At least for the 2021 NFL draft.
The top two picks for the team come from the NFL pipeline that is the University of Alabama. With the caliber of talent head coach Nick Saban produces, are these two picks hits?
Round 1 (Pick #10 via DAL)- DeVonta Smith- WR, Alabama
“He sure as heck doesn’t play like a guy like you’re talking about with that size. Play strength, I see a ton of play strength and toughness. Play strength and toughness is what I see with DeVonta over and over and over again.”Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni talking about DeVonta Smith during a post-draft press conference.
From small-town Amite, Louisiana, wide receiver DeVonta Smith has made a big impact on every field he’s stepped on. Smith has spent his entire collegiate career at Alabama. During his time in Tuscaloosa, Smith has become the most complete wide receiver at Alabama.
His beginnings were humble, just like him.
As a freshman, Smith only caught seven passes for 156 yards. His most important catch? A 41-yard game-winning touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2017 National Championship game.
That is where the legend of the Slim Reaper began.
During the next three seasons, Smith became a reliable target for former Alabama quarterbacks Mac Jones and Tua Tagavailoa. Smith went from just seven catches in his first season to an FBS-leading 117 in 2020. Smith also led the FBS in receiving yards (1,856) and receiving touchdowns (23). Smith also holds the record for most career receiving yards in the SEC. Smith broke records as quickly as he tied them on his way to winning the Heisman, Biletnikoff, and Walter Camp awards.
His growth as a receiver is remarkable, but what contributed the most to it?
His attention to detail.
Smith was called the most polished route-runner in the receiver class this year. His long strides and precise footwork made it look like Smith was gliding on air. Smith’s footwork also allowed him to separate from defenders at ease. Wherever Smith is lined up, he can be successful. The detail in his route-running does not go away if he is in the slot. Smith can be productive in any receiver position on the field.
The detail in his game translates over to his pass-catching skills as well. His athletic ability allows him to high point the football over some of the biggest corners. His hands are also strong; as he only dropped 2.2% of his passes at Alabama. Safe to say if quarterback Jalen Hurts throws the pass up, Smith will come down with it.
Smith can add explosiveness to the Eagles offense; something Eagles fans have not seen in years. His ability to line up anywhere can also give the Eagles flexibility on offense. The Slim Reaper can be the true WR1 the city has been looking for.
“When I’m on the field, I’m just a different person.”DeVonta Smith during his interview with Eagles Insider
Round 2 (Pick #37)- Landon Dickerson- C, Alabama
“Love his versatility, his toughness, his mean streak, and just glad he’s an Eagle.”
The Eagles’ offensive line had its fair share of struggles in 2020. The team led the NFL in sacks allowed, QB hits, and QB pressures. The offensive line suddenly became a priority in the offseason.
The Eagles decided to beef up the trenches with their second round pick.
From Hickory, North Carolina, center Landon Dickerson was the cornerstone of a talented offensive line group in Tuscaloosa. Dickerson, however, did not start his collegiate journey at Alabama.
Dickerson started his career at Florida State University. In 2016, he was considered one of the best offensive line recruits in the country. His play on the field matched the hype; as he became the first true freshman to start on offensive line since Jamie Dukes in 1982.
Dickerson’s time in Tallahassee was riddled with injury.
Three straight season-ending injuries kept Dickerson on the sidelines for most of his time at FSU. Dickerson would take his talents to Alabama in 2019. Dickerson would play all thirteen games in 2019. Doing so, he solidified himself as a reliable and versatile lineman.
His injury woes would not go away, however.
A freak incident during the SEC title game against the University of Florida forced Dickerson to cut his season short once again.
Despite his injury history, Dickerson was still considered a top draft prospect.
His size and athleticism make it tough for defenders to rush him. It was so hard, in fact, that he did not give up a sack during his time at Alabama. His ability to keep his hands tight and inside the frame keeps defenders away from the quarterback.
When Dickerson is healthy, he is a force to be reckoned with on the field.
The Rimington trophy winner and SEC Jacobs Blocking co-winner will join the next generation of blockers for the Eagles. That group includes Jack Driscoll, Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata. Dickerson’s athleticism can help keep Hurts upright for years to come.
“It’s one of the most satisfying things you can do, moving somebody from Point A to Point B against their will.”Landon Dickerson during his interview with Eagles Insider
It is no secret that the Eagles have ignored the talent the SEC can produce. These picks can be the start of Tuscaloosa to Philadelphia pipeline sure to produce high-caliber talent.