The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t gotten the best contributions from their wide receiver selections in recent previous NFL Drafts, but surely will get a better one starting this Fall from their latest acquisition.
DeVonta Smith, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and National Championship winner with Alabama, will be donning the midnight green, black, and white for the Eagles in 2021. Not many expected Smith to be available for the Eagles in Thursday’s first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but the Eagles made sure to get themselves into position to select one of college football’s best wideouts from the past few seasons.
Now the goal will be to insert Smith into a youthful offense this season and hope he can live up to the expectations of being a Top-10 pick.
“So, what we see in DeVonta is the ability to move around,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said about Smith in a press conference.. “I saw very high football IQ in him when we did our meetings with him. He was able to explain his offense in great detail, what he was doing, what his quarterback was doing, what his other receivers were doing.”
“So, he definitely gives us that option and position flexibility. He’s able to play inside, he’s able to play outside. And so, again, that’s just not my philosophy. We’re going to have to move him around, and that’s just how we roll with our offense.”
“I was shocked that they had traded up for me,” Smith said about being picked No. 10. “I was really like, if they traded up for me then they see something that they like. So I was really excited and it’s a blessing.”
Smith registered his second-consecutive 1,000+ yard season in Tuscaloosa this past season, falling only 144 yards short of finishing with 2,000 receiving yards in 2021. Despite being only 170 pounds, Smith delivered 24 total touchdowns offensively for the Crimson Tide and also added a punt return touchdown against Arkansas last season.
Playing in a highly-touted offense which also featured fellow 2021 first round picks QB Mac Jones, WR Jaylen Waddle, and RB Najee Harris, Smith made sure to deliver on his end for the Crimson Tide, helping them return to College Football’s elite program. He will now come into an improving Eagles offense, being reunited with quarterback Jalen Hurts, who he played with at Alabama in 2018 during his Sophomore season.
“Jalen [Hurts], that’s my guy,” Smith said. “Been with him in my time at Alabama. Even when I was a recruit he was the guy trying to get me to come to Alabama. That’s my guy. I have a great relationship and I’m ready to work. Jalen taught everybody the game. He was just one of those guys that was a student of the game and taught everybody the game. When you got reps with him, he was always telling you about coverages and rotations. The connection is there, the chemistry is there. Overall, he’s just always helped everybody else be better on the field.”
After the losses of wideouts Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Marquise Goodwin this offseason, the Eagles will be hoping for Smith to step up in his rookie season. Jalen Reagor struggled to deliver consistent performances during his debut campaign in 2020, allowing others like Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham to shine in limited showings.
The Eagles could also look to make a few more additions this year, whether it be in Saturday’s final rounds of the Draft, or through free agency. Youth is on the rise in the Eagles offense and Smith and his coaches remain very highly on the group going into what hopefully is a bounce-back season overall.
“I think it can be very dynamic,” Smith said about the Eagles offense. “We all have to come in and put in the work. If you don’t put in the work, you are not going to do it, but I feel like this team is going to be putting in the work and everybody is going to be excited, and we are trying to change the program around.”
“When we watched him play, when I watched him play, what I saw was a guy with length and a guy with toughness,” Eagles Vice President of Player Personnel Andy Weidl said. “You catch 117 passes in the SEC you’re doing something right. You set the SEC record for career touchdown receptions, you’re doing something right.
But even more so, whenever his team needed him, he stepped up. The moment was never too big for him. You saw in different situations this year, Jaylen Waddle went down, he steps up his game and showed up in big moments. It was never too big for him. He was a clutch player for the Crimson Tide.”
Eagles fans will be hoping that Smith becomes the newest star for the team and helps turn the tide around following a 3-13 season one year ago.