Philadelphia Eagles insist 4th-rounder Mack Hollins is more than a special-teams star
PHILADELPHIA — Unlike some college football stars, Mack Hollins said he never overlooked his special teams duties at North Carolina.
An unheralded recruit who spent one year at prep school and two stuck as a Tar Heels’ walk-on, Hollins first approached specials teams as a chance to claw onto the field and earn a scholarship. He grew to love the role. And the speedy wide receiver is upfront about the reality that his ability to cover kicks and punts helped him land with the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend as a fourth-round pick.
“I will never forget that special teams is how I played and how I got my opportunity,” Hollins said. “You have one opportunity, one play, to make a difference, and I take that play very seriously.”
The Eagles hope Hollins will carry that attitude with him to Philadelphia. But Saturday, the team’s top front office decision-maker attempted to fend off the notion that the Eagles drafted Hollins so high purely because of his special teams acumen.
Howie Roseman insisted the Birds nabbed Hollins because they think he’s a young and talented wide receiver who can provide quarterback Carson Wentz with an explosive option on the outside of the offense.
“We’re not looking to draft [just] special-teams players in the fourth round,” said Roseman, the Eagles’ executive vice president of football operations. “We’re looking at a guy like that who’s got the ability to be an eventual starter.”
It’s easy to see Hollins’ appeal as a wide receiver. At 6 feet, 4 inches and 221 pounds, the Maryland native has enticing size and showcased blazing speed at times during his UNC career — he averaged 20.6 yards per catch over four college seasons.
A broken Collarbone ended Hollins senior season after he hauled in 16 catches for 309 yards and four touchdowns in seven games.
“Yeah, for us, it was the receiving ability first,” Roseman said. “You’re talking about a guy who’s got tremendous size and tremendous speed. We feel like if he didn’t have the collarbone [injury] this year, he goes two rounds before that.”
That’s not to say the Birds ignored Hollins’ special teams potential, though.
Philadelphia’s receivers didn’t add much production covering kicks and punts last season, in part because Dorial-Green Beckham and Bryce Treggs weren’t well-suited for the role. With Hollins, the Eagles could make an extra deep-threat receiver active on game days, because they could rely on him to play all four special teams units.
But in the long-term, the Eagles believe Hollins will mature into a home run target, who stretches the field for the offense with his speed.
In other words, the Birds hope the former Tar Heels’ production as a wide receiver one day forces fans to consider his special teams contributions the way Hollins himself never would: as an afterthought.
“[He has] tremendous upside as a receiver, and he’s got the intelligence and work ethic to work on whatever his deficiencies are,” Roseman said. “In the meantime, he has a role to fill [on special teams]. and you can get him on the field on the 46-man roster.”
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