Philadelphia Eagles rumors and news right now

Latest Eagles rumors in 2022

By: Jake Rajala

The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the biggest darkhorse NFC teams in 2022. They have a third-year quarterback with high expectations in Jalen Hurts, a shiny gifted WR in A.J. Brown, and the former Heisman winner in DeVonta Smith.

Well, it appears that the Eagles sensation will join a new country in West Africa. Per, the Eagles will be the first NFL club to enter a market in Africa. The International HMA initiative gives access to international territories for marketing (and other engagement purposes) to create universal growth.

In terms of the Eagles roster changes, they haven’t made much noise since the NFL Draft. It was reported by Section 215 that Minshew Mania was receiving trade buzz. Luckily, the Eagles team hasn’t pushed out one of the best QB2s in the league. The 26-year-old went 1-1 as a starter last season while throwing 4 touchdowns to 1 interception.

3 breakout candidates on the Philadelphia Eagles

Marcus Epps will surprise in 2022

By: Jake Rajala

The Philadelphia Eagles clawed their way to a playoff berth last season. The Jalen Hurts-led Eagles could really benefit from x-factors helping them return to the post-season in the improved NFC East. With that said, I’m going to outline three breakout candidates for the Eagles.

Marcus Epps

It sadly appeared that the Eagles struck out on the Honey Badger sweepstakes. Per NBC Sports, they made it clear that they still had a lot of confidence in Marcus Epps. In fact, the fourth-year safety was performing better than previous starters: Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris. PFF ranked him as the 18th best safety last season and his production should spike as a “full-time starter on a much-improved defense”. The Eagles additions of Haason Reddick (11 sacks in 2021) and first-round pick Jordan Davis should really help the secondary immediately.

DeVonta Smith

The Eagles 2021 rookie DeVonta Smith was successful (916 yards, 5 touchdowns), but I expect to be one of the league’s top WR2s in 2022. He wasn’t quite able to notch a Pro Bowl nod or OROY honors. Jalen Hurts and Smith will continue to grow this off-season, and I foresee the well-rounded Smith capitalizing from AJ Brown’s match-ups. Besides, Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins aren’t close to the same caliber as the former Heisman winner. Brown, Smith, and Dallas Goedert should be the “be and end all” receiving weaponry for Hurts.

Kyzir White

The Eagles new LB Kyzir White had a career season in LA in 2021 (144 combined tackles, 7 TFLs) and he will strive to build on his 2021 season in a more talented 2022 situation. White is a tremendous downhill LB and he should excel behind the big-man Fletcher Cox. Demario Davis was an unearthly LB FA signing for the Saints, perhaps White can be a special pick-up for the Eagles squad. White may be the most underrated FA signing from the Eagles this off-season.

Who has the brighter outlook: Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith?

Which of these two 2021 draft receivers has the better outlook?

By: Jeremy Trottier

In 2021, we got to see the rookie campaigns of three separate receivers from the top 10 picks in the draft, Ja’Marr Chase (pick #5), Jaylen Waddle (pick #6), and DeVonta Smith (pick #10).  While Chase was proven to be an elite player and has shown he is a top 10 receiver, Waddle and Smith battled it out for second best WR in the class.  This has created a discussion to be had among NFL fans, which of these two receivers has the brighter outlook for the rest of their career?

The way I will go about finding out will include the following:

  • 2021 performance (both eye test and statistically)
  • Team outlook (is the QB situation good?  Do they have room to grow into bigger roles?)
  • Utilization (were they utilized correctly, and if not will they be in the future?)

Jaylen Waddle – Miami Dolphins

First up, we have Jaylen Waddle, as previously mentioned the 6th overall pick in the 2021 class.  Waddle has been absolutely phenomenal so far after his rookie season and has shown to be a reliable starter for the Dolphins, and presumably WR1 with DeVante Parker losing some snaps comparatively. 

In terms of 2021 performance, Waddle had a very good rookie season.  He accrued the following stats last season:

  • 16 games played (all 16 started) taking 83% of snaps on offense
  • 104 receptions on 140 targets (74.3% catch rate)
  • 1015 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns (7 scrimmage touchdowns)
  • 2 fumbles, 8 drops, 4 broken tackles, and 7 interceptions when targeted

Overall, for a rookie, this is a great stat line to be working with and shows promise for improvement as well, as he works on minimizing drops and fumbles.  In terms of team outlook, Tua Tagovailoa has been somewhat on and off in his NFL career so far, however having the Alabama connection again between these two bodes well for Waddle’s outlook.  Waddle was utilized well by the Dolphins, becoming their primary receiver nearly overnight, and took no time taking all the snaps he could. 

DeVonta Smith – Philadelphia Eagles

Secondly, we have the #10 overall pick from the 2021 class in DeVonta Smith.  Smith has also been great in his career so far and has proved to be a very valuable asset for an Eagles offense that has struggled to find reliable receivers.  Smith is easily the WR1 at the moment for Philly, as he has been most of if not all of the season considering his capabilities outside. 

For the 2021 season, Smith produced slightly less so than Waddle, however, he had a better handle on the ball at times and did not have as many drops:

  • 17 games played (16 started) taking 82% of snaps on offense
  • 64 receptions on 104 targets (61.5% catch rate)
  • 916 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns (5 scrimmage touchdowns)
  • 1 fumble, 2 drops, 2 broken tackles, and 1 interception when targeted

As a whole Smith has been a great rookie as well, and will only improve as the Eagles utilize him more and can get Jalen Hurts on the same page.  As mentioned with Waddle and Tua, Smith and Hurts also played together at Alabama, mostly so in 2018, where they connected quite a bit statistically.  Smith’s upside will heavily depend on ball placement from Hurts, as we can see Smith only dropped 2 passes but had a significantly lower catch rate than Waddle, which partially is attributed to his targets being passes out of reach. 

Who has the better outlook?

In my opinion, as of right now, Waddle projects better for the future.  The main factors for this are that he led in nearly every statistical category other than fumbles, drops, and interceptions when targeted.  Another factor to consider is that Tua seemingly at the very least is more accurate with the ball than Hurts, completing 6.5% more passes in 2021.  Granted, Tua has better weapons in Waddle, Parker, Mike Gesicki comparatively to Smith, Reagor, and Dallas Goedert. 

With that said, I believe both of these players will be extremely talented for years to come, and both of them will create offense for their respective teams. 

Philadelphia Eagles offseason outlook and Wildcard Playoff game reflection

The Philadelphia Eagles offseason revolves around Jalen Hurts

By: Jacob Keppen

Many Philadelphia fans were just happy to see their favorite team back in the playoffs, rebounding from a four-win 2020 season. Many fans had hopes that maybe the Eagles could upset the injured Buccaneers squad, which would help show Philadelphia truly belonged in the dance this year. Many were disappointed very quickly into their Sunday afternoons.

