Well, there’s no way one of pro football’s highly-touted draft prospects was going to be taken by an NFL team in the first ten picks of any selection meeting and not feel the pressure of being one of the guys the organization hoped would lead them into the future. That’s especially true in an organization like the Philadelphia Eagles.
The last time that Philly was in this position was in 2016, and they scored a red-headed quarterback with the second-overall selection, or so we thought. Carson Wentz almost won the NFL’s MVP Award in 2017 but didn’t. He won zero playoff games, owns a 24-31-1 record if you removed the 2017 season, and for some reason, he was still considered to be great when he left.
Now, while that last statement has nothing to do with DeVonta Smith. It does demonstrate that, even though these two top-ten draftees play different positions, the pressure cooker that is the Eagles fan base can be too hot for some (Wentz) to take.
The question is this. Will pressure make DeVonta Smith a pipe or a diamond?
Are Philadelphia Eagles fans placing too much pressure on DeVonta Smith?
Smith, though he’s never played a down of professional football, looks like he can handle all that Birds fans and the Philly media have to offer. We’ve seen that ‘passion’ wilt a few wide receivers around these parts (Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and even Jalen Reagor to some extent), but guys don’t catch championship-winning touchdowns on 2nd and 26 because they’re bothered by big moments (and Smith did it as a freshman).
Knowing that the Birds needed a wideout and took one in Round 1 for the second time in two seasons means there’s immediate and obvious pressure on Number 6, but is everyone placing too much on his shoulders? Recently, Around the NFL Writer Dan Hanzus named his predictions for every NFL team’s Most Valuable Player in 2021. Guess who got named for Philly.
Just in case you missed that one, here’s a snippet. How much of this would you agree with?
"Each season seems to bring us one rookie wide receiver who becomes an immediate star, so we’ll go ahead and predict DeVonta Smith as the 2021 version of Vikings prodigy Justin Jefferson. Smith won the Heisman Trophy for a reason: Hall of Fame wide receiver Isaac Bruce believes the comparisons between Smith and another Hall of Famer, Colts great Marvin Harrison, are legit. Smith clearly has the skill set to thrive at the highest level, and a look at the Philly depth chart all but ensures the former Alabama star will get a huge target share as a rookie. The Eagles are not a franchise known for producing superstar receivers. That could soon change."
To answer the above question, whether or not too much is being asked of Smith in year one, the answer is yes, but that’s life in the NFL. Philly’s screwed things up with their roster over and over again, so whether it’s fair or unfair, Smith is being asked not only to warrant the first-round designation he’ll wear forever but also to serve as a makeup date for everything else this team got wrong.
The jury is still out on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2020 draft class, but there’s hope (and time), but Philly needs immediate contribution from the 2021 class, and Smith, because he was the first player taken by Philly this year, and again the tenth player taken overall will be asked to help carry a struggling franchise on his shoulders, even if he isn’t responsible for the mess this team is in.
The Eagles have drafted seven wide receivers over the course of the last five offseasons, including a second-rounder in 2019’s draft and a first-rounder in 2020. That makes the fact that they’d even need to utilize another first-round selection on yet another wideout in 2021 inexcusable. No one’s going to complain about DeVonta Smith being here though.
He’s what this team has hoped they’d get for quite some time now, and his presence should make others better, including Jalen Reagor who can now grow and flourish in the role that he was born to play (Robin to someone else’s Batman), but let’s say this in fairness.
If Smith has to wear so much of the pressure, then he should also reap the benefits of whatever success this team has. Could he earn a Pro Bowl nod? Might he earn PFWA All-Rookie Team honors? Time will tell, but if Hanzus is right and we’re talking about DeVonta Smith being a Philadelphia Eagles team MVP at the season’s end, Birds fans everywhere are likely to throw a party. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.