The Eagles drafted a dynamic, explosive, historically productive wide receiver Thursday night.
They also drafted the lightest first-round receiver ever.
This is uncharted water. There’s never been anybody like DeVonta Smith.
At 166 pounds, he’s not only the lightest first-round wideout in history, according to Pro Football Reference’s Stathead, he’s the lightest non-kicker drafted in the first round since the Bears took 166-pound Stanford quarterback Frankie Albert with the 10th pick in 1942.
The kid has unparalleled talent. But can he hold up at that size in the NFL?
“When we watched him play, I saw a guy with length and I saw a guy with toughness,” Eagles vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl said. “When you catch 117 passes in the SEC, you’re doing something right. You set the SEC record for career touchdown receptions, you’re doing something right.”
Smith did all of that.
His 117 catches for Alabama this past season are second-most ever by an SEC player, behind only Amari Cooper’s 124 for Alabama in 2014. His 1,856 yards this past year are an SEC record, as are his 3,965 career yards and 46 career touchdowns.
“He sure as heck doesn’t play like a guy with (not enough) size,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “I see a ton of play strength and toughness. Play strength and toughness is what I see with DeVonta. Over and over and over again.”
The two biggest questions about a lighter receiver are whether he can get off the line of scrimmage against big, tough NFL cornerbacks and whether he can stay healthy.
Smith faced elite NFL-bound corners every day in practice and every weekend on the field and had no trouble beating press coverage.
And he never missed a game in four seasons in Tuscaloosa.
“Whenever his team needed him, he stepped up,” Weidl said. “The moment was never too big for him. And you saw it in different situations this year. Jaylen Waddle went down, he steps up his game. He showed up in big moments. It’s never too big for him. Those are things that really capture the player and what we saw during the evaluation process.”
The Eagles moved up from 12 to 10 to snag Smith, who’s only four pounds lighter than DeSean Jackson but at 6-1 stands three inches taller.
“I don’t really care what people say about my weight,” Smith said Thursday night. “I understand that reporters have a job so I just let them do their job. I can’t get mad at them for doing their job.”
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said the team isn’t concerned at all with Smith’s size and spoke about how big and tough he plays on film.
“As a true freshman, he went in and caught the game-winning touchdown in the national championship game (against Georgia),” Roseman said. “This is a big-time player. The stage is never too big for him and I can’t wait for our fans to see him and get to know him.”
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