January 09, 2023
Nearly two years ago, I can recall the draft takes about Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith. A receiver with his frame couldn't hold up in the NFL!
People overthink things. If a guy balls out at college football's premier program, becoming the first wideout to win that award in almost 30 years, I'd assume that guy is going to find success at the pro level.
It's why it was a no-brainer decision for the Eagles to trade up for Smith in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Two seasons into Philly tenure, Smith has lived up to that Heisman-level promise, turning in one of the finest Eagles seasons ever by an Eagles receiver.
Smith's quiet demeanor leaves him out of the limelight. He's not a walking quote like A.J. Brown. He's overlooked as "just" a No. 2 guy even though as the Birds' season wore on, it increasingly looked like Smith was the offense's top target. Smith's 1,196 receiving yards were the ninth most in the NFL in 2022. He'd be the clear-cut No. 1 wideout on three-fourths of the league's teams.
With how splashy that Brown trade was and how much the Jalen Hurts-Brown connection has been built up since last offseason, Smith feels like a forgotten man in Philly too, not just nationally.
At 23, Smith had 64 catches, 916 yards and five TDs.
At 24, he had 95 catches, 1,196 yards and seven TDs.
The hysteria around Smith's zero-catch Week 1 performance feels like a lifetime ago.
Smith receives the prestigious honor of "who won the week in Philly sports," the first Eagle to grab my made-up award in 2023.
More on Smith, who had a historic Sunday...
On that historic note, Smith set the franchise's record for catches in a season by a wideout with 95, leaping over Irving Fryar's mark of 88 receptions back in 1996. For an Eagles team that has been starved wide receiver talent for essentially the whole 21st century outside of Terrell Owens' 2004 campaign, Smith being a star feels like he's a Hall of Famer in comparison to the likes of James Thrash, Dorial Green-Beckham and Jalen Reagor.
I would imagine he's not done etching his name in the Eagles' record book. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if he broke his own catch record in 2023. He already set the rookie receiving yards record for the team in 2021. Just throwing it out there... Harold Carmichael, watch your back with your team-best 8,978 career receiving yards.
He's far from the biggest receiver out there as the "Slim Reaper." Nor is he the fastest, but the dude is just open. Zach Ertz had been the hallmark of route-running for Eagles during my lifetime, but as a receiver of his caliber, Smith takes it to a whole different level.
Can we talk about body control and balance too?
Mike Quick was before my time, but has an Eagles receiver ever moved like this?
Devonta Smith's elegant acrobatics on loop pic.twitter.com/WgjzAzV1Vq— JetPack Galileo (@JetPackGalileo) December 27, 2022
Owens and Brown are physical forces, but everything Smith does just looks so smooth. It looks effortless.
With Brown's presence in Philly, the consensus views Smith as the team's No. 2 receiver. I don't think that really matters to these guys who are focused on the ultimate goal of winning a championship, but I'm left wondering at times if that's truly the case. It says so much about Smith that Brown might have had the greatest receiving season in team history and I'm still questioning this.
Let's cut Smith's season in half and see the way he's elevated his game:
First 9 games: 46 catches, 481 yards, 3 TDs
Last 8 games: 49 catches, 715 yards, 4 TDs)
The dude has the goods and is getting better by the week.
As much as I've discussed regular season accomplishments, the easiest way to secure your place in Eagles lore is to show up in the playoffs.
An 110-yard game against the Giants in the divisional round? Out-racing Trevon Diggs to the end zone in the NFC Conference Championship Game? Two touchdowns against Andy Reid and Kansas City in the Super Bowl? It's all in play.
Alright, let's let off some takes. Here's how I would rank the NFL's top-10 receivers:
1. Justin Jefferson
2. Davante Adams
3. Tyreek Hill
4. Ja'Marr Chase
5. Stefon Diggs
6. Cooper Kupp
7. A.J. Brown
8. Jaylen Waddle
9. DeVonta Smith
10. Deebo Samuel
Would the average NFL fan focused on gambling, "Red Zone" and fantasy say DeVonta Smith is a top-10 wideout? Probably not, but they'd be wrong!
Who Won the Week 2023 Tally:
DeVonta Smith: 1
Joel Embiid: 1
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