The 31-15 final scoreline does not do this game any justice to just how one-sided of a beatdown it truly was. Tampa Bay dominated this from the onset, driving down the field 75 yards to open with a 7-0 lead. That lead would never change hands, as the Bucs were adding to their total with ease.

The sequence with a little more than five minutes left to go in the third where the Buccaneers followed a Jalen Hurts interception on fourth down immediately with a 36 yard Mike Evans touchdown to give the Buccaneers a 31 point lead perfectly encapsulated this game. The Eagles were completely outmatched in every area. There is a silver lining to this though: most knew Tampa Bay was winning this one.

Although many put on their fan goggles and hoped to leave Florida with an upset shocking the world, the reality was Philadelphia was barely supposed to be there much less compete. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, many predicting Philly to have a similar result to the season prior, Philadelphia managed to squeak into the playoffs with the last seed in the NFC. While this game was mostly about gaining experience for the team and the young coaching staff, there still are some troubling takeaways from the performance.

The biggest takeaway from this game is that the Eagles need more talent across the board. In nearly every area the skill position players were simply outmatched. Despite taking wide receivers high over the past three seasons, there is still only one guy on this team who can consistently get open and catch the ball and that is Devonta Smith.

Quez Watkins is a modest speedster. He has speed that would do very well situationally, but he doesn’t have an overall refined game at this point. He’s shown some very good flashes and is someone you want to keep in your receiver room, that is all you can ask from a sixth-round pick. The problem is why Quez is having to be relied on as the “second receiver”, and that is because of a former first-round receiver who is quickly looking like one of the biggest flops in Howe Roseman’s tenure as GM.

Jalen Reagor isn’t just a disappointment for the Eagles at this point, he is truly a hindrance on the field. It is a fact that Jalen Reagor simply has not been good enough for the Eagles. We are past the point of comparing Jalen Reagor to Justin Jefferson. He is not a disappointment because Justin Jefferson looks to be a perennial top five receiver over the next decade and Reagor does not. Reagor is a disappointment because at this moment he is not proving to be an NFL-caliber receiver. He struggles mightily to get open and as a player who was renowned for his speed coming out of TCU he looks uncomfortable with the ball in his hands. As a punt returner, he’s arguably been worse. Multiple times this year Reagor has cost the Eagles key field position and the struggles were just amplified on the national stage today.

If the Eagles are serious about taking another step forward next year Jalen Reagor can not be on this team next year. Both him and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (remember him?!) must be let go of this offseason, proper replacements brought in who can help this football team. I hope for Reagor’s sake he can find a new start somewhere else because the confidence looks lost in him. You feel for Jalen Reagor because the harassment he has received from the fanbase over the past two years has reached the point of being unacceptable. These athletes are people first and nobody should be talked about the way he is online. Reagor had talent in college and I hope it can be realized in another city where he can regain his confidence, it just is not going to happen in Philadelphia.

Another area the Eagles need to add talent to is on that defense. Linebacker is still an issue. How long must fans hear “The Eagles won’t take a linebacker in the first, Howie Roseman doesn’t value linebackers high enough” while every time on the big stage the linebackers get exposed. One of the key differences between the Eagles defense and the Buccaneers defense is they have a star at linebacker. The Buccaneers have two actually in future Hall of Famer Lavonte David and Devin White. Both routinely make impact plays and routinely change the game. The Eagles simply do not have that skill at linebacker. The Eagles need their own bulls at LB on defense. Georgia’s Nakobe Dean or Utah’s Devin Lloyd one of them should be high on the Eagles board in the 2022 draft.

The Eagles have a top notch stud in Darius Slay. That’s very clear. Still, the Eagles need to add CB talent around Slay. Avonte Maddox needs to be the full-time slot and they need a more inspiring secondary corner other than Steve Nelson.

Finally, this all brings us to the biggest question mark the Eagles have for this offseason, what decision is being made at quarterback.

Jalen Hurts has been up and down, to say the least, this season. There’s a lot to like about him. His worth ethic and leadership abilities are star caliber. He is as tough as they come and adds another element to the Eagles running game they haven’t had since Michael Vick. The problems that many had before the season and before he was drafted are still there though. Hurts still struggles mightily as an overall passer with TB being a brutal opponent for him. Nothing seems natural for Hurts as a passer. Sure, he will make a good throw usually once a game on the run as the play breaks down, but from a down-to-down basis, he struggles with consistency throwing the ball.

Now as a “developmental quarterback”, Hurts can work on those issues. A lot of running quarterbacks out of college struggle with the more traditional elements of the game, but it doesn’t mean they are hopeless.

Look at Josh Allen. He was one of the most “inaccurate quarterbacks” in recent memory. Nothing was natural for him as a passer and he just torched the Patriots defense, looking like the player fans hoped he could become.

Allen did this through hard work and dedication, and there’s no doubting Jalen Hurts’ work ethic and determination. The key difference is Josh Allen’s tools. Allen lacked overall refinement coming out of Wyoming but he still had one of the best arms the league had ever seen. Jalen’s arm is just okay.

Hurts also lacks refinement as a passer, not to the extent that Allen did but still lacking refinement as a whole, but his arm simply isn’t elite caliber. Hurts lacks zip on some of his throws, especially outside the numbers, and it’s sometimes the difference between a completion and an incompletion. He doesn’t have the crazy tools to bail him most of the time as other top quarterbacks do. What is his true ceiling? Can he overcome his shortcomings and be the guy in Philadelphia?

The quarterback question could be a very simple one to answer for the Eagles. Despite his shortcomings, Nick Sirianni and his staff might have already identified Hurts as their guy moving forward at least into next season. Hurts did enough to stave off Gardner Minshew all season and it’s clear he’s the guy for the foreseeable future. With the 2022 offseason underway, the Eagles will have to figure out how they will build around the former National Champion.

Why DeVonta Smith will be special

Heisman winner DeVonta Smith has scary potential

By: Jacob Keppen

The question on every football fan’s mind going into the season is: who is going to be the next superstar wide receiver? Now more than ever, rookie wide receivers are making an impact on their franchises. In recent years, the football world has seen rookie wide receivers waste little time introducing themselves to stardom. Last year Justin Jefferson set the standard for all rookies, with a record-breaking 1400 yard season. Next on the list of impact rookie wide receivers: Philadelphia Eagles first-round pick Devonta Smith.

When talking about Devonta Smith, it’s important to remember the caliber of player Smith was in college. Despite being surrounded by other superstars Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith still rose above all of his first round counterparts. While the draft world expected Jerry Jeudy to build off his fantastic 2018 campaign and cement himself as the top wide receiver in the 2020 draft, it was actually junior Devonta Smith who experienced the breakout season. 

