PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles jumped up two spots in the draft to select Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith with the 10th overall pick in the 2021 draft.
To get the dynamic Smith the Eagles leapfrogged their NFL East rival, the New York Giants by trading with another division foe. Philadelphia sent the No. 12 overall selection and No. 84 overall to Dallas to move ahead of the Giants.
Smith is the fourth Heisman Trophy winner drafted by the Eagles and first since 1965 when they took Notre Dame QB John Huarte with the 76th overall selection.
"I was shocked that they traded up for me," Smith said. "So I was really like if they traded up for me, they saw something that they liked. So I was really excited, and it was a blessing."
Known as the "Slim Reaper," Smith was college football's best playmaker in 2020, hauling in 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in what might have been the best season by a receiver in college football history for the national champion Crimson Tide. His 46 career touchdowns are an SEC record and rank No. 5 all-time in FBS history.
About the only question surrounding Smith is his size at 6-foot and a scant 166-pounds.
"I don’t too much care about what people say about my weight," Smith said. "I understand that reporters have a job. It’s their job to make a story. I just let them do their job … I can’t get mad at them for doing their job."
Eagles VP of player personnel Andy Weidl said Smith's playmaking skills overwhelmed the slight frame during the evaluation process.
"We saw a player who has a smooth maneuver," Weidl explained. "He can open up and run. A player that can win at all three levels at different alignments. I think his ability to high-point the ball, play above the rim and adjust to the football, make contested catches, really stood out."
General manager Howie Roseman was impressed with Smith's work ethic and his selflessness
"When you talk to the people at Alabama, the things that they say about this kid, they needed a corner and he goes and plays corner, and he’s as good as anyone they have … His work ethic is unbelievable," said Roseman. "His route detail. He’s got incredible length and strong hands."
Smith was a durable three-year starter at Alabama, leading the Tide in receiving each of the last two years despite sharing targets with other first-round picks like Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jaylen Waddle, who was selected sixth overall by Miami earlier on Thursday night.
The Eagles had a desperate need at the WR position after two consecutive years in which their top option of the position failed to reach even 600 yards.
Smith figures to start at the X position or split end with 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor handling the Z duties. Greg Ward reminds the top option in the slot for now.
Head coach Nick Sirianni, however, noted Smith's versatility.
"(Anchoring a guy) is just not my philosophy," said Sirianni. "I don’t believe in that. The best offenses I’ve been on have been able to move guys around. They have to know each position. What we saw in DeVonta is the ability to move around. I saw a very high football IQ when we did our meetings with him."
Smith will reunite with quarterback Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia. Hurts started his college career with the Crimson Tide before finishing in Oklahoma as the runner-up for the Heisman in 2019. The two connected 12 times for 207 yards and two TDs in two seasons together in Tuscaloosa.
"Jalen, I mean, that’s my guy," said Smith "… I have a good relationship and ready to work. I talked to him not too long ago."
Earlier this offseason Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie reportedly told his personnel department to build around Hurts at QB and Smith is the first move in that direction.
The Cowboys ended up selected Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th pick while the Giants traded down to No. 20 with the Bears after Smith was taken ultimately taking Florida WR Kadarius Toney.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen