Devonta Smith

Draft Notes: Fields, Giants, Saints, Cowboys

Penei Sewell loomed as the Panthers‘ first-round target, but when the Lions selected the Oregon tackle, Albert Breer of SI.com notes the team moved into a Jaycee Horn-vs.-Justin Fields debate. The Panthers’ need at cornerback — in a division featuring the likes of Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin — helped steer them to Horn. Fields, who went three picks later after the Bears traded up for him, was in the mix. The Panthers did not want to force a quarterback investment, Breer adds. While GM Scott Fitterer indicated the Panthers could take a quarterback even after trading for Sam Darnold, the team expressed considerable interest in Deshaun Watson prior to off-field issues squashing his trade market. A Fields pick would have made revisiting that pursuit more difficult. It cannot be assumed the embattled Texans quarterback will be available anytime soon, but the Panthers did not take themselves out of a potential market Thursday night.

Entering Round 2, here is the draft latest:

  • The Eagles were correct in assuming the Giants were planning to select DeVonta Smith at No. 11. Big Blue would have taken the Alabama superstar there, Breer notes. Howie Roseman engineered an intra-NFC East trade-up with the Cowboys, moving up two spots for Smith. The Eagles, whose Week 17 quarterback strategy came under fire re: the Giants’ unusual playoff pursuit, saw another move of theirs affect Big Blue. Philly pair Smith with 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor. The Giants still took a wideout at No. 20 (Kadarius Toney).
  • Prior to the Bears executing a successful trade-up with the Giants, moving from No. 20 to No. 11, they discussed a likely similar deal with the Cowboys, per Breer. The Cowboys did not want to take themselves out of adding a player on whom they placed a first-round grade; sliding down to 20 may well have done that. Dallas ended up with Micah Parsons at 12.
  • The Giants were busy at No. 11. Ahead of Dave Gettleman‘s first-ever trade-down (in nine drafts as a GM), he heard from the Vikings and Saints, Breer adds. The Saints, who had already seen top targets Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II drafted, were linked to quarterbacks as well. New Orleans did offer one future first-round pick but did not include a second future first-rounder in its trade-up proposals. As a result, the Saints did not come particularly close to trading up Thursday. After the Chargers drafted Rashawn Slater, the Vikings ended up trading down.
  • After the Ravens traded their second-round pick to the Chiefs in the Orlando Brown deal, Eric DeCosta does not expect to move back into the round, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Ravens did not make any trades Thursday night, winding up with Rashod Bateman and Odafe Oweh.
  • Some teams are not comfortable with Alabama center Landon Dickerson‘s medcials, per ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). The Steelers are one of the teams a bit leery on Dickerson, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. Pittsburgh saw 11-year center Maurkice Pouncey retire this offseason. While the team has multiple lower-profile replacement candidates — B.J. Finney and J.C. Hassenauer — Dickerson will enter the NFL as a high-end prospect, albeit one coming off a December ACL tear.

Eagles Acquire No. 10 From Cowboys, Select Alabama WR DeVonta Smith

Two division rivals have made a trade. The Cowboys have traded No. 10 to the Eagles, with Philly sending No. 12 and a 2021 third-round pick (No. 84) to Dallas. The Eagles will select Alabama wideout DeVonta Smith with their new selection.

Smith broke onto the scene following a standout junior campaign, but he took it to another level in 2020. The wideout finished the campaign having collected 24 touchdowns and 1,862 yards from scrimmage, culminating in him earning the Heisman Trophy (along with a number of other accolades). This performance resulted in Smith leaping up the draft board, and the wideout was naturally connected to a long list of teams leading up to the NFL Draft.

Smith was generally viewed as one of the three best wide receivers in this year’s class — somewhere behind Ja’Marr Chase and neck-and-neck with teammate Jaylen Waddle. While Waddle is known for his high-end speed, Smith has drawn rave reviews for his soft hands, intangibles, and ability to win 50/50 balls. A dislocated finger (including torn ligaments) led to some brief concern leading up to the draft, but Smith is reportedly healing fine from his injury.

Philly is a great spot for a rookie wideout, as the team struggled to find consistency from their receivers grouping this season. Smith should quickly climb the depth chart, especially considering he played alongside quarterback Jalen Hurts in college. Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham currently top Philly’s receivers depth chart.

We previously heard that the Cowboys front office was split on cornerbacks Jaycee Horn (South Carolina) and Patrick Surtain II (Alabama). Those two players went at No. 8 and No. 9, so Dallas decided to pick up an extra pick instead of settle for a player they didn’t love.

