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NFL Draft

D’Wayne Eskridge: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • March 17, 2021
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Big things come in small packages, and that certainly applies to the numbers put up by Western Michigan wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge last season.

While he carries the “undersized” label at 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds, Eskridge racked up 768 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in just six games for the Broncos in 2020, averaging an astounding 23.3 yards per catch. It was the third season in a row that Eskridge averaged more than 20 yards per catch. 

Whether at receiver or on special teams, Eskridge is a big play waiting to happen. He logged at least 114 yards in five of the six games he played, including 212 yards and three touchdowns in a thrilling 52-44 win over Central Michigan.

Coming off a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, Eskridge recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experience in Mobile, what kind of skill set he’s bringing to the next level, and what about his game makes him so dynamic.

JM: You spent a lot of time playing both wide receiver and cornerback at Western Michigan. You finally got a chance to really just focus on playing wide receiver this past season, which I imagine is the position you’ll be playing at the next level. How did that help you develop as a receiver in 2020?

DE: It was tough on me when I first moved to defensive back. The entire time I was learning how to play cornerback, I felt like I was learning more as a wide receiver (laughs). As I was learning how to play DB, I was also learning how to beat defensive backs as a route-runner (laughs).

I still thought like a wide receiver. I was always thinking about how to “beat” the techniques I was learning as a corner. I grew tremendously during spring ball at that time. I got better at both positions. I feel like I thrived at both positions. I still think I can play both of them.

Speaking with NFL teams throughout this process, they see me as a receiver and as a kick/punt returner at the next level. I most definitely want to continue returning both kicks and punts in the NFL.

I can really reach my full potential as a wide receiver, though. I can make dangerous things happen when I get the ball in my hands. I’ve grown a lot over the years.

JM: And you’re right in the middle of this draft process now. How have you been preparing both physically and mentally?

DE: I’m working out with [former NFL player and current performance coach] Yo Murphy in Tampa. He brings so much wisdom to the workout process. In a sense, he’s working me out mentally more than he is physically. Don’t get me wrong though, we’re working out twice a day so it’s very physical as well (laughs). He’s so good at what he does. He’s so creative. He comes up with plans for us to excel at everything that we do.

I worked with him a lot leading up to the Senior Bowl and will be doing the same for my Pro Day. I’ve put my trust in Yo Murphy.

JM: He’s a great coach. I thought you had a terrific week at the Senior Bowl. You were a headache for every defensive back during the practice reps. What was your experience like out there?

DE: It was definitely a great experience. I wouldn’t change anything about it. I was tested mentally, physically, emotionally—everything you can imagine (laughs).

My week there gave me so much confidence in myself. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to do with my life. This is my purpose. I’m meant to use football as my platform. 

It was a great experience. I’m thankful for the people that I met down there. I learned a lot from some great coaches and I made the most of an opportunity to become a better, smarter player. It was a huge blessing.

JM: What do you think is the overall impression you left on the 32 teams in attendance?

DE: I was just being myself out there. This is who I am. I’m a silent leader. I bring grit to the table. I’m a tough player. I feel like all of these qualities were on display at the Senior Bowl. The week wasn’t as physically demanding, but I tried to showcase the attributes that make me who I am. I had a great week.

JM: You absolutely did. Who were some of your favorite defensive backs to square off with at practice?

DE: Tre Brown was a tough corner. I have a lot of respect for him. Thomas Graham Jr. from Oregon was a good one. He’s a very tough player. Honestly though, the entire wide receiver group and the entire defensive backs group, it was nothing short of a battle every single time.

At times, I felt like I was learning more from the sidelines just by watching other players do battle during practice. Every rep was so great and technical. The one-on-ones were a lot of fun. There was a lot of great competition out there.

JM: Have you met with any NFL teams throughout this process? 

DE: I met with the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday [editor’s note: the interview was completed on 2/15]. I have a few more meetings coming up. I have them written down on my phone. It’s a process. We’ll be doing a bunch of Zoom meetings (laughs).

JM: It’s a different process this year. You played both inside and outside at Western Michigan. Do you have a feel for where you’ll play at the next level?

DE: I’m not too sure yet because I feel like I can play anywhere at a very high level. I’m used to taking reps both on the outside and in the slot. I feel like I played well at both spots. I showed that during my week at the Senior Bowl as well. I moved around there and played well at both positions. I don’t have a personal preference. I’m equally as impactful at both positions.

JM: When I put the tape on, you basically ran a full route tree at Western Michigan despite not playing at wide receiver on a full-time basis. How did you develop into such a good route-runner while also having to focus on learning another position?

DE: It goes back to the way that I like to work. Coming into my true senior year when I was playing cornerback, I put in so much extra time working on my craft as a wide receiver. I had to find room for the reps that I was missing out on. I wanted to continue honing my craft as a receiver as well. I felt like that was gonna be my breakout year. It was always inevitable, but a lot of man-hours went into that. 

I worked at my school for it. I’m working down in Florida now. I watched a ton of film during quarantine. I continued to work out every single day. I’ve put in the work. I’ve never allowed myself to have an unchecked box. I’ve put a lot of time into every aspect of playing wide receiver.

JM: I love that. You’re such a strong route runner. One of the things our scout Jordan Reid writes about your skill set on our draft profile of you is that you use a lot of little head fakes and body motions as a route-runner. I see the same things on tape.

DE: I feel like I can continue to get better in that area. I need to excel here. The thing about me that’s kinda different from a lot of the other receivers in this draft is that I feel like I have so much more potential. There’s so much that I still have to learn.

I came to college as a running back. I was recruited as a running back. I moved to receiver the day that I got there. I learned a lot there and, as you know, I got moved to cornerback and moved back to receiver. I never had a consistent amount of time to just play wide receiver like I do now. That makes me feel like there’s so much that I can still get better at.

I’m already explosive and can create separation, but imagine when I learn how to create more separation with the head fakes and things that you were just talking about. 

My potential is sky-high.

JM: That’s a terrific answer. If anybody is going to knock you throughout this process, you know what they’re going to say. I’m sure you’ve been called “undersized” before and you’ve also heard Western Michigan referred to as a “small school.” How do you typically respond to those criticisms?

DE: Competition is competition at the end of the day. I’m a competitor from my pinky toe all the way up to my tallest strand of hair (laughs). I’m a true competitor. I just allow them to say whatever they feel. Let them believe what they want to believe. I’m a silent leader. I’ve never felt the need to say too much. When my opportunity comes, I rather show them than tell them.

JM: That’s the perfect way to handle that. I’ve really appreciated your time today, D’Wayne. In closing, what kind of impact is D’Wayne Eskridge going to make at the next level?

DE: Dynamic. That’s it, that’s all. I’m going to be a dynamic playmaker at the next level. Whatever number I’m wearing on the back of my jersey, you’re going to see it making plays all over the field. You’re gonna see it both as a receiver and on special teams.

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