Elevating himself from the “other Alabama wide receiver” to the main Alabama wide receiver, Smith led the Crimson Tide in receiving yards with 1,256 receiving yards, as well as touchdowns with a whopping 14. Despite being surrounded by three first-round wide receivers and a first round running back, it was Smith who became the top star on offense. Who can forget Smith’s 213-yard two-touchdown performance against eventual National Champions LSU, or his five touchdown showcase against Mississippi? Despite being surrounded by top-tier talent, Smith still managed to rise above all.

The next question Smith had to answer was could he do it with all the attention on him. With attention being spread on multiple wide receivers, Smith was able to ascend to superstardom. With Jeudy and Ruggs off to the NFL, could Smith be as good? With all the attention on him, especially after Waddle went down for most of the season with an injury, Smith put up the best season by a wide receiver in decades.

The most valuable player awards are pretty much a quarterback award. Pretty much if quarterbacks are eligible to win it, they will. Since 2000, quarterbacks have won 16 out of the possible 20 Heisman awards. The only running backs who managed to wrangle the award away from the signal callers were Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram, and Derrick Henry. Three of the greatest college backs of all time. The one other non-quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, Devonta Smith. In an award race that didn’t really include wide receivers, the last pass-catcher to win the trophy Desmond Howard all the way back in 1991, Smith was able to be named the most outstanding player in NCAA football.

To say Devonta Smith was unguardable during his Heisman campaign would almost be an insult to the Louisiana native. Only four of the 13 teams Smith faced were able to hold him under 100 receiving yards. The only game he managed not to score was in the season opener against Missouri, a game in which Smith had 89 receiving yards. The game logs read like a created player in madden with the game difficulty on Rookie: 167 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia, 203 yards and four touchdowns against Mississippi State, 231 yards and three touchdowns against defending champions LSU, 184 yards and two touchdowns in a thrilling SEC Championship game against Florida, and finally a 215 yard three touchdown half against Ohio State in the National Championship. Nobody could stop the Bama receiver as he danced his way to multiple accolades and the 13th overall selection by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2021 NFL Draft. 

As the third receiver taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, Smith’s status as possibly the most unstoppable receiver seen in the NCAA must be remembered. Smith has every opportunity to be a transcendent star in the NFL as well. His skill set is exactly what the modern NFL is looking for. Even in limited action in the preseason, Smith showed why he was able to dominate the NCAA.

Smith is an extremely advanced technician of a route runner. While not the biggest receiver at all, Smith negates more physical defensive backs, using his exquisite release package to avoid contact at the line of scrimmage. With his first few steps, Smith puts himself at an advantage. Smith can run any route in the book, his smooth athleticism allowing him to break on a dime and accelerate through cuts. He uses his smooth athleticism along with high football iq to gain easy separation from defensive backs. With the ball in his hands, Smith is extremely slippery. He’s a dangerous threat in the screen game, and to take a short pass the difference. Finally, despite being a smaller receiver, Smith can still go up and fight for the ball in the air. Similar to Washington receiver Terry McLaurin, Devonta Smith can make catches players his size have no business making.

Smith’s playstyle immediately translates to success usually in the NFL, and he’ll have all of the opportunity in Philadelphia to be fed the ball. Despite being a rookie, Smith is far and away from the most talented receiver on the roster, looking the part in training camp. The Eagles are in desperate need of a true #1 wide receiver, and after trading up for Devonta Smith they’ll look to give him WR1 volume. There’s no other consistent threat on the roster, the rest of the wide receiver group a cast of inconsistent speedsters for the most part. The only big target to take away catches is most likely Dallas Goedert, and he hasn’t proven to be able to handle a superstar workload yet. 

When it comes to Smith, it’s the perfect situation of talent meets opportunity. Devonta Smith is one of the most talented receivers to enter the draft in recent years. Smith will forever go down in history books for his play in college. The way he wins is how a lot of top receivers in the league win, including last year’s rookie standout Justin Jefferson. Philadelphia has been looking for a true wide receiver #1 for years now and the opportunity is there for Smith. Devonta Smith in Philadelphia can be a special player for years to come.

2021 Fantasy Football rookie outlook

Which NFL rookies will break out this year?

By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)

A feeling of excitement is in the air, as NFL training camps are underway and the inaugural preseason game is in the books. Last Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game marked the beginning of the league’s 102nd season, and it will be the second straight year taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every year, perhaps the most exciting part of training camp is getting to finally see new rookies in action on an NFL practice field. For those rookies, training camp is crucial to learn their new systems and develop as players, and the practices also allow fans to get inside glimpses into how the preparation is going. As usual, many rookies will have an immediate impact in the NFL and in fantasy football, while others will take a while to develop and some may never have a significant impact in the fantasy world. In this article, I’ll be analyzing some rookies to target, rookies to avoid, and other interesting names that you should know heading into your fantasy draft.

Rookies to Target

1. Ja’Marr Chase (WR, Cincinnati Bengals)

Chase is considered perhaps one of the best wide receiver prospects we’ve seen in the last decade, and for good reason. There really aren’t any major flaws in Chase’s college film, and opting out of the 2020 season allowed him to focus on minor refinements that presumably made him a more complete receiver. With a great release, excellent hands, and electric speed, he should step in right away as an impactful NFL receiver.

Reuniting with his college quarterback in Joe Burrow is a major plus for Chase’s fantasy value, and the immediate connection between the pair, as well as the draft capital (#5 overall) spent on Chase implies that he will soon be the Bengals’ top wideout. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are both very good receivers as well, but neither of them have the same explosiveness, athletic traits, and dominating play style of Chase. Burrow was also on a 16-game pace of 646 passing attempts last year, a number that would’ve been close to the top of the league. With A.J. Green no longer in the fold, that number is plenty to support all three Bengals wide receivers, and Chase’s upside means he projects to be the best of the bunch in year one and beyond.

2. Javonte Williams (RB, Denver Broncos)

The Broncos made sure to acquire Williams in this year’s draft, moving up five spots to #35 overall and getting the guy they’d set their sights on. Williams will have to compete with Melvin Gordon for the lead role in the Broncos backfield, but his abilities as a tackle-breaker and a pass-catcher mean that he could soon be a three-down back for the team.

Gordon will be a free agent after this year, so it seems obvious that the Broncos would consider Williams to be their future. It gets trickier to project Williams’ 2021 playing time, but his punishing running style means that he could see the field early and often. Williams had easily the highest tackle-breaking rate in the FBS last year, and if that translates to the NFL level, it could mean staggering efficiency, which is something we don’t always see from pure north-south runners.

Strength-of-schedule can be a stat that changes drastically mid-season, but even so, the Broncos’ late-season schedule can still be considered a cause for excitement. After their Week 11 bye, Denver only plays one team above the bottom 10 in points per game allowed, setting Williams up for a potential backfield takeover at a perfect time. We could see a Jonathan-Taylor type breakout from Williams in Weeks 12-17, and league-winning performances in those weeks would certainly make up for a potentially slow start to the year (which may not even happen, given camp reports saying he’s expected to compete right away). Overall, Williams’ talent combined with circumstances could yield a great year for him in fantasy, which is why he’s more than worth a selection at his RB27 price.

