The Philadelphia Eagles have once again been connected to a stud receiver from Alabama in the first round. However, it might not be the one everyone thinks or wants them to take at pick No. 12.
According to Sports Illustrated‘s Albert Breer, there is a “perception within the league” that the Eagles really want Jaylen Waddle. It’s a slight change of course from the previous rallying cry for Waddle’s Alabama teammate, DeVonta Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2020. But Waddle has been steadily rising up draft boards on his own merit in recent weeks, with several draft experts calling him the more explosive pass-catcher of the two Crimson Tide stars.
Waddle averaged 18.9 yards per catch for his career, second all-time at Alabama. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder recorded 106 receptions for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns while leading all Crimson Tide returners with a 19.3 yards-per-punt in three years. Waddle decided to skip the school’s official pro day last month but legend has it that he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds before he even stepped foot on Alabama’s campus.
“I love Waddle. I could make a case for Smith. To me, again, you’re really kind of just splitting hairs there,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “I don’t think there’s a bad decision to be made. I would probably just stick with the way that I have them stacked, which is I have Waddle over DeVonta Smith.”
Jaylen Waddle is a BIG TIME playmaker😎
— PFF (@PFF) April 27, 2021
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DeVonta Smith Talks Jalen Hurts
Much has been made about a possible reunion in Philadelphia between Smith and quarterback Jalen Hurts. The two enjoyed two very productive seasons together in Tuscaloosa for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Smith hauled in 50 balls for 853 yards and nine touchdowns in those two years. More importantly, Smith and Hurts kept in touch and remain close friends to this day.
“DeVonta Smith, he’s like a smooth criminal,” Hurts said. “Such a smooth route-runner. Attacks the ball, strong hands. Size, size is never an issue for him. He’s so strong with his hands. He’s a hell of a player.”
DeVonta Smith on what #Eagles fans will get if he’s drafted by Philly.
“Hard work, dedication, committed, a competitor that will do whatever it takes to win.
“Playing in front of that fanbase is second to none.” https://t.co/7bCcLfPm0X
— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerrCBS) April 28, 2021
Smith told CBS Sports that he would “love” to play with Hurts again, especially in Philly in front of such a passionate fan base. The national media has placed a semi-target on Smith’s back due to his diminutive stature at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds. No wide receiver that small has ever been drafted in the first half of the first round, per ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.
The Curse of Freddie Milons in Philadelphia
It has been almost two decades since the Eagles drafted a player from the University of Alabama. Think about that. Not one player from one of the most storied college programs in the country after 2002. That was the year that Philadelphia chose wide receiver Freddie Milons with the 162nd overall pick. The Eagles have selected 153 players in that time span, none from Alabama.
“Guys who play at Alabama are NFL ready. I have a ton of respect for what Coach Saban has done there. We would be excited to add players from the University of Alabama.” – Howie Roseman
— 975TheFanatic (@975TheFanatic) April 21, 2021
Why is that? Eagles general manager Howie Roseman attempted to answer that question with some humor last week.
“I’d like to joke and say it’s something about being a Florida guy with Alabama,” Roseman told reporters. “But the reality is my wife’s family is from Mobile, and they’re Alabama fans. Tremendous respect for coach [Nick] Saban and what they’ve done there, and we’d be excited to have players from the University of Alabama.”
Hurts gets grandfathered in because he spent three seasons in Tuscaloosa. But his origin story traces back to Oklahoma where he was playing when the Eagles drafted him last year in the second round. Roll Tide.