NFL Draft 2021: Eagles hint they won’t listen to this criticism when evaluating DeVonta Smith

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NFL Draft 2021: Eagles hint they won’t listen to this criticism when evaluating DeVonta Smith
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The Philadelphia Eagles have not made the best early-round selections on wide receivers over the last two years, whether injury or poor performance played a factor in their draft failures is up for debate. The third time may be the charm for general manager Howie Roseman, as the Eagles are in a position to land one of the top three wideouts in this year’s class. 

DeVonta Smith is one of the wide receivers in play for the Eagles, whether they trade up to select him or if he slides to No. 12 because of his listed weight (166). The Eagles never mentioned Smith in particular when discussing their process of evaluation of wide receivers, but it was clear who Roseman was referring to when asked earlier this week about a receiver who may be an outlier when it comes to height, weight, or speed.

“Good players come in all shapes and sizes,” Roseman said on a conference call earlier this week. “And so we’re not going to discriminate based on any of those things.” 

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Regardless of Smith’s size, the Heisman Trophy winner is a certainly a lock to go in the top-15 of this draft. Smith is one of the top three receivers in this draft class, next to Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle. He recorded 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in 13 games for the Crimson Tide last season, averaging 15.9 yards per catch. Not only did Smith record the most receiving yards and touchdown catches in SEC history, he had just seven drops on 268 catchable targets in his career. 

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While Smith’s weight causes concern about his durability, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has an extensive background with wide receivers. Sirianni also didn’t mention Smith, but it was clear who he was talking about when how he wanted to use his wideouts. The Eagles coach has used different types of receivers to play the “X” and Z,” which fits Smith’s profile. 

“I’ve had different X’s. I’ve had T.Y. Hilton who was 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. He played X for us. I’ve had Dwayne Bowe who was 6-2, 220 pounds. He played X for us. I had Keenan Allen who was 6-3, 200,” Sirianni said. “All these guys that I’m saying, TY was fast; Keenan was quick, not fast; Dwayne Bowe was powerful. They all played different.

“So 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. … He’s better because it’s one-on-one out there, and that guy looks different all across the league.”

The Eagles will find multiple ways to use Smith and maximize his unique talents, just like how they plan to use 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor. Philadelphia isn’t concerned over the one “red flag” regarding the most productive receiver in this draft class. 

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