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Eagles GM Discusses Trading Back, Draft Flexibility, Owner

The Eagles have already made headlines this offseason when they traded the No. 6 pick to the Dolphins for No. 12 and a future first. While the front office might not be done trading, they’re making their final preparations for the draft. Armed with 11 picks, the Eagles have the most flexibility they’ve had in the draft in several years, and executive vice president/general manager Howie Roseman recognizes how crucial it is to be ready for whatever opportunities present themselves.

Speaking alongside executive Andy Weidl and head coach Nick Sirianni during a press conference today, Roseman provided some notable details on why the Eagles decided to trade down, how they plan to proceed with all of their picks, and how the team owner is involved throughout the process (h/t to Dave Spadaro and Vaughn Johnson of the team’s website and Zach Berman of the The Athletic):

On the front office’s logic for trading back from No. 6 to No. 12:

“Flexibility creates opportunity. When you go back and look at things that are hard to acquire, that’s one of the toughest things to acquire, a team’s first-round pick in the following year.

“What we really had to do is sit there and go, who are the 12 best players in this draft that we would feel really good about? Are there 12 players in this draft that we really feel good about? That’s what we’re going to do throughout this draft. If you move back, it’s because you feel like you have a bunch of guys that are the same value and to be really happy getting one and getting the extra volume from that pick. If you move up, it’s because your board kind of drops off at that point.

“You have to feel like you’re getting a premium and we felt like we were getting a premium to do that.”

On the front office’s preparation for the draft, especially considering they’re armed with 11 draft picks:

“The process this year with the coaches, with the scouts, has allowed us to really sit down and talk about a lot of these things and figure out the best way to maximize our 11 picks in this draft. We’re really excited about the opportunity to add to this football team next week.”

On how the team overcame the limitations presented by COVID when evaluating prospects:

“Our coaches did an unbelievable job of taking all the guys that we would have interviewed at the Combine in Indianapolis and would have had here in Philadelphia and interviewing all of those guys.

“So just really appreciative of coach and his staff to take all the time to do that, and we continue to do the other things that we do, the psychological reports, and put ourselves in the best possible situation for next week.”

On whether the Eagles would consider Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, who finished last year with 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns, despite him only weighing in at 166 pounds:

“Good players come in all shapes and sizes, and so we’re not going to discriminate based on any of those things.”

On owner Jeffrey Lurie’s role in the draft process:

“He’s there to make sure that he’s looking through our process, and if he’s got any questions about why we’re doing things, we’re going to go and have those discussions about why the process looks like it does, why our draft board — just based on the descriptions that the coaches and the scouts are giving of this player. He’s taking notes on those. Those aren’t his evaluations, those are based on the coaches and scouts and making sure they fit in terms of what he’s looking for from that value, that spot. If we’re talking about a guy in the first round and we’re talking about him as a role player, he may stand up and say, ‘Wait a minute, is that really what we’re looking for in a first-round pick?’ He’s not saying this is my opinion, this guy is a role player or not. In terms of his role in the draft room, the draft room, 90 percent of the time, the work is done. It’s all done, and you’re just picking them off based on where it is.”

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Dolphins Open To Drafting DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle?

A report earlier this offseason indicated the Dolphins wanted to add a boundary wide receiver and a slot target. The team checked off the first of those boxes by signing Will Fuller and may be preparing to finish this mission in Round 1.

Rumblings of another Dolphins trade-down maneuver have surfaced, with the team appearing open to moving down again — perhaps if another team wants to fork over major assets for a quarterback. The Dolphins would be put to a decision in this case, because they may not want to move down too far. The team would not mind ending up with one of the two Alabama wide receivers — DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — if Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase are not available, according to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson.

Both Pitts and Chase be gone by the time the Dolphins go on the clock at No. 6. The Bengals continue to be linked to Chase at No. 5. If Pitts is still there at 6, the Dolphins should be expected to draft him, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). But if the Dolphins believe they can land Smith or Waddle a bit later than 6, the right offer could prompt the team to pull the trigger on a trade before the draft.

Should both the Alabama prospects be available whenever the Dolphins’ first pick ends up, Albert Breer of SI.com notes the team is believed to be high on Waddle.

Miami acquired a bounty from San Francisco late last month, collecting the No. 12 pick, two future first-rounders and a 2021 third for the No. 3 selection. The Dolphins may be preparing to capitalize on another quarterback-needy team. A team like the Broncos, who hold pick No. 9 and have discussed moving up, may be a fit for another Dolphins trade-down maneuver. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay’s latest ESPN mock draft has Waddle and Smith falling to the Nos. 11 and 12 spots.

