NFL

NFL Draft: Philadelphia Eagles trade up for Heisman winner DeVonta Smith

By Sports Desk April 29, 2021

The Philadelphia Eagles saw a chance to grab a playmaker for Jalen Hurts and made their move, trading up to select DeVonta Smith with the 10th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Philadelphia swapped with their division rivals the Dallas Cowboys to move up two slots in the draft order and take Smith, sending the 12th overall pick and a 2021 third-round selection to the Cowboys.

Smith won the Heisman Trophy as the best college player in the country in 2020, and the wide receiver will give the Eagles a significant weapon on offense. 

Last season, Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns as he helped Alabama win the national championship.

Smith and Hurts were teammates at Alabama in 2017 and 2018, just before the receiver blossomed into one of the best players in the country. 

His selection continued a draft-day trend of NFL teams reuniting quarterbacks with receivers they had played with in college. 

Previously the Cincinnati Bengals paired up Ja'Marr Chase with former LSU teammate Joe Burrow and the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle to play with QB Tua Tagovailoa once again. 

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    Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is excited to see the team progress with Kenny Pickett as the starting quarterback, confirming the change ahead of their Week 5 game against the Buffalo Bills.

    Pickett replaced Mitch Trubisky at half-time of Sunday's defeat to the New York Jets and, despite the loss, caught the eye with a display that included two rushing touchdowns – making him the first QB since 1970 to score multiple rushing TD's in his first game.

    Tomlin was initially coy on Pickett's future following the game against the Jets but, ahead of a challenging trip to face the Bills, he confirmed that the rookie will get his chance to start.

    "There are a lot of things to be excited about, there are a lot of things to have urgency with. We have no reservations of what Kenny is going to be capable of in terms of our schematics," he said in Tuesday's press conference.

    "We have a level of concern about the environment we are taking him into, you have concerns about any quarterback you take into that environment against that defence and at that venue.

    "Kenny has shown us maturity at every moment throughout this process. He's older than most rookies and that was obvious to us leading up to the draft process. The things we value in him from a draft perspective, he's fluid and quick, his decision-making, a pro-like anticipation and things of that nature have proven to be true.

    "That's why we took him when we were given the opportunity to do so. Since we acquired him, he has done nothing but fortify that thought process and make some plays, during team development and in pre-season.

    "He has continually got better even after the regular season started. We can see the progress; we can see his maturity and readiness. We're excited for him and about him, but we have work as a collective, so we prepare with an edge knowing that."

    Tomlin made it clear that while Trubisky's display against the Jets in the first half was a factor in the decision, the blame does not lie solely at the feet of the number two overall draft pick in 2017, who penned a two-year deal with the Steelers in March.

    "Often QB gets too much credit, too much blame. We haven't moved the ball fluid enough to our liking, we haven't put enough points on the board, the QB is a component of that but not the only one," he added.

    "We've all got to absorb the responsibility and what we haven't done, including myself. When you make a QB change, you're sensitive to that component of it. I don't want to dump responsibility of what transpired at Mitch's feet, that's not fair to him.

    "In an effort to be better, to score more points, to move the ball more fluidly, we decided to go to Kenny in hopes that he would provide a spark for us. Hopefully that's a catalyst for us."

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    Phillips joined Wilkins in preaching caution when discussing the NFL's concussion protocols, but said injury concerns were not always "black and white". 

    "It's always better to be overcautious when it comes to head injuries," he said.

    "I also think that you've got to take the players' and training staff and doctors' words for it. So it's obviously a complicated situation. 

    "I think that the league and the PA [National Football League Players Association] doing everything they can to keep us safe is in the best interest, for sure."

    Asked about the risks of concussion in football, Phillips added: "It's an assumed risk. It's obviously something that is prevalent in the game, not just with head injuries, but just injuries all around. I think that's kind of what we sign up for.

    "Ultimately, it happens. At that point, you just pray for a speedy recovery. But I feel like that's what we signed up for playing this game. 

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    "We're competitors and we love this game and we want to be out there for our team-mates, for our families, for the fans, for everybody. So it's a sliding scale. 

    "It's not black and white when it comes to injuries at all. Sometimes you might try to play through something. If you're able to perform, you always want to perform. I mean, that's just the nature of the game that we play. 

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    Phillips has suffered several concussions during his own career, and sympathises with Tagovailoa's condition, adding: "To be honest, that seems like a lifetime ago for me when I had those issues. 

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    Monday night's 24-9 loss saw the Rams fail to capitalise on several touchdown opportunities, with McVay pointing to "self-inflicted wounds".

    San Francisco's Deebo Manuel caught six passes for 115 yards and a highlight-reel touchdown, and when the Rams were still in the game, at 17-9 in arrears, quarterback Matthew Stafford was intercepted by Talanoa Hufanga. That pick-six summed up the Rams' night.

    "I liked the way our guys battled, they competed and got it to a one-possession game," said McVay.

    "But the story of the night from an offensive perspective was self-inflicted wounds, above-the-neck errors where we're not doing things we're capable of, and I expect us to be better than that.

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    McVay took his share of the blame, saying: "I put us in some bad spots.

    "However you want to cut it, we have to be better collectively, coaches and players.  There's no other way around it and no way I know how to fix it other than go back to work."

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    "Everybody needs to be able to look inward," said McVay. "In the red area, to have three good drives and only come away with nine points in a game that was a back-and-forth battle like that, that ended up being the difference.

    "And when you do make it a one-possession game and you've got some momentum, a couple of game first downs and we throw an interception for a touchdown on a screen, those are the things that don't help you win games."

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