3. DeVonta Smith (WR, Philadelphia Eagles)

Smith has a major opportunity to step up in Philadelphia, and in my opinion, he should’ve been picked over Jaylen Waddle at #6 overall. Smith and Chase have many similar traits, as Smith also has consistent hands and gets off the line fast. However, Smith is arguably the better route runner of the two consistency-wise, which then leads to the sensible assumption that the sole reason Smith dropped in the draft was his BMI.

At 6’0″, 174 pounds (166 at his combine), Smith’s weight is lower than essentially every successful wide receiver ever, even weighing in lower than players such as Marvin Harrison and Will Fuller. However, as the first WR to win the Heisman Trophy in 29 years, Smith has established that he’s an outlier at the position. Smith stayed in great health throughout a grueling SEC season last year, and the concerns about injury risk tend to be overblown when you consider that he only missed two games due to injury in his entire college career. Now in the NFL, he should have a great chance at immediately being the Eagles’ top receiver, as his only major competitor for targets is likely to be tight end Dallas Goedert. If he starts for most of the year (which, barring injury, he almost certainly will), he has the potential to be a top-20 fantasy wide receiver, making his current WR39 FantasyPros price feel like his absolute floor.

4. Elijah Moore (WR, New York Jets)

At WR62 on FantasyPros, Moore is set up to be a tremendous value, one that you can get at the very back of your draft. Moore has top-30 WR upside in this new-look Jets’ offense, and while his true breakout isn’t likely to happen in 2021, he still has lots of potential to make noise alongside fellow rookie Zach Wilson.

Wilson’s arm talent allows him to place throws where only his receivers can get it, which is a perfect match for Moore, a speedy receiver with excellent hands and pure, consistent route-running ability. Corey Davis, a veteran, will likely be Wilson’s favorite target early in the season, but Moore’s superior big-play ability will likely translate into a higher target share as the season goes on. Moore could easily end up being the #1 target for New York, but even if he’s not, he can still succeed as the WR2 in what’s likely to be a pass-first offense. Moore has the ability to score long touchdowns and make big plays, but he also was consistently an open target at Ole Miss, which could mean big things for him in the NFL.

Rookies to Avoid

1. Michael Carter (RB, New York Jets)

Carter is not a terrible player to take a shot on late in drafts, but the fourth-round RB is inexplicably ranked 19 spots ahead of Tevin Coleman, who is likely to have more success this year. Fourth-round RBs have an extremely low hit rate, so it makes much more sense to project New York reliance on Coleman, who has a solid 4.2 career yards per carry.

2. Rondale Moore (WR, Arizona Cardinals)

Moore is currently FantasyPros’ WR72, and at that price, he’s a fine player to take a shot on. However, I wouldn’t expect a breakout season from him this year. Christian Kirk is already established as a valuable piece for this Cardinals team, and with the addition of A.J. Green this offseason, it could be difficult for Moore to find a role in the offense.

Moore is incredibly fast, and his burst may be unmatched by any receiver in this draft class. However, he isn’t a dominating type of player, and his speed often is the only tool he uses to win matchups. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all for his potential success in the NFL, but it seems likely that this skill set will primarily be a situational one in 2021. As a gadget guy, Moore will be able to throw defenses off balance, but his skill set doesn’t project to him being a high-volume receiver, which could cause him to be inconsistent and disappointing for your fantasy team. Moore certainly has tons of talent, and he could even become a player similar to Tyreek Hill at some point, but we’ve seen many recent examples of speed being overhyped in the NFL (Andy Isabella, Jalen Reagor, Henry Ruggs, etc.), which is why Moore carries a lot of risk and not a ton of reward for this year.

3. Trey Sermon (RB, San Francisco 49ers)

Sermon, who the 49ers selected in the 3rd round of this year’s draft, has some upside, and in the long-term, he could be a very solid RB. However, it’ll be difficult for him to carve out a role this year given the amount of backfield competition in San Francisco.

Raheem Mostert will be a free agent after this year, so Sermon will have an opportunity to be this team’s lead back in the future. However, it’s hard to see him becoming the clear lead back in 2021 while competing with Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and others for touches. The 49ers like to use a running-back-by-committee approach, and Kyle Shanahan likes to run with the hot hand, an approach that can favor a healthy Mostert, who is extremely explosive and efficient. As a third-round RB, Sermon’s hit probability is also much lower than someone like Javonte Williams, so it’s probably unwise to expect a ton from him year one. He’s a fine late-round flier, but his RB35 FantasyPros ranking likely means someone in your league will put at least somewhat of a premium pick on him, which just doesn’t appear worth it in redraft.

Other Names to Know

Kyle Pitts (TE, Atlanta Falcons)

Pitts is an incredible athlete, and he’s in consideration as perhaps the best tight-end prospect in the history of the NFL. Pitts became the first non-QB off the board when the Falcons selected him at #4 overall, and at 6’6″ and 240 pounds, he has the perfect build for a dominating tight end. His athleticism means he can be a vertical dominating threat who can win 50 50 balls consistently, and he has a willingness and an underrated talent for blocking as well, which can’t even be said about some of the league’s better tight ends. However, almost every rookie at the tight end position doesn’t immediately have a massive target share in year one. Pitts’ generational talent means that he could be a superstar right out of the gate, but the early-season risk places him as my TE6 overall for this year.

Travis Etienne (RB, Jacksonville Jaguars)

Etienne is a frustrating case because the Jaguars’ selection of him at #25 overall placed him into what should be a heated backfield battle with fellow RB James Robinson. Robinson shined in his rookie season after going undrafted last year, but the addition of Etienne likely means he won’t handle close to the historically high snap share that came his way last season. The Jaguars will be better as a team this year, which should help both RBs, but the fact remains that they both are talented, and they will continuously eat into each other’s workloads. Etienne’s main breakout will be in the second half of the year when he’s gotten some NFL experience, but even then, a true emergence could be difficult to pull off given Robinson’s presence. Due to all of this, Etienne is my #28 fantasy RB for next year, and while he does have some upside, his risk is too high for me to want him as my RB2.

Rashod Bateman (WR, Baltimore Ravens)

Bateman, the Ravens’ first-round wide receiver out of Minnesota, is an electric player with many highlight-reel-worthy plays on his college tape. However, he will, unfortunately, be part of a Ravens offense that just doesn’t throw the ball enough to give Bateman tons of upside. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had 376 pass attempts in 15 games last year. In contrast, Bengals QB Joe Burrow had 28 more attempts while playing in just 10 games. This limited volume will cap Bateman’s ceiling and limit his consistency, and with an elite tight end in Mark Andrews already established as this offense’s top target, it’ll be hard for the rookie to breakthrough in year one. Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins will also fight for the team’s #2 role, and fourth-round pick Tylan Wallace is in the mix as well. All of these factors don’t necessarily mean Bateman won’t succeed, but they certainly make it much more difficult for him to be consistently productive in fantasy.