Climbing back from 12 to 6, however, via the trade with the Eagles seemingly indicates the Dolphins want to equip Tua Tagovailoa with another weapon. Tagovailoa played with Smith and Waddle at Alabama; each of his former Crimson Tide teammates would be a major upgrade for the Dolphins and would join Fuller and DeVante Parker in a formidable receiver group.

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Giants Could Still Consider WR In First Round

While the Giants have been busy adding to their wideout corps this offseason, that doesn’t mean they won’t add to the position via the draft. In fact, they could consider selecting a wide receiver with their first-round pick (No. 11 overall). Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes that the Giants spending spree at the position “does not preclude the Giants from taking a wide receiver in the first round of this draft.”

The team made one of the biggest splashes in free agency by adding Kenny Golladay on a lucrative $72MM deal, and they signed speedy wideout John Ross, as well. This duo will join a core that features 2020 starters Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, as well as intriguing young options like C.J. Board and Dante Pettis. In other words, Daniel Jones should have plenty of targets to throw to next season, and co-owner John Mara previously seemed to imply that the team’s free agent success means the organization won’t be as tempted to add a wideout during the draft.

“It also takes pressure off of us going into the draft,” Mara told Schwartz when discussing the Golladay signing. “We don’t have to take a receiver in Round 1 or Round 2, we can sit there and just take the best player available when it comes to our spot. I think that’s another reason why it was so important to us.’’

Still, as Schwartz writes, the Giants will certainly be intrigued by a receiver depending on who’s on the board when it’s their time to make a selection. Specifically, the reporter points to the Alabama duo of DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle; if either player is available at No. 11, Scwartz opines that the Giants “might be enticed to take the plunge.” Alternatively, the team could look to the second day of the draft to add another player at the position, with the writer pointing to prospects like Kadarius Toney, Amari Rodgers, and Rondale Moore.

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Alabama’s Devonta Smith, Najee Harris Pass Medical Checks

Two of Alabama’s brightest stars got good news on Wednesday. Running back Najee Harris’ ankle checked out well with “no concerns,” according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Meanwhile, wide receiver Devonta Smith’s dislocated finger is said to be healing fine, despite his torn ligaments. 

[RELATED: NFL Teams Expect Falcons To Draft Kyle Pitts?]

Harris is viewed as one of the best running backs in this year’s class. Teams have been keeping tabs on his recovery, but his ankle shouldn’t affect his stock, according to sources who spoke with RapSheet. Harris, a skilled pass-catcher, set Alabama records with 57 total touchdowns, 3,843 rushing yards, and 46 rushing TDs. His pass-catching ability is a major plus, though teams are equally intrigued by his combination of power and elusiveness.

Smith, meanwhile, is viewed as one of the three best wide receivers in this year’s class — somewhere behind Ja’Marr Chase and neck-and-neck with teammate Jaylen Waddle. While Waddle is known for his high-end speed, Smith has drawn rave reviews for his soft hands and ability to win 50/50 balls. His finger shouldn’t cause any long term issues, so it’d be a surprise to see him slip outside of the top ten.

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Alabama WR Henry Ruggs To Enter Draft

There are now two Alabama junior wide receivers in the 2020 draft pool. Shortly after projected first-rounder Jerry Jeudy made his decision to enter the draft, Henry Ruggs is following suit.

Ruggs revealed Monday (via The Players’ Tribune) he will join Jeudy and Tua Tagovailoa in the draft. While Jeudy has been tabbed as a possible top-five pick, Ruggs is Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 4 receiver prospect (13th overall). Kiper ESPN colleague Todd McShay has the speedster going 18th overall. Ruggs’ speed will enthrall Combine attendees; he was clocked in the mid-4.2-second range for the 40-yard dash at Alabama’s 2019 junior pro day.

The former four-star recruit did not flash statistically like Jeudy but may be the fastest player in the draft. Averaging 17.5 yards per catch for his career, the 6-foot Ruggs caught 24 touchdown passes and exceeded 700 yards in each of his final two Crimson Tide seasons. He suffered a concussion in the Citrus Bowl.

While Devonta Smith returning to school will prevent Alabama from having three wide receivers chosen in the first round, Jeudy and Ruggs going on Day 1 would be mark a rare occurrence. The last time two were drafted from the same school in Round 1 came in 2007, when LSU products Dwayne Bowe and Buster Davis joined Ohio State alums Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez.

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