When Howie Roseman pulled off the A.J. Brown trade on draft night, Eagles nation went into a frenzy. Philadelphia finally had a bonafide No. 1 wide receiver.
It felt like the Terrell Owens acquisition all over again, only this time, the Eagles already had a No. 1 wideout. And his name is DeVonta Smith.
No disrespect to Brown, he’s a great receiver in his own right and the Eagles desperately needed to add a complementary piece to their wide receivers room. Both he and Smith are still ascending players and the growth they could have together is tantalizing to think about.
For some reason, Smith has been overlooked ever since Brown was acquired. He just doesn’t get the love he deserves from both the local and national media. Even when he’s compared to the wideouts from his draft class, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone placing him higher than Ja’Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle.
Chase and Waddle had outstanding rookie seasons. If we look solely at the stats each player put up, it’s easy to place Smith firmly behind Chase and Waddle. But it’s important to note that Smith played in an offense that ran the ball more than any other team in the NFL last season. Not to mention, he played with a quarterback who ranked 26th in completion percentage (61.3) and only tossed 16 touchdowns.
Chase played with the highest rated quarterback per Pro Football Focus, and Waddle saw almost 40 more targets than Smith did in 2021. Nevertheless, Smith broke the Eagles rookie record for receiving yards with 916, while averaging 14.3 yards per reception and hauling in 5 touchdowns.
If Smith played with Joe Burrow or had 140 targets on the season, would his numbers be right there with both Chase and Waddle? I think so. Would either Chase or Waddle have had the same success if they played in the Eagles offense last season? I’d say no.
From top to bottom, Smith is a complete wide receiver. He has the speed to go deep. His route running may be the best in the league already. He only dropped two passes on the entire season (1.9% drop percentage). What isn’t there to love?
Brown is pretty damn good, too. This isn’t a slant piece against the newest face in the Eagles wide receiving corps. But he isn’t DeVonta Smith.
Wide receivers simply don’t win the Heisman Trophy in college football. DeVonta Smith did. He was the first wideout to win the award since Desmond Howard back in 1991.
If Smith reaches his full potential, he’ll be a Hall of Fame player. That isn’t an exaggeration.
If you don’t want to listen to me gush over why Smith is the best wideout on the team, here’s what Brown himself had to say about Smith.
If Brown is conceding the No. 1 wide receiver label to Smith, we all should.
This duo will be exciting to watch all season. But the maturation process of Smith from year one to year two may be my most anticipated story line heading into the season. The kid is going to be a problem in 2022.
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