When the Philadelphia Eagles traded up in the 2021 NFL draft to grab DeVonta Smith, the city rejoiced in the presence of their new savior. The franchise hasn’t had a true No. 1 wide receiver for a long time now, and that’s exactly what the Alabama product can grow to become in midnight green.
But even though Smith was a top-tier NFL draft prospect this year, concerns about his size followed him everywhere he stepped. Many experts were worried his 6-foot, 166-pound frame might not hold up in the NFL, and they may have been proven right just one week into training camp.
The Eagles drafted DeVonta Smith knowing the risks surrounding his size
Smith was an excellent wide receiver prospect entering the 2021 NFL draft. He has sure hands, runs smooth, precise routes, and can break open a game any time he touches the ball. He also won the Heisman Trophy and was a crucial part of Alabama‘s national championship run last season.
What’s not to like?
The only blemish on Smith’s impressive resume seemed to be his size. He weighed in at 6-feet and 166 pounds at the NFL Combine, but his slender figure didn’t stop him from completely dominating the college level over the past few years. Before the draft, Smith assured teams picking in the first round that his size wouldn’t be a problem at the next level, either.
“We play football. We’re in a football business. We’re not weightlifting. We’re not bodybuilders,” Smith said during an appearance on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football in April. “It’s football. That’s what we’re here for. All the other stuff is irrelevant.”
The Eagles must’ve loved his confidence and production throughout his collegiate career, so they traded up two spots in the first round to select the talented wide receiver. Even still, they had to be worried about Smith’s underwhelming size coming back to haunt them.
Smith suffers sprained MCL in training camp
Smith entered his first NFL training camp last week as the presumed No. 1 wide receiver on Philadelphia’s roster. Throughout the first few days of practice, he took first-team reps and was targeted often by Jalen Hurts in team drills. All seemed to be going well for the rookie WR.
But on Saturday, Smith left practice early with an undisclosed leg injury. The Eagles didn’t deem the injury to be serious at first, so Smith stayed on the sidelines for the remainder of the practice.
On Monday morning, Tim McManus of ESPN reported in a tweet that Smith suffered a knee sprain and is now considered week-to-week. Shortly after, Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted that the rookie wideout will be sidelined for “two to three weeks with a sprained MCL.”
With the Eagles also possibly missing out on a first-round pick due to Carson Wentz’s recent foot injury, it’s been a rough start to the week for the 2-1-5.
The Eagles’ greatest fear about Smith is already coming to fruition
The Eagles thought they hit a home run in the draft with Smith. As a team that has struggled mightily to find talented wide receivers through the draft in recent years, the Eagles badly needed to hit on a pick to help Hurts achieve his full potential as a young quarterback. Smith is the perfect fit as Hurts’ former teammate and the most complete receiver in the 2021 draft.
But Philadelphia knew the risks when it drafted Smith with the 10th overall pick. The franchise has been no stranger to injuries over the last few seasons, and it still decided to select the most fragile wideout at the top of the class.
The Eagles better hope Smith can return to practice before Week 1 and stay healthy for most of his rookie season, or he might not be the savior the team thinks he can be.