Can D’Wayne Eskridge be a first-round draft pick after the 2021 Senior Bowl?

The Senior Bowl always presents an opportunity for lesser-known wide receivers to make an impact, and in 2021, that receiver was D’Wayne Eskridge out of Western Michigan. On the February 3rd edition of the Draft Insiders show, Pro Football Network’s Lead Draft Analyst Tony Pauline discussed D’Wayne Eskridge’s performance at the 2021 Senior Bowl.

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D’Wayne Eskridge stood out on the field at the 2021 Senior Bowl

Coming into the 2021 Senior Bowl, D’Wayne Eskridge was a player who profiled as a potential sleeper candidate. According to Pauline on this week’s show, that potential was realized with Eskridge’s performances on the field.

“D’Wayne Eskridge, the receiver from Western Michigan had a real big week. He only practiced on two days and he was good on both days that he practiced.”

Pauline further discussed Eskridge in his recent NFL Rumors and Draft News article. In that piece, Pauline remarked how Eskridge was a player who could not be covered. Importantly, Pauline also noted that Eskridge caught everything that was thrown at him during the Senior Bowl. Both of those elements saw D’Wayne Eskridge emerge from the 2021 Senior Bowl as one of the biggest winners of the week.

D’Wayne Eskridge had plenty to prove at the 2021 Senior Bowl

D’Wayne Eskridge spent his entire five-year college career at Western Michigan. Playing in the MAC means that Eskridge was never really in the national spotlight during his career. In 2020, three of his six games were played on Tuesday nights, and Western Michigan did not play in a bowl game this year. All of that limited Eskridge’s exposure to a wider audience.

Eskridge had a reasonably productive college career

In his freshman year, Eskridge managed just 17 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. However, he put together a solid final three full seasons at Western Michigan.

In 2017 and 2018, he posted a combined 68 receptions for 1,282 yards and 6 touchdowns. His 2019 season was cut short with a broken collarbone. Eskridge returned to the field in 2020, posting 33 receptions, 768 yards, and 8 touchdowns in just six games.

D’Wayne Eskridge demonstrated he could be a threat despite his size at the 2021 Senior Bowl

Size is the main question mark for Eskridge in the build-up to the 2021 NFL Draft.  At 5’9 1/8″, he measured in as the smallest wide receiver at the 2021 Senior Bowl. However, on the field at the Senior Bowl, that size disadvantage did not seem to hinder Eskridge.

PFN’s Ian Cummings discussed how speed is one of the elements that jump off the page when watching Eskridge’s film, and it was also evident at the Senior Bowl.

PFN’s Oliver Hodgkinson remarked in his Senior Bowl winners and losers how Eskridge demonstrated “speed, incredible change of direction, route running savvy, and the ability to make catches beyond his frame.” Those skills allowed Eskridge to impress in Mobile despite facing a good defensive back group in practice.

In his National Team practice report, PFN’s Jarrett Bailey called Eskridge “one of the best, if not the top, receiver of the day” on Tuesday. Additionally, on Wednesday, Bailey highlighted how Eskridge’s route running had been the topic of much discussion in Mobile. He also mentioned success on an outside move against Ambry Thomas, who Pauline had projected as a second-round pick coming into the Senior Bowl.

Where is Pauline expecting Eskridge to be selected in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Entering the 2021 Senior Bowl, Pauline had Eskridge graded as a sixth-round pick on his 2021 NFL Draft big board. However, following a strong Senior Bowl performance, Pauline believes Eskridge has cemented himself as a Day 2 player, although Pauline believes he will be selected in the third round.

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Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN.

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