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NFL Draft Grades: Eagles earn high marks for DeVonta Smith pick

As expected.

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2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles traded up to select Alabama wide receiver and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith (!) with the No. 10 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Now it’s time to see what the so-called “experts” are saying about the selection. Instant draft grades are hardly the ultimate determination of whether a pick is actually good or not but they’re still fun to talk about.

Eagles fans grade (A)

Let’s get things started by looking at how Eagles fans reacted to the pick here at Bleeding Green Nation. It’s not every year you see this kind of favorable agreement!

My grade (A)

How could I give the Eagles anything but an A? He’s the guy I wanted them to take. The belief here is that he was the best player available and it happened to coincide with a huge position of need. Smith is an absolute dog who projects to ball out in the NFL. Really couldn’t care less about his size when that hasn’t been a hindrance for him at all in the slightest thus far. He’s going to be a big weapon in this offense as a player who contributes at multiple receiver positions.

The only thing holding me back from giving the Eagles an A+ is they had to trade up to get him. I view that as the correct move, to be clear, but him falling to No. 12 would’ve warranted the perfect score.

It’s fair to wonder if the Eagles should’ve taken Justin Fields or stayed at No. 12 and traded back to the Chicago Bears’ pick at No. 20, assuming that offer would’ve been there for them. But getting a blue-chip talent in Smith — and also preventing him from going to the New York Giants — is a really big deal. They did the right thing.

All told, Howie Roseman is off to a strong start in this year’s draft. He read the draft correctly with Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase going off the board before No. 6. It’ll be worth monitoring how Jaylen Waddle, who would’ve been available to Philly, fares in the NFL. But trading down to No. 12 and picking up Miami’s 2022 first-round pick was critical to potentially finding a new franchise quarterback ... or further building around Jalen Hurts. Roseman also correctly sussed out the Giants wanting Smith at No. 11, evidenced by David Gettleman trading down for the first time EVER and then taking Kadarius Toney (reach) at No. 20.

Now for more hot takes and draft grades from “experts” around the web.

SB Nation (A+)

The Eagles made a move to jump up to the No. 10 spot, giving up the No. 12 overall pick and their third round selection this year. Dallas had been linked to a CB for much of the draft, and seeing two go in a row likely pushed them out.DeVonta Smith is the best receiver in this draft for my money, and a brilliant choice to give weapons to Jalen Hurts. There are concerns about his frame being too lean, or that he’s more of a generalist in an era of specialists — I don’t care. Smith is an elite player who will make noise in Philly.

Fake Teams (Makes Total Sense)

LOVE THIS! Smith is my top receiver in the class and he now is the No. 1 option in Philly. The Eagles finally get themselves an elite No. 1 receiver to give Jalen Hurts his best chance to succeed. Eagles weren’t going to get laughed at again for drafting the wrong receiver. Fantasy-wise, this is a perfect landing spot for Smith.

The Ringer (A)

I love this pick for the Eagles, who get a true playmaking no. 1 in Smith. The Heisman winner certainly lacks size but boasts a complete skill set as a pass-catcher, combining sudden route-running, incredible catch radius, and the ability to take the top off a defense. He should perfectly complement the skill-position group in Philly, who will likely move last year’s first-rounder, Jalen Reagor, to the no. 2 role. Smith will also help open things up in the middle for tight end Dallas Goedert and running back Miles Sanders. Somewhere, Jalen Hurts is smiling. (A)

The Eagles wanted to add Smith so badly that they gave division rival Dallas a third-round pick (No. 84 overall) to move up two spots — getting ahead of another rival, the Giants, in the process. They received extra picks in their trade down from the sixth spot earlier this month, so giving up the mid-round pick shouldn’t greatly affect the team’s roster-building ability. I love Smith’s game and would have selected him ahead of Jaylen Waddle. Forget what the scale says: the Heisman Trophy winner is tough and reliable, as well as a huge playmaker who will have a Davante Adams-type impact at the next level. His routes are fantastic as is his body control. He can play inside or outside. This is a well-done pick. It’s the first time in 16 years a team has picked receivers in consecutive drafts (Chicago, Jacksonville in 2004-05), and I think Smith and Jalen Reagor should work well together to give Jalen Hurts a strong 1-2 combination.

Pro Football Network (A)

A trade within the NFC East was somewhat surprising to round out the top 10 of the 2021 NFL Draft. At any rate, the selection is ideal for the Philadelphia Eagles, who need to put more talent around Jalen Hurts. WR was the top need for the Eagles on offense, and DeVonta Smith brings a lot of talent with his routes and releases. He is one of the best pure technicians to come out of college in recent years.

CBS Sports (B+)

They needed to get another weapon to help Jalen Hurts, so I like the pick. When the corners went off, they had to be disappointed.

The Athletic (B)

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner was unguardable last year, with 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. Is his 166-pound frame a concern? Sure. But Smith has shown a knack for knowing how to protect himself, and he had no durability issues (54 games in four seasons) in college going up against SEC competition. Smith’s instincts are off the charts, and coaches will love his smarts and competitiveness. The Eagles have talked about drafting for volume. But they clearly felt like they had to get ahead of the Giants to land Smith. To do so, they had to give up a third-rounder (No. 84). This was a reasonable move for a player with an impressive track record and a high ceiling.

Yahoo! Sports (B-)

With the top two corners off the board the previous two picks, this was a tough spot for the Cowboys. So they trade out with … their division rivals? Why, yes! To get ahead of the division rival Giants, of course. Philly must have thought that the Giants were dead set on Smith, sending a third-rounder to Dallas to move up two slots. Smith’s weight (170-ish pounds) will be all the talk, but his play was downright special — for most of the past three years. A fascinating pick.

Football Outsiders (B-)

I loved Smith as a prospect from the time I watched him upstage teammates Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs when I was prepping for the 2020 draft until the moment he declined to step on a scale at the Senior Bowl. Smith himself sure seems to think his weight is an issue. Shrouding a basic measurement in mystery doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Of course, the moment Smith makes a big catch come September, Twitter will erupt with oh-so-clever “bUt hE’s tOo sMAlL” takes. No one is saying he cannot play. But there’s a real risk he becomes like Paul Richardson, who always appeared to be poised on the verge of a breakout in Seattle before the next knee, ankle, shoulder, or hamstring injury struck. Or perhaps he becomes Marquise Brown, who is playing well for the Ravens: so well that Ravens fans spend each offseason clamoring for more receiving help. Or Jackson, who both elated and exasperated Eagles fans many times over the last decade or so.

Playmaker Score adores Smith (777 yards per season) because of his monstrous final season. There are plenty of signifiers that he’s an exceptional case. I remember getting told by many smart people that Donnell Pumphrey was an exceptional case.

I don’t hate this pick, but I hate the idea of the Eagles trading up to make it. They’re a team with too many needs to have taken this kind of risk.

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