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What the Seahawks are getting in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

NFL: New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Late in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft the Kansas City Chiefs started a run on wide receivers when they selected Mecole Harman out of Georgia that saw seven receivers drafted in a span of twelve picks. The receivers who heard their names called during that stretch were:

2.56: Mecole Hardman, Georgia (Kansas City Chiefs)
2.57: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford (Philadelphia Eagles)
2.59: Parris Campbell, Ohio State (Indianapolis Colts)
2.62: Andy Isabella, UMass (Arizona Cardinals)
2.64: DK Metcalf, Ole Miss (Seattle Seahawks)
3.66: Diontae Johnson, Toledo (Pittsburgh Steelers)
3.67: Jalen Hurd, Baylor (San Francisco 49ers)

The Seahawks certainly did not make out poorly with their selection of Metcalf, however, other teams did not fare quite so well, and the receiver selected by the Eagles seven spots ahead of Metcalf is now set to join Seattle. That, of course, comes as a result of the trade Monday that sent defensive back Ugo Amadi to Philadelphia in exchange for Arcega-Whiteside.

One of the big questions will be the positional designation the Hawks use for Arcega-Whiteside, as after entering the league as a wideout and failing to produce at the position, he converted to tight end and that’s how the Eagles referred to him in their announcement of the trade.

Whether the Hawks list him as a tight end or as a receiver, though, the role Arcega-Whiteside is likely to play probably won’t be much different. Specifically, after getting buried on the depth chart in Philly, to the point where he played just 311 offensive snaps over the past two seasons, a move to special teams helped him carve out a role.

On special teams Arcega-Whiteside logged 229 snaps during the 2021 season, after seeing the field for just 20 such snaps over his first two seasons in the league and also filled a depth role at receiver. He certainly has not been much of a receiving threat during his career, with just sixteen receptions through his first three years in the league, including only two during 2021. However, his value to the offense comes in another form, as he is the type of big-bodied receiver who has the size, strength and willingness to make a difference in the run game.

So, thinking about it from the perspective of Arcega-Whiteside as a tight end/receiver who can line up wide, in the slot or on the end of the line and contribute to the running game, while also offering significant contributions on special teams, and it’s not hard to see why Pete Carroll would be tempted to make this move. It was barely five months ago that the Seahawks signed a tight end with just 900 career receiving yards to a three-year, $24M contract, and for those who like PFF grades, Arcega-Whiteside grades out as a better blocker than Will Dissly. Before the Husky faithful come out in full force in the comments, that is not to say that he’s better than Dissly, just that PFF gives him a higher grade.

Thus, putting it all together, the Seahawks traded away a nickel cornerback on an expiring contract - who it appeared had already lost his starting role to rookie Coby Bryant - for a run blocking specialist who can also offer significant contributions on special teams. That means that while there are likely to be many fans who will dismiss Arcega-Whiteside and brush off his ability to make the 53 man roster, there’s a decent chance he could snag one of the final spots at either tight end or receiver