UPDATE: The Eagles didn’t mess it up! They actually drafted DeVonta Smith!
ORIGINAL STORY BELOW.
Dwight Kurt Schrute was once asked about the most inspiring thing he ever heard from Michael Scott. His answer?
“‘Don’t be an idiot.’”
“It changed my life.”
“Whenever I’m about to do something, I think ‘Would an idiot do that?’ And if they would, I do not do that thing.”
From the blogger who brought you “Dear Eagles, please draft Justin Jefferson” last year, I’m back to make the case for the Heisman Trophy winner who some refer to as ‘The Slim Reaper.’
Smith was my pick for the Eagles in the annual SB Nation NFL writers' mock draft. Here’s the reasoning I gave, which sums up how I feel about Smith in a nutshell:
The Eagles should be thrilled to see DeVonta Smith on the board for them here. He was a potential consideration before they traded down from No. 6.
Had Jaylen Waddle been on the board, choosing between the two Crimson Tide pass-catchers wouldn’t have been easy. Smith is ultimately the pick, though, because there isn’t a world where the Eagles passing on the Heisman winner works out for them. Put simply, Smith is a stone-cold baller. Couldn’t care less about his weight. This is a complete receiver who dominated the SEC. Coaches, teammates, and opposing players alike have raved about his skill, football IQ, and will to win. Outlier physical frame be damned, he feels like a prospect worth betting on.
There’s just a lot to like here.
- 2020 Heisman Trophy winner.
- Top-notch production in the SEC over his final two seasons: 185 receptions, 3112 yards, 16.8 average, 46 receiving touchdowns. 11 punt returns for a 21.5 average and one touchdown.
- Shined brightest (more receiving yards and touchdowns) among other highly-touted wide receiver prospects (Jaylen Waddle, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III) in 2019.
- Versatility. Can play in the slot, X, or Z roles.
- Extremely competitive (he plays rock, paper, scissors on his own!). Praised for high football IQ and will to win.
- Two-time national champion.
Why wouldn’t you want this guy on your team? Just watch him play:
Ah, the biggest bugaboo when it comes to Smith.
Albert Breer reported earlier this week that Smith only checked in at “6-foot-0.2 and 166 pounds” at the NFL’s medical combine earlier this month.
I can understand how that number might be concerning on paper. I can understand how some might look at Smith’s thin frame and wonder how he’ll hold up in the NFL. I can understand that betting on the exception isn’t the wise thing to do.
But I also think you’re overthinking it if Smith’s weight is a disqualifying factor. What about his size has limited him thus far?
Durability hasn’t been an issue for him. It’s not like he missed a ton of games in college. He’s proved capable of avoiding massive shots.
Press coverage hasn’t been an issue for him. Peep the numbers:
“As if you needed any more stats to “wow” you after watching DeVonta Smith’s Heisman campaign, here’s 1 that relates to what may be his biggest perceived weakness: He ranked in the top 5 in yards per route run against press coverage in both 2019 + 2020.”https://t.co/RyDIENWEUG— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) April 19, 2021
Again, not to be the “just watch him play!” guy, but, seriously, just watch him play. Smith plays bigger than his size, aided by a 66th percentile wingspan (78.25 inches):
Don’t just take it from me. Listen to what people in the know have to say about Smith:
From Peter King’s FMIA:
“DeVonta Smith is one of the best football players I’ve ever seen,” said one GM. “I know he scares teams with his size [170 pounds], but his hands and his presence and how smart he plays . . . I think he’ll have an incredible career.”
From The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman:
“I love (DeVonta) Smith, but he is so skinny — if you can get past the skinny, he’s a legit No. 1 receiver. This kid … whatever he wants to do, he does. They had him jump in at cornerback and they said he knew the defense as good as anybody on the team.” https://t.co/JheByHX3Yi pic.twitter.com/yefLkAoT7d— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) April 21, 2021
“I don’t worry about his size,” another scout said. “We got (small) guys up here that kick everybody’s butt. Guys are 190, 200 on pro day and they’ll play at 185, 179. They get up here, their diet changes. The way the rules have changed, especially at receiver, those guys aren’t getting heavy collisions anymore. It’s 7-on-7 ball half the time.” [...] “If you were just picking people to play football in the backyard, he’d be the first pick every year,” a third scout said. “He is skinny, but he’s so good. He is strong. Every year he just improved.” [...]“He is really a smooth, fluid athlete,” said a fourth scout. “It’s almost effortless. He’s tiny at 170, but he doesn’t get knocked around. He doesn’t get rerouted against press coverage.”
