Looks as though lightning struck the same place thrice.
Seattle, it appears, has become the NFL’s new hub for wide-receiver speed. If the Seahawks’ second-round pick develops as planned, it’s going to be a party on every pass play — a 40-yard bash, if you will.
Quarterback Russell Wilson may not have gotten the protection he’s been clamoring for, but in receiver D’Wayne Eskridge, he still likely got a gift.
The Seahawks drafted the 24-year-old Western Michigan product with the 56th overall pick on Friday. By adding Eskridge, they have three receivers who have run the 40 in 4.40 seconds or less. There’s likely-space-alien DK Metcalf (4.33 seconds), who set the Seahawks’ receiving-yards record last year. There’s Pro Bowler Tyler Lockett (4.40), who set the Seahawks’ receptions record last year. And now there’s Eskridge (4.38), who’s set to be an instant difference-maker if his skills and savvy can match his speed.
That’s not necessarily a given in a league where combine or pro-day times can oversell or undersell a player’s ability. Remember, former Seahawk star Doug Baldwin ran a 4.9 40. Jerry Rice, ranked the No. 1 player of all-time by the NFL Network, ran a 4.7. Rondel Menendez and Jerome Mathis, meanwhile, each ran it under 4.3 seconds, and neither ever caught an NFL pass.
But the Seahawks felt confident enough in Eskridge that they forewent their usual strategy of trading down for more picks. So pressure’s on to live to up to expectations, right?
“I’m definitely not coming in with any type of pressure on myself,” Eskridge said. “It’s amazing that I got to this point.”
Yes, despite his 10.5-second 100-meter speed, Eskridge wasn’t exactly a magnet for college football coaches during his high-school days. Attending tiny Bluffton High in northeast Indiana, he received just two scholarship offers — one from Ball State and the other from Western Michigan.
D’Wayne was a track-first and football-second guy. But in the eyes of the WMU coaching staff, his speed and game film made him a we-can’t-possibly-pass-on-him guy.
As a junior in 2018, the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Eskridge caught 38 passes for 776 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. Two years later — after coming back from a collarbone injury that sidelined him for most of 2019 — he caught 33 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns in six games.
Equally notable is that he also played some cornerback in college. Suffice it to say that the Seahawks are stoked about the possibilities involving this sampler platter of a football player.
“We’re getting a guy that can play a ton of positions — as a kickoff returner, could be a gunner,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said of Eskridge, who was a star running back in high school. “We’re getting a guy that’s competitive, hungry, intense — he’s got some dog to him.”
Schneider’s praise of Eskridge went beyond his on-field performance. Both he and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll commended his interview, which seemed to be the exclamation point on the sentence that was his scouting report.
Eskridge appeared equally smitten with the Seahawks, as evidenced by a screenshot he shared on Twitter in which he texted a friend, “I’m hoping I go to the Seahawks out of every team in the league. I feel most comfortable with them.”
Eskridge’s caption above the photo? “It’s already been written.”
Of course, if this were a book, we haven’t even gotten to the prologue yet. Optimism around a player is almost always at its zenith on draft day, and is often followed by a fading into obscurity. It is uncertain what role Eskridge — who will compete with receivers such as Freddie Swain, Penny Hart and John Ursua for playing time — will eventually fall into. It is uncertain how he will complement the likes of Lockett and Metcalf, or how much he’ll play in the slot.
It is certain, however, that the Seahawks added another cheetah to their receiving corps.
Who would win in a 40-yard race between you and DK? asked a reporter.
“I’m not going to say he’ll beat me in a race,” Eskridge said.
Hey, it’s a possibility. In Eskridge’s case, the possibilities are abundant.