher in NFL-terms than fantasy. He can return kicks and punts, force safeties to pay attention, and turn in at least a handful of impressive plays if he gets behind the defense. He will have to be accounted for by the defense.

His early value will be highly dependent on where he lands. Eskridge isn’t likely to end up on a team seeking a new No. 1 receiver. But he could fit into an offense that already sports a formidable passing game and can use him as a piece of the puzzle.

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