Jaylen Waddle (WR, Miami Dolphins)

Waddle is joining a confusing situation in Miami, and although he will reunite with Tua Tagovailoa, his college QB, there are a lot of question marks surrounding his fantasy potential. Tua’s inconsistency last year is one cause for concern, and while we know he has lots of arm talent, it remains to be seen if he can produce at the NFL level. Another issue for Waddle will be the Dolphins’ supporting cast. Will Fuller and Mike Gesicki should both handle significant receiving work, and with DeVante Parker, Myles Gaskin, Preston Williams, and Albert Wilson also vying for targets, it could be difficult for Waddle to carve out an established role. Finally, while Waddle is an electric player, he’s not necessarily a very complete WR. His hands are a major question mark, and this could cause him to become more of a gadget guy for the team, with a large portion of his touches coming at or near the line of scrimmage. Gadget roles usually aren’t overly consistent on a week-to-week basis, and while manufactured touches could help his touch share overall, they may not be reliable enough to immediately help your team this year. In the dynasty, Waddle will have much more time to develop a significant offensive role, but for this year, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome, which is why his immediate production potential appears limited.

First-Round QBs

All five first-round quarterbacks could make a fantasy impact this year, but it’s not necessarily likely that any single one will put up amazing stats in Year 1. Trevor Lawrence is the consensus rookie QB1 for redraft, and while he has a good arm and some rushing upside, he doesn’t have the same rushing explosiveness as players like Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. Lawrence has solid weapons in Jacksonville, but overall, there’s not really a reason to believe that he should be drafted above other established veterans at the position. Zach Wilson’s arm talent is incredible, but coming from a non-Power Five school in BYU could mean that it takes him some time to adjust at the NFL level. Trey Lance has great rushing upside, but he’s unlikely to start immediately for the 49ers, as they seem quite comfortable with Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter for now. I’d expect Lance, this year’s #3 overall pick, to see the field at some point this year, but it seems assured that he won’t provide a full year of fantasy production. The same thing applies to Justin Fields, who has great arm talent and speed. Fields also was an inconsistent decision-maker against the blitz in college, and those issues could be exacerbated when facing NFL defenses. Finally, Mac Jones of New England is likely to see the field least out of this group, and while he is an accurate passer, his rushing upside is extremely minimal, which will make it tough for him to provide big fantasy weeks.

Overall, there are many intriguing storylines to consider when evaluating rookies for your fantasy draft. I tend to believe that rookies are generally undervalued in redraft, which is why I have more major players to target than to avoid. Drafting rookies gives you a lot of upsides, and while they may disappoint early in the year, many will come through in a big way later on. That early-season disappointment can also give you a perfect buy-low window on some rookies, and while many will be good from the start of the year, others can sometimes be acquired for extremely low prices, making them likely to pay off on investment. Overall, you should make sure to have a good evaluation on a rookie and their surrounding players before making a selection. However, with the right knowledge, targeting rookies can be a great strategy to aid your chances of winning your fantasy league.

Top Five Fantasy Values for 2021

Which players are underrated in fantasy?

By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)

Fantasy drafts will soon be upon us, and the beginning of July marks the time for committed fantasy players to begin draft preparation. As always, the ins and outs of this year’s ADP (average draft position) have dominated the discussion, and while consensus rankings usually do a good job of valuing players, there are always many who are being underrated (and overrated) in fantasy drafts. In this article, I’ll be giving my opinions on just that. Below are my top five fantasy value picks for 2021.

5. John Brown (WR, Las Vegas Raiders)

What if I told you that the clear #1 WR for a team is ranked as the WR58 in the FantasyPros ECR? You wouldn’t believe me, right? Well, just look at where Raiders WR John Brown is currently ranked. I currently have Brown 14 spots ahead of that ranking, a much more fitting spot for a player who produced upper-tier-WR2 numbers in Buffalo just two years ago.

Last year, Brown was still good when healthy, but he struggled mightily with injuries, and the presence of Stefon Diggs in the Bills’ offense was a slight damper on Brown’s opportunity potential. Now, he has signed a contract to be the presumed WR1 in Vegas, a team that desperately needs help at the position after the first-year flops of Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. Those players still have some potential and shouldn’t be completely written off, but the receiver you should want in that offense is the 31-year-old Brown, who has already had success as the number one wide receiver in an offense.

Two years ago in Buffalo, Brown caught 72 passes for 1,060 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games played, finishing as the WR15 in Weeks 1-16. Brown is an explosive receiver who is good at catching deep balls, so if he stays healthy, he could certainly put up similar numbers again. Raiders QB Derek Carr isn’t the greatest player ever by any means, but he definitely isn’t terrible, and Brown put up those 2019 numbers with an inconsistent Josh Allen, who had just a 58.8% completion percentage that year. Even if you don’t think Brown has the potential of two years ago, his current WR58 price is just way too low, and he should be a must-add in all fantasy drafts because of it.

4. Marvin Jones (WR, Jacksonville Jaguars)

Jones slots in at WR48 on FantasyPros, making him yet another WR1 in an offense who is ranked too low. I have Jones ranked as my WR38, and I believe that, like Brown, he has the potential to be a WR2 in fantasy.

Jones was actually the fantasy WR5 from Weeks 7-17, and he showed during that stretch that he could handle a WR1 workload with Kenny Golladay out. Even if you remove Week 17 (he had 11 catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns that week), he only drops to the WR10 in that stretch. Now, he joins a Jacksonville team that has recently received a major QB upgrade in the form of Trevor Lawrence.

Fellow Jags WR D.J. Chark has struggled since his breakout at the beginning of 2019, and while slot WR Laviska Shenault is talented, he hasn’t proven that he can have success as a target hog like Jones did in 2020. Jones will have the best opportunity out of the three to gain an immediate connection with Lawrence, an opportunity that he will deserve given his past production. Jones has been consistently underrated in fantasy for years now, but now that he’s shown off his true potential, he may be in his most undervalued spot yet in 2021.

3. DeVonta Smith (WR, Philadelphia Eagles)

The reasoning behind the pick of Smith (the FantasyPros WR40) is very similar to the rationale behind selecting Marvin Jones and John Brown at their respective values. However, Smith may have the highest potential of them all, due to the enormous availability of targets in Philadelphia.

In Vegas, Brown will still have to compete with superstar TE Darren Waller for opportunities, and like I said before, Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards shouldn’t be completely written off. In Jacksonville, Jones is competing with two other receivers who, while unproven or inconsistent, have shown flashes of being good in the NFL. Smith, who was selected with the #10 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, has virtually no competition for targets, and therefore has the ceiling of an alpha WR in Year 1.

