PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles replaced DeSean Jackson in the second round of the NFL draft Friday.
They moved up 12 spots in the second round in a trade with Tennessee and used the 42nd overall pick to take Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
“I definitely had a feeling the Eagles were interested in me,” Matthews said Friday in a phone interview. “I had a great interview with them (at the scouting combine) and a great meeting with the coaching staff (at the NovaCare Complex before the draft). It feels great to be on board, and I’m excited to get going with them.”
The Eagles gave the Titans their original second-round pick (No. 54 overall), and a fourth-rounder (No. 122) to grab Matthews.
They desperately needed to add some depth at wide receiver after releasing Jackson and veteran Jason Avant last month. Jackson signed with Washington, while Avant is now with Carolina.
When USC wide receiver Marqise Lee was drafted by Jacksonville at No. 39, Eagles coach Chip Kelly decided to make a move to get Matthews.
“We had two guys targeted for the second round and one (Lee) went,” Kelly said at the NovaCare Complex. “We moved up to 42 and held our breath because we knew the other guy (Matthews) wouldn’t be there at 54.”
Matthews, 6-feet-3 and 212 pounds, is expected to be at least the Eagles’ No. 3 wide receiver with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, who missed last season with a knee injury. Arrelious Benn, who also sat out last season with a knee injury, could also be in the mix.
Matthews enjoyed a fantastic season in 2013, catching 112 passes for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns for the Commodores. His 1,477 receiving yards were the third-most in Southeastern Conference history.
A cousin of NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, Matthews finished his college career as the SEC’s all-time receiving leader with 262 catches and 3,759 yards.
“Being related to Jerry Rice wasn’t a factor in drafting him, but it didn’t hurt,” Kelly said with a laugh.
The Eagles were more attracted to him because of his size, speed and toughness, qualities that endeared him to Kelly more so than the speedy-but-smaller Jackson.
Jackson had a terrific season in 2013, leading the Eagles with 82 receptions for 1,339 yards, but was viewed mostly as a deep threat.
Kelly envisions using Matthews both outside and in the slot with Cooper and Maclin.
“He’s one of the few guys in this draft that can play in both spots,” Kelly said. “The one thing he really does well is he can catch the ball in traffic. The big thing with wide receivers in this league is playing one-on-one (against defensive backs). People play defense so close in this league that you have to be able to fight for the ball and get it. We’re really excited about him.”
Matthews said he was excited to be joining an offense that already includes top playmakers such as quarterback Nick Foles, running back LeSean McCoy, tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, plus Cooper and Maclin.
That will be a welcome change from his days at Vanderbilt, where he was often double- and even triple-teamed as the Commodores’ only legitimate offensive threat.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” Matthews said with a laugh. “I’m going to be the best teammate I can be. I’m just going to keep my mouth shut and work hard every day to be the best player I can be. Whatever role they want me to play, I’ll do it to the best of my ability.
“My coaches at Vanderbilt (including new Penn State head coach James Franklin) always told me that if I want to be a big receiver, then I have to play big. And that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Later Friday, the Eagles traded one of their third-round picks, No. 83 overall, to Houston in exchange for the Texans' fourth-round (101) and fifth-round (141) choices when the draft resumes today. The Texans used that pick to grab Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix.
Kelly quickly went back to his University of Oregon roots, using the 86th overall pick to take Ducks wide receiver Josh Huff.
Huff, 5-11 and 205 pounds, caught 62 passes while setting school records for receiving yards (1,140) and touchdowns (12) in a season. Huff also averaged 22.9 yards as a kickoff returner his senior year.
He had 144 receptions for 2,366 yards and 24 touchdowns in his career for the Ducks. His 24 TD catches tied him with current Eagles wide receiver Jeff Maehl for the top spot in school history.
"We just added another quality receiver," Kelly said. "Josh is an outstanding special teams player and just a special young man. He was the highest-rated guy we had on our board at that point."
The draft resumes today at 12 p.m. The Eagles have five selections remaining, including two fourth-round picks.
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