DeVonta Smith was the 10th pick overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, it was obvious that the Eagles valued him extremely high, as they traded ahead of the division rival New York Giants in order to secure Smith. DeVonta Smith is an outstanding wide receiver prospect, and he did things that we have never seen before during his 2020 collegiate campaign at Alabama. On the flip side, there are some worries about his smaller frame as he stands at 6’1 and a mere 170 pounds.
In 2020 DeVonta Smith did not just do well; he won the Heisman. This is the first time that a wide receiver had won the Heisman since the 1990s. Smith put up 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in his 2020 campaign with Alabama. These are numbers he put up against legitimate SEC competition. Looking back at 2019, Smith played against fellow 2021 rookie Jaycee Horn, the 8th overall draft pick. In that game against Horn, Smith had 8 receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Smith is simply exceptional.
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While I do not love the offensive situation for the Eagles, Smith is the clear number one weapon on this team, even starting on Day 1. I do not have any reservations about Smith’s ability to go up against other teams’ top cornerbacks, and really the only thing slightly weighing down these projections is Jalen Hurts’ inability to pass the football. I think that Smith will end up an extremely solid WR2 off the back of tremendous volume in Philadelphia. When it comes to touchdowns, Smith always had a knack for finding the endzone. I do think that he will be the favorite target in the red zone, and he will end the season with at least 6+ scores.
Auction Price: 6$
DeVonta Smith has risk as a rookie and a rookie with an unreliable quarterback. However, at his current ADP and auction price, I would argue that risk is more than baked in. This is an alpha wide receiver for a team that is going to be trailing in a lot of ball games. This would normally immediately raise someone into the 8th round range, but instead, Smith is firmly going in the 10th in 12-team leagues. Smith is more than worth a grab before his ADP as he is a lottery ticket that can turn into a high-end WR2. I project that he will smash this ADP with his performance, barring he stays healthy his entire rookie year.
Smith is a bit of an odd case. You would argue that with the worst starting quarterback in the league, passing-wise, he would have a lower floor. You mix this with the uncertainty of rookie wide receivers, and his floor should be below ground. However, at the end of the day, the Eagles traded up for Smith after grabbing a 1st round WR last year. This shows me that the Eagles believe Smith is a special talent. There is no way that Smith enters this season as anything but the number one wide receiver for Jalen Hurts. This means that the sheer volume of passes heading Smith’s way should mitigate a lot of the risk you would normally see with a rookie-wide receiver.
I believe that Justin Jefferson’s 2020 rookie season is a good gauge for Smith’s ceiling. Jefferson is my comp when trying to project the talent level of DeVonta Smith. These two wide receivers share an incredible ability to get off the line with elite releases. Then, they both share some of the best route-running abilities in the NFL. If Jefferson was able to tally 1400 yards in his first season and end the year a WR1, then I think that Smith can do it as well. However, the only thing holding this back is Jalen Hurts’ passing ability. Kirk Cousins may not be elite, but he looks elite when comparing his arm accuracy to Hurts’. If Jalen Hurts takes a big step up, then Smith can have a Jefferson-like season.
Philadelphia Eagles Offense
The Philadelphia Eagles offense was not very good last year. However, one big change going into 2021 is the fact that the offensive line is healthy. This is a massive shift from the pieced-together offensive line that Hurts and Wentz had to work with last year. Then, with the addition of DeVonta Smith, the team finally has an alpha wide receiver that can be leaned on to consistently win his route. This will mix well with the deep threat of Jalen Reagor and the safety blanket that is Dallas Goedert.
The backfield is decently strong with Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell, as both are good enough to pose big-play threats. However, the best running threat on the field might be Jalen Hurts, who showed that he could win a game with his legs last year.
At the end of the day, this offense will only be as good as Hurts’ arm talent. He needs to show a large step forward in terms of passing accuracy if this offense is going to be efficient. He is a good runner, but no Lamar Jackson.
I project that this team runs a lot, and a lot of that will be Hurts scrambling. However, with how poor this defense is, the game script is going to call for quite a few passes. I have almost a 50/50 split in terms of drop-backs versus runs for the 2021 season.
Strength of Schedule
Technically the Eagles have the easiest schedule based on last year’s records. However, looking deeper, the Eagles actually have a pretty tough road ahead of them. The easy part of the schedule for the offense comes with two games against the Giants and Cowboys, with a single game against the Falcons, Raiders, and maybe Lions.
However, the Eagles have to play against the tough AFC West and a solid NFC South this year. Not to mention the single game against the NFC West is the 49ers, who are not 4th place finishers this year but Super Bowl contenders.
DeVonta Smith is a special talent coming out of college, and he is going to a team where he is going to be the main man when it comes to receiving talent. However, there are some worries about his quarterback and his QB’s ability to get him the ball. Of course, whenever a rookie comes out of college, there are also worries about his ability to transition to the next level. For me, there are no worries. Smith has the route running of Jerry Jeudy, the release of Justin Jefferson, and the contested catch ability of Stefon Diggs. He is going to be great in the NFL.