Smith, who is currently my fantasy WR30, has all the traits necessary to be an alpha for Jalen Hurts. His route-running, field awareness, and hands are all excellent, and he should mesh immediately with an Eagles team that needs major help at the WR position. His size is a concern for some, but Smith was the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in two decades, so it’s already been established that he’s an outlier. Smith was the pick that Miami should’ve made at #6, but he ended up falling to Philly, and as a result, he could see a massive workload in Year 1, giving him plenty of fantasy potential.

2. Javonte Williams (RB, Denver Broncos)

It’s possible Williams doesn’t produce for fantasy at the very beginning of the year, but once he becomes Denver’s starter, he could break out, much like Jonathan Taylor in 2020. Williams has an extremely dominant running style, and he was easily the best tackle-breaker in college football last year.

Williams’ ability to stay balanced and run defenders over is matched by very few players in the NFL. When you combine that ability with the fact that he’s also a solid pass-catcher, you get a complete three-down skill set, which could mean that Williams gets a heavy workload even in year one. Melvin Gordon is a talented player, but the Broncos traded up for Williams for a reason, and it’s because they know he has the potential to be a great running back. If Williams has any sort of consistent breakout in any part of the season, he could easily be worth it at his RB28 FantasyPros rank, and he could produce like an RB1 late in the year.

1. Kenny Golladay (WR, New York Giants)

Golladay’s WR23 FantasyPros ranking is truly a travesty, and his potential role in the Giants’ offense could genuinely make him a top-five fantasy receiver in 2021. This isn’t at all meant to say that Golladay will undoubtedly be top five, but him and Daniel Jones have the potential to make a connection that could be lethal for fantasy and real life.

As the clear #1 option in New York, there’s really no possible way that Golladay finishes outside of the top 24 fantasy receivers unless he gets injured, which basically shows that he is currently being drafted at his absolute floor. Even if Daniel Jones continues to be inconsistent, Golladay will still be the most reliable option for the Giants, so his target share would likely be enough to put him in WR2 territory anyway. However, there’s reason to believe that Jones will take a step up this year.

The addition of Golladay, an excellent contested-catch receiver, gives Jones a WR1 talent that he’s never had in his NFL career. On top of that, Jones graded out as NextGen Stats’ best deep-ball passer in 2020 (he went 19-39 with 636 yards, 5 TDs, no INTs, and a +14.8 completion percentage above expectation on 20+ air yard throws). Turnovers have been a problem for Jones at times, but he began to make smarter decisions (ex: not forcing as many throws) in 2020, and the Golladay signing will let him get away with more risky passes anyway.

As mentioned already, there is virtually no competition for downfield targets in this Giants offense. Golladay could easily see 150+ passes thrown his way this year, and a target share that high wouldn’t be surprising with Jones getting a dominating receiver for the first time in his career. Even if Jones falls short of his potential, Golladay is still good enough to perform at ADP. However, his potential and ceiling is very high, and if Jones is able to make a leap in Year 3, Golladay’s breakout could resemble the one we saw from 2020 Stefon Diggs.

STOP the hate for Heisman winner DeVonta Smith

Former Heisman winner DeVonta Smith is the real deal

By: Brady Atkins

January 8, 2018. The day when the legend of Devonta Smith was born, hurtling through the universe on a ball of fire and spectacularly crashing through the roof of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in a moment that would send ripples through the football landscape.

A second and 26 overtime prayer turned national championship highlight would create legacies. On one play, a deep-ball dime caught in stride at the goal line, the Alabama Crimson Tide were able to topple their newest challenger to their never-ending dynasty, the Georgia Bulldogs, and in comeback fashion no less. They were able to reassert themselves as the unquestioned rulers of college football.

In doing so, a freshman Tua Tagovailoa worked his way into the hearts of Crimson Tide fans across the state of Alabama, and into the minds of NFL scouts across the country, going from Jalen Hurts’ promising young backup to a championship-winning star quarterback in a moments notice. For Hurts, this game would redefine his legacy as well, getting benched in favor of Tagovailoa in 2018, only to rewrite the script by transferring to the Oklahoma Sooners in 2019, leading to a second-place finish for the Heisman trophy, as well as a second-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

But for all the legacy-altering ramifications set in motion from just one play, perhaps none were greater than what happened for Devonta Smith, the man who ended up catching that game-winning pass. If you didn’t notice the scrawny Crimson Tide backup in his eight-catch freshman season before that play, you certainly did now. And Smith would spend the next three years of his college career making sure you remembered.

Just a few season’s time would see that scrawny Alabama backup turn into the scrawny Alabama superstar, one that used the momentum of his freshman moment in the spotlight to turn into college football’s best player. Smith’s senior season in 2020 ended with a Heisman trophy after a Herculean effort with the Crimson Tide. His 23 touchdown catches were an FBS high, his 117 receptions were an FBS high by more than 30, and his 1,856 receiving yards were an FBS high by more than 600. He was a runaway for college football’s most prestigious individual award, and became the first wide receiver to be named a Heisman winner since 1991.

Nearly three decades separate Smith’s accomplishment from his last counterpart, Michigan’s Desmond Howard. He got there through unparalleled production from an unrivaled skillset. And yet, Smith wasn’t the first player taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. He wasn’t the first pass-catcher off the board, nor the first receiver. Smith wasn’t even the first receiver taken from his own college team. That honor goes to Jaylen Waddle, picked sixth by the Miami Dolphins to Smith’s 10th overall selection by the Philadelphia Eagles.

College production isn’t necessarily a determiner of success in the NFL– but skillset has never been the question regarding Smith. Four years of college tape shows just how explosive he is off the line of scrimmage, how polished a route runner he is, how he combines the best elements of a burner who can take the top off a defense and a possession receiver that can catch every pass in his area. Smith’s talent is not why three pass catchers went before him. If skill were the only factor, Smith’s resume would be untouchable. 

Rather, it was size that kept Smith from going to any of the nine teams picking before he was selected. Devonta Smith weighed in at 166 lbs. at the Medical Combine, well below the 203 lbs. average weight of the NFL receiver. As Smith was examined further under the unbelievably-scrutinizing lens of the NFL Draft, questions of his durability at the pro level began to form. Some NFL teams began to wonder whether or not Smith’s talent was worth rolling the dice on with concerns about his durability beginning to control the narrative.

Some NFL teams need to stop overthinking Devonta Smith.

What Devonta Smith does well

When the Eagles traded up to draft Devonta Smith, they brought a man who does it all to Philadelphia to fill a desperate team need. After their previous four draft classes saw the franchise select a total of five wide receivers, two of which were picked in the first two rounds of their respective classes, the Eagles are hoping that Smith provides better luck than that group of five that has combined for a total of just 88 catches and 1,274 yards for the franchise.

For comparison, Justin Jefferson, who was selected one pick after the Eagles drafted a first-round receiver in 2020, finished his rookie season with 88 catches and 1,400 yards of his own. But with Devonta Smith, the Eagles won’t be adding just another developmental player with one defining trait. Rather, drafting Smith will give Philadelphia a receiver who used a variety of elite skills to dominate college football in 2020.