From former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith:
DeVonta Smith will do fine in the NFL. It’s harder to get off press in college because dudes can put hands on you all the way down the field. He was nice off the line in college. That boy can run some routes too. His weight isn’t an issue ♂️— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) April 21, 2021
From SI’s Albert Breer:
Got this comp for Alabama WR DeVonta Smith from a veteran scout, and it's a good one for teams to use: Isaac Bruce. The Hall of Famer was a shade under 6-foot and 173 pounds at the '94 combine coming out of Memphis. Went 33rd overall.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 21, 2021
Similar size. Similar style. Makes sense.
From Ben Fennell via The Inquirer:
The Eagles have acquired too many players with Big Loser Energy in recent years. Smith is the antithesis of BLE. He has Big Winner Energy in spades.
Does this sound like a guy who wants to win to you?
Per Bruce Feldman at the Athletic, players who faced DeVonta Smith last season would "come back to the sideline and [say] he's calling out what we're playing and telling their sideline what our coverages are." Said one coach who faced Smith: "God almighty, that's different." pic.twitter.com/JvHrtHnvuh— Rock, Paper, Scissors, BOOM (@GoBirdsGoSixers) March 31, 2021
Nick Sirianni’s note about the Eagles playing ‘rock, paper, scissors’ with prospects has become a meme. Truth be told, I’m not perfectly sure if that’s the best way to gauge a player’s competitiveness. But, at the very least, what the Eagles are trying to get at is important. They need more players who really hate to lose. Smith fits the bill.
Justin Jefferson redux
If you listen to me on The SB Nation NFL Show or BGN Radio (thank you!), you may have heard me bring up this comparison multiple times before. I just can’t help but feel Smith is the Jefferson of this year’s class.
This isn’t to say they’re identical prospects. Admittedly, Jefferson checked more boxes than Smith (size, athleticism, age). But not unlike Jefferson last year, people seem to be overthinking it and talking themselves out of Smith. I really hope the Eagles aren’t among those doing that. I don’t know how you could draft Smith and then feel really dumb if it doesn't work out. Projecting prospects to the NFL isn’t easy but he feels like a good bet to be a good pro.
Why Smith over other options?
Cornerback — There are those who want to see the Eagles go with a cornerback at No. 12. I get it. The roster is barren there and there’s an allure to Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II. I just wonder about using such a premium resource on a Cover 2 corner. And it’s not like these guys have elite ball production.
Offensive line/defensive line — Generally speaking, I think the Eagles are wise to invest in the trenches. They won a Super Bowl with that formula. But if Jeff Stoutland is truly worth his salt, do the Eagles really have to use No. 12 on their o-line? They can’t count on him to do more with less? On the other side of the ball, I just don’t think any defensive lineman is reasonably the best available player at the Eagles’ pick. There hardly seems to be a consensus top defensive line prospect.
Linebacker — It’ll happen when hell freezes over.
Quarterback — I think it’s possible five go before the Eagles pick. Even if they don’t, I doubt the Eagles are going to take one. I don’t see how they take a quarterback as a value pick. They’d have stayed at No. 6 if they truly loved this QB class beyond Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson.
Cases have been made against the Eagles taking a wide receiver at No. 12 due to the positional value not being worth it. I couldn’t disagree more. I mean, it’s not exactly a secret that the NFL is a passing league. The Eagles should be doing everything they can to build an elite passing offense. Doing as much necessitates having quality wide receivers.
And here’s the harsh reality: the Eagles have literally NEVER successfully drafted and developed a wide receiver since Howie Roseman has been the team’s general manager. Riley Cooper is the only Roseman receiver to earn a contract extension in Philly.
I find it hard to believe the Eagles’ best chance of finally rectifying their receiver woes is by outsmarting other teams and finding a solution later on in the draft. Rather, the answer is right in front of them if the Heisman winner makes it to No. 12.
Don’t be idiots, Eagles. Draft DeVonta Smith!
Should the Eagles draft DeVonta Smith at No. 12?
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