The rise of DeVonta Smith has been an exciting one, but it’s easy to forget just how much apprehension there was after the Eagles selected him.
Back in April on the first day of the NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles made a bold move that divided the fan base and media members alike. After trading away the 6th overall pick to the Dolphins in exchange for the 12th overall pick and a 2022 first-rounder, no one had any idea what would be the result for Philadelphia.
Eagles fans watched as Ja’Marr Chase was selected at 5th overall and Jaylen Waddle was poached one pick later. Which names would be left for the Birds to select at 12 overall? Not only were the top offensive weapons taken, but Howie watched on as Sewell, Horn, and Surtain left the board with the next three picks. It was a gut-wrenching feeling to realize that the Eagles missed out on so much talent because they preferred to move back.
The Cowboys stunningly traded the 10th overall pick. No one understood why. Giants fans panicked because DeVonta Smith was still on the board and their pick was up next at 11. Goodell approached the podium and announced that the pick was traded to the Eagles in exchange for the 12th overall pick and a third-round pick.
“With the 10th overall pick, the Philadelphia Eagles have selected Wide Receiver, DeVonta Smith, out of Alabama.”
Those words were the beginning of the Legend of the Slim Reaper. The wide receiver who would finally give the Eagles a lethal target. A pick was made to help Jalen Hurts and this poor offense succeed.
So after all of that dramatization, it’s time for us to look at how DeVonta Smith has come along this season so far. Many people felt that Smith would be too fragile to sustain the hits and bruises that come with the NFL but those same people overlooked the special ability that he perfected at the college level.
A Route Wizard
DeVonta Smith was known for his smooth route running and speed at Alabama. It has fortunately translated well for him at the pro level. We’ve seen very few instances where Smith hasn’t been able to beat his man. After showing out in week 1 at Atlanta, Smith struggled a bit until he broke out against the Kansas City Chiefs with 122 receiving yards. Smith’s ability to get separation through the combination of deceitful head fakes and positioning has led to constant success. It just was just a matter of Jalen Hurts finding him.
The Sole Receiver
It seems as if the Eagles have structured their pass attack around the abilities of DeVonta Smith. While moving him in and out of the slot to the outside, Smith has shown off his route tree and the ability to find freedom on every play. Smith has accumulated 603 receiving yards in 10 games with the Eagles which are the most yards through 10 games than any Eagles receiver has had since 2014.
The closest receiver to him right now is Quez Watkins who has 408 receiving yards but has been on the low end of targets since the recent surge of rushing attempts. DeVonta Smith, on the other hand, is on pace to finish the season with 71 receptions, 1,025 receiving yards, and 7 touchdowns. Smith would be the first Eagles WR to cross the thousand mark since Jeremy Maclin did it in 2014 where he finished with 1,318 receding yards.
Smith has emerged as one of the better rookie receivers in the league recently. His play has gotten better and better every week. He’s also seeing more targets than any other player on the team. With the remaining schedule being as easy as can be, Smith has a chance to really blow up and show off a bit. The rapport that he has built with Jalen Hurts can help the Eagles brass to make the right decision at QB this offseason.
Even with Smith’s slim frame, he’s been able to adapt to the NFL well. He’s fought for balls that were inaccurately thrown and has embraced the idea of facing defenders head-on as opposed to shying away from hits. Smitty seems to be the guy that will force opposing defenses to have fits when playing the Eagles for years to come.
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