Coming into the 2021 NFL Draft, Smith was leaving behind a legacy with the Alabama Crimson tide unrivaled by anyone before him. His 235 career receptions, 3,965 receiving yards, and 46 touchdowns were all good enough for first place on the all-time Alabama leaderboards, a school that saw receiving talents like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Amari Cooper, and Julio Jones all take the field before him. 

What led to Smith catapulting above the NFL first-round picks before him was a playing style that emulates the best traits from each of those players. What defined Jerry Jeudy and Amari Cooper coming out of college was their elite route-running ability, which Smith has shown plenty of through his four college years.

It’s not the highlight-reel cuts or ankle-breaking moves that make Smith such a nightmare to stick with in coverage, but rather, it’s the general mastery of the craft that the receiver possesses, showing it in the subtlety of his movement and the ease of his release off the line of scrimmage. Time after time, and particularly as a senior, Smith showed an ability to beat defenders with quick-moving feet, an immediate release into the route, and the subtle art of eye contact, staring his defenders down rather than turning his head where the route was going to progress, not cluing them in on where he was going next.

Henry Ruggs’ unmistakable trait in college was his track-star speed. At the 2020 NFL Combine, Ruggs ran a 4.27 second 40-yard dash, the fastest time of anyone that year, tied for the sixth-fastest time in the history of the event. And, no, Smith does not have 4.2 speed. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t play faster than just about anyone on the field.

When Smith wasn’t beating cornerbacks with his refined route-running talent, he could be found blowing directly past them with straight-line speed. The quickness of Smith shows in how the Crimson Tide featured him on offense as well. In the 2020 National Championship against Ohio State, five of Smith’s 12 first-half catches came on screen passes behind the line of scrimmage. Three of those five were for first downs, two of which were gains over 10 yards, while the other two resulted in goal line touchdowns.

It was a similar story in the College Football Playoff game before the match against Ohio State. Two of Smith’s seven Rose Bowl catches against Notre Dame were caught behind the line and turned into gains over 20 yards, one of which went for a touchdown. 

Of course, with three Alabama offensive linemen being taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Crimson Tide made a habit of impeccable blocking– but Smith’s dominance on quick catch-and-run passes was more than simply Alex Leatherwood and Deonte Brown mowing defenders down. This was the Alabama offense recognizing that Smith, with a head of steam and the ball in his hands, is a big play waiting to happen.

Cooper and Jeudy were route-running specialists, Ruggs was a speed guy, but the book Julio Jones in college was that he was a guy that did just about everything well. You could say the same for Devonta Smith as well.

Smith is a speedy guy with the hands of an elite possession receiver. Time and time again with the Alabama offense, Smith could be seen making acrobatic, contested catches, with two hands or one, being a safety valve to the level where you would be hard-pressed to find a drop on his film.

Smith is an elite college route runner with the sideline awareness to match. What made those acrobatic catches even more special is that oftentimes they came at the boundary of the field. In 2020 especially, Smith displayed an ability to track down the ball, reel it in through contact and coverage, and get a foot (sometimes even two) down in bounds. 

Smith is everything you could daydream about in a receiver prospect. His raw traits are among the best in the class, but his understanding of the game and refined style of play is what sets him apart. There is, however, one thing about Smith that draws red flags.

Size, Durability, and the Randomness of Injury

Devonta Smith is tiny. 

It’s a positive when you can come in as a prospect with just one defined weakness, but when that weakness is in your ability to stay on the field, it could mean that all the talent you possess in other aspects of the game are wasted in the medical tent.

So when Smith came in below 170 lbs, it became a talking point, and a concern for some NFL franchises. For as undeniably gifted as Smith is, football is an unforgivably brutal sport. Can Smith’s physical build allow him to stay on the field for the Eagles?

Well, yeah. 

Injury concerns are real, but they haven’t been present in Smith’s career up to this point. In fact, in four seasons with the Crimson Tide, Smith had missed just two games with an injury— and hasn’t missed a game since 2018.

The NFL is a more physical league than college, where only the biggest, fastest, and strongest are selected to play, but Smith has been playing against future NFL defenders since he first got to Alabama. Against South Carolina, Smith was forced to line up against Jaycee Horn, who was selected two picks before Smith in 2021. 

He’s faced Noah Igbinoghene from Auburn, Tyson Campbell from Georgia, Shaun Wade from Ohio State, all of whom now play on NFL rosters. He’s spent his entire college career in the SEC, a conference that has produced 21 first-round defensive draft picks over the last four seasons. And nearly every time one of those players hit Smith, he popped right back up, ready for the next down.

Being a bigger receiver does not make you immune to injuries. Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, and Davante Adams, three stars all over the average weight of 203 lbs. for NFL receivers, all missed multiple games in 2020 due to injury, while receivers below the weight line like Brandin Cooks and Emmanuel Sanders played healthy in the 2020 season.

Of course, both Sanders and Cooks have a prior history of injury. But the issues suffered by Jones and Thomas illustrate an important point– that the injury bug can come for anyone, regardless of size. In fact, it struck Devonta Smith’s teammate and the sixth overall pick in 2021, Jaylen Waddle, who missed eight games on the year due to a high ankle sprain and fracture.

Staying away from a player as talented as Smith because of an injury history can be risky. Staying away from him for an injury history that doesn’t exist, in a sport where injuries strike random players at random times to begin with, well, that’s just football negligence. 

The Safest Pick in the Draft

Devonta Smith is seen as a gamble. A high-risk, high-reward player that can either be the best player on the field or the best player watching in street clothes from the sideline. At least, that’s the perception.

But maybe Devonta Smith shouldn’t be viewed as a gamble at all. Maybe the most talented player in college football, a reigning national champion, a record-breaker, a Heisman-winner, shouldn’t be viewed as the Draft’s biggest gamble, but rather, the Draft’s safest pick.

He has the raw talent to fit into an NFL roster from Day One, and be the best player immediately on a depleted Eagles’ wide receiver depth chart. He has the refined skill and football knowledge to build on that talent as well. Devonta Smith has everything he needs to blossom into one of the best young receivers in the game, all in a slender body that hasn’t sustained a serious midseason injury in over two seasons.

Maybe one day we’ll stop overthinking talent when we see it. Maybe one day we’ll stop overthinking Devonta Smith.

Devonta Smith can revitalize the Eagles offense

By: Pat Pitts

Devnta Smith is an Eagle. How high will he fly?

The Philadelphia Eagles have not had the most success at the wide receiver position over the past few years. On Thursday night, they made a deal with the Devil down in Dallas to erase 2020’s mistake. 

The Eagles selected 2020’s Heisman winner Devonta Smith with the 10th overall pick. The pick itself was not a shock, but the Eagles following through with it was. Jalen Hurts does not just gain a receiver, but an old teammate. Chemistry does not completely disappear. 

