The NFL Draft is officially one week away and the fate of one player in particular is beginning to generate a lot of discussion. Puzzlingly, it’s the most decorated wide receiver in the class – DeVonta Smith. The 2020 Heisman winner reportedly weighed in at a little over 6’0, 166 lbs last week, causing many talent evaluators and fans to question whether or not he’ll be able to thrive at the NFL level. The Eagles don’t appear to be among those scratching their heads.
“I think the first part is good players come in all shapes and sizes, and so we’re not going to discriminate based on any of those things.” GM Howie Roseman explained to reporters yesterday.
It’s hard to blame him for having that mindset. Smith might be extremely lean, but Roseman himself drafted 6’2, 225 lbs, wideout J.J Arcega-Whiteside, who to this day has enjoyed less production as an Eagle than Dorial Geen-Beckham. Size and frame don’t mean everything and Smith has proven that he has all the traits of an elite wideout against the best that the SEC has to offer.
After posting back-to-back seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns, Smith exploded to the top of draft boards. He broke the single-season records set by Ja’Maar Chase in 2019 to win the Heisman last year, picking up an astonishing 1,856 yards and averaging 18.5 per catch.
His burst off the line is electric.Even with his slim frame, Smith has shown that he has a wide catch radius and can position himself to make those highlight-reel catches. The real concern comes with corners pressing him at the line of scrimmage and whether or not he’ll be able to get off without being re-routed or slowed down because of what he lacks in size. Will Smith have a chance to showcase that sharp route-running if he’s unable to get past a jam at the line? Will a big hit from a roaming DB or linebacker at the NFL level pack a different punch to a prospect in the collegiate ranks?
“Like Howie said, every player comes in different shapes, different sizes, different speeds. They’re all different.”Head Coach Nick Sirianni went on to say. ”It’s about finding like okay, this guy has speed, we’ll use him this way. This guy has power, we’ll use him this way.”
“It’s just a matter of can that guy do what you want, that person to do on the outside. Really when you say X, it’s can he win one-on-one match-ups consistently so the quarterback can take the ball, go one, two, three, four, five, hitch throw, ball’s out, everybody is better in front of him because of it. He’s better because it’s one-on-one out there, and that guy looks different all across the league.”
“[Former Steelers and Buccaneers WR] Antonio Brown has been that X; [Falcons WR] Julio Jones has been that X; [Browns WR] Odell Beckham has been that X. All these guys come in different shapes and sizes. Can you do what I just said, can you win consistently one-on-one”
Only adding fuel to the fire is the fact that he of course spent two seasons with Jalen Hurts as his quarterback. Hurts opened up about both Alabama wideouts on Adam Schefter’s podcast not too long ago, stating the following:
DeVonta Smith is like a smooth criminal. Such a smooth route runner. He attacks the ball, has strong hands, and size is never an issue with him because he has such strong hands. He’s a hell of a player himself.”
After passing on Justin Jefferson and D.K Metcalf over the past two years, it seems as though a new coaching staff might bring balance to the force, with Sirianni clearly looking to mold his offense around his player’s strengths as opposed to forcing a square peg into a round hole. Will this lead to DeVonta Smith lining up as an X-receiver for the Eagles? Only time will tell, but he’s absolutely an option at 12 and one the team aren’t going to overlook.
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