There has been a lot of discussions around if Smith is “NFL ready” based on his measurements. At Alabama’s Pro Day, Smith weighed in at 170 lbs and measured to be six foot flat. Not the biggest kid on the playground. 

Even with being undersized, Devonta Smith fits into the Eagles offense with his route running and his versatility. 

How can Devanta Smith be the answer Eagles fans crave?

The Eagles were an offensive disaster in 2020. Between the QB controversy and lack of pass-catchers made it pretty impossible for the Eagles to produce. Wentz is gone; Hurts is in. It is a new era in Philly. 

The lack of receivers may not have been the problem. When Jalen Hurts stepped in against the New Orleans Saints, He rushed for 100+ yards, breaking a Saints record too, and proceeded to throw for 300+ yards in back-to-back games. 

Wentz did not throw for more than 242 yards in 2020. It was time for a change. 

Hurts brings explosiveness to the Eagles offense. With his style of play, he needs a reliable asset lining up next to him. Please welcome, Devanta Smith.

Devanta Smith steps into an offense that fits his style of play extremely well. Smith has one of the best route trees out of all pass catchers in the 2021 NFL Draft class. His route tree makes Hurts life a lot easier. 

Smith ran a lot of drag routes in Alabama’s offense. These routes allow the QB to dump the ball quickly if being rushed. Hurts needs a safety blanket like Smith in 2021. 

He can execute short routes well, but what about deep ones? Not a problem. 

Smith’s breakaway speed gave him a lot of space between the defender and him. He displayed his speed with his swift feet. His footwork puts defenders on skates as he passes by them with ease. 

Smith’s separation allows Hurts to air the ball out with more confidence than a year prior. In his few starts, he averaged 7.4 yards/attempt. He is not dumping it every down. He’s looking for the open receiver downfield—a different mentality than the last guy. 

Smith’s versatility acts as another reason he fits the Eagles scheme so well. He can be utilized in all types of plays. 

Jalen Hurts is not afraid to utilize the run to move the ball downfield. Hurts ability to scramble away from defenders and execute RPO’s allows Smith to thrive in the offense. 

Also, Nick Sirianni, Eagles head coach, comes from a run-heavy offense in Indy. He worked with Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, and Nyheim Hines, who have all had break-out seasons since 2019. The Eagles have a plethora of running backs for Sirianni to replicate in 2021. 

The Eagles using Smith in run plays is already an improvement from a year ago. They are capitalizing on a player’s strengths to mold the offense around him and a few others. 

Smith is the difference-maker Philadelphia needed. It is Jalen Hurt’s offense. The future of the WR core shines bright with Reagor paired alongside Smith. 

2020 was the year of losing. 2021 begins the uphill journey back to the top of the mountain. Devonta Smith needs to lead this charge unless it is back to square one for Howie.

Top Draft Targets for Eagles First Round Pick

After trading back, what are the Eagles planning in Round One?

By Michael Obermuller

Right in the middle of quarterback Zach Wilson’s Pro Day last Friday, the Miami Dolphins decided steal some headlines when they traded the No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft to the San Francisco 49ers. Of course, minutes later they made another deal, this time with the Philadelphia Eagles. When the dust settled, the new draft order looked like this:

Philadelphia now sits 12th in round one, as they were able to take advantage of Miami’s urge to trade down, but not too far down. The three-team deal also netted the Eagles an extra 2022 first rounder, something they desperately needed to rebuild their cap-stricken roster.

As for the three anticipated draft picks in question, the Eagles pick is without a doubt the hardest to figure, and not just because it’s further down in the order. The Niners have already stated their intention to draft a quarterback with the No. 3 pick. The Dolphins are expected to take one of the top wide receivers at No. 6, or possibly receiving tight end Kyle Pitts out of Florida. Philadelphia on the other hand, has the benefit of mystery on their side.

With many holes to fill, here are the top first round draft targets for Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.

3. Rashawn Slater, OT/G (Northwestern)

During their Super Bowl run, the Eagles offensive line was their greatest strength. Their rushing attacking plowed through the New England Patriots towards a championship, but it broke down after the 2017-18 season. Players like Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson are aging harshly, and injuries on the O-line have killed Philly in recent years. Rashawn Slater could be the perfect solution to this problem.

The former Northwestern Wildcat tackle is known for his versatility. Many draft scouts are projecting him as a guard in the NFL because of his size, or even a center if need be, but some still have him as a smaller tackle that relies on his athleticism and agility. The point is, Slater is intelligent enough to play pretty much anywhere on an offensive line, a major asset for a team like the Eagles that constantly has blockers miss time.

To start, Slater could help out on the left side, and possibly surpass failed first rounder Andre Dillard at left tackle, or fill-in Isaac Seumalo at left guard. Neither deserve a starting job in 2021.

2. Micah Parsons, LB (Penn State)

The top linebacker in the draft may not fall to No. 12, but if he does the Eagles should jump on the opportunity to grab him. Their linebacker core has been pretty terrible the last couple of seasons, mixing and matching journeymen like Nate Gerry, Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards and more. No offense to any of these hard-workers who have fought their way up, but none have the talent of Micah Parsons.

The Penn State Nittany Lion is an explosive playmaker with a unique style about him. He’ll likely become a MIKE-backer in the NFL, but he has the speed and awareness to play any linebacking position. With Gerry gone, Philadelphia is projecting a starting LB crew of Edwards, Singleton and Genard Avery. Parsons has the ability to slot in above any of these players on the depth chart, accumulating 109 total tackles in 2019 (14 for a loss) with 5.0 sacks and four forced fumbles.

Honorable Mention: Jaycee Horn, CB (South Carolina)

Roseman could also stand to improve on his secondary. He traded for Darius Slay last offseason, and also signed safety Anthony Harris earlier this month, but this group is not complete. Assuming Patrick Surtain II is gone, Jaycee Horn may be the next best cornerback available (Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome II might also be options). The South Carolina alum is an aggressive press-coverage CB that is not afraid to mix things up with the opposing wide receiver. He would fit right in with Philly fans.

1. DeVonta Smith, WR (Alabama)

This could also be teammate Jaylen Waddle depending on what other teams do (or even Rashod Bateman if there’s a run on the position), but the Eagles still need a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver more than anything else. DeVonta Smith is a pure route runner with sticky hands, a dream draft pick for any NFL quarterback. As a younger passer throwing to a combination of Travis Fulgham, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward Jr. and JJ Arcega-Whiteside — Jalen Hurts would be thrilled.

Alshon Jeffery was finally let go this free agency period, and DeSean Jackson has moved on as well. This wide receiving core has a lack of talent and experience. They could at least add one of those two in Smith or Waddle, the Alabama tandem that tore up college defenses. DeVonta had over 1,800 receiving yards in 2020, on 117 receptions. The speedy Waddle only played half the games, but totaled 591 yards off 28 catches.

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