More Boom than Bust? Philadelphia Eagles Hope for Draft Redemption from No. 1 Pick DeVonta Smith

Written By Dave Bontempo on July 7, 2021

Nope. Not again. The Philadelphia Eagles refuse to be scorched by another NFL draft faux-pas.

As they await the 2021 training camp with Heisman Trophy winner and top pick DeVonta Smith, they at least sport a name. Smith is well-represented at DraftKings and William Hill sportsbooks in the Offensive Rookie of the Year futures board.

The Eagles hope he plays well enough to make New Jersey online bettors forget the 2020 draft “fumble.”

Eagles hope to forget last year’s NFL Draft fumbles

You remember it. The Eagles got 396 yards from top selection Jalen Reagor last season, while the Minnesota Vikings relished the 1,400 yard, seven-touchdown, Pro Bowl campaign of Justin Jefferson, whom they took after the Eagles passed on him.

This was glaring. Jefferson’s final college season of 1540 yards and 18 touchdowns was light years above Reagor’s 611 yards and five tallies.

Passing on Jefferson was one omen of a 4-11-1 Eagles season and an overhaul including the trading of quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts.

This year, the Eagles changed the play. If nothing else, they made the percentage pick.

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Offensive Rookie of the Year odds at NJ Sportsbooks

Here are highlights from DraftKings’ Offensive Rookie of the Year board:

  • Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence leads the way at +300.
  • Among the receivers, Ja’Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals, taken fifth in the draft, is +1200.
  • Smith is +1300.
  • Jaylen Waddle, Smith’s Alabama teammate selected sixth by the Miami Dolphins, is +1600.

Chase, Smith and Waddle are numbers eight, nine and ten on the rookie-of-the-year board.

Further down are Kadarius Toney, taken 20th by the New York Giants, and Rashod Bateman of the Baltimore Ravens, selected 27th. Both are +3300.

William Hill pegs Bateman and Toney at +5000, more longshot inducement. Chase is +1400, Smith is +1600 and Waddle is +2000.

All of these players pay a higher return at William Hill than DraftKings. One reason is that Lawrence takes more money and is listed at +280. Quarterbacks and running backs usually win this award, and the last receiver to do it was Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants in 2014.

But the board provides expectation of who might become impact players.

Top 5 NFL receivers drafted and their 2021 prospects

Here’s a look at the Top 5 receivers drafted.

1. Ja’Marr Chase

Chase is a monster and the first game-changer in the draft.

In 2019, his 20 receiving touchdowns for LSU set a Southeastern Conference mark broken by Smith last year. He notched 221 yards in a playoff championship game against Clemson and was named the Fred Biletnikoff Award winner as the best receiver in college football.

He opted out of the 2020 campaign but stayed on the radar.

The Bengals selected Chase, reuniting him with quarterback Joe Burrow, and ignoring their offensive-line problems with the first pick. That’s a big tribute to Chase because the Bengals lost Burrow for the last six games with a torn ACL last year.

They needed to protect him and Penei Sewell, the highly-regarded offensive lineman, was there.

But he was, literally, Chased away.

2. Jaylen Waddle

Waddle, like Smith, is fast and frail. But lightning fast.

He’s a deep threat and rejoins Tua Tagovailoa, his Alabama University teammate. The Dolphins traded up to get him.

Will Waddle produce as a deep threat or at least keep defenses honest enough to enhance Miami’s running game?

Waddle missed most of last season with a high-ankle sprain. Before that, he looked like the next coming of Tyreek Hill, the Kansas City Chiefs’ speedster.

How bad was that injury? We’ll find out.

3. DeVonta Smith

It might have been wise for the Eagles to take offensive lineman Rashawn Slater and anchor an offense that yielded a league-worst four sacks per game last year.

But what fun is common sense? The fans wanted a name. And the Eagles provided one.

Smith had gaudy 2020 numbers with 1856 yards and 23 touchdowns. Beyond numbers, he is an excellent route runner able to slide past defenders at the line of scrimmage. He can also break tackles and has a tremendous feel for the game.

No wonder the Eagles engineered the most visible audible in the draft, trading up from 12th to 10th with the Dallas Cowboys in order to leap-frog the New York Giants, at 11.

DraftKings data, shared with PlayNJ, revealed that Giants bettors wagered heavily upon Smith, believing Big Blue would have taken him at 11.

4. Kadarius Toney

Toney became the consolation prize for the Giants. Burned by the Eagles, the Giants traded back to 20 with the Chicago Bears, annexing draft picks. Toney is a good player for a No. 20 selection. If the draft picks obtained in the draft swap pan out, Toney will help the Giants produce a big draft triumph.

5. Rashod Bateman

Bateman will have to fight for the ball because quarterback Lamar Jackson loves to tote it. Jackson has a low over-under season total of 3,200 yards at Draft Kings. It won’t be easy to wager into a Jackson-Bateman synergy.

Will the reunion trend pay off for Eagles and others?

The reunion theme marks the 2021 NFL Draft.

Tagovailoa and Waddle, Alabama teammates, are back together.

So are Alabama graduates Smith and Jalen Hurts of the Eagles.

Burrow and Chase of the Bengals were a tandem at LSU.

Can the 2021 receiver draft class match 2020’s excellent crop?

Henry Ruggs was taken first, by the Las Vegas Raiders, giving them 452 yards and two touchdowns. New York Jets fans recall him shocking them with a long game-winning touchdown on the game’s final play. It caused the firing of Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

The Denver Broncos gained 856 yards and three touchdowns from Jerry Jeudy, the second wideout selected.

Cee Dee Lamb delivered 935 yards and five touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys and was taken third. He might have been the cream of this crop had Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott not missed the last 11 games with an injury.

Reagor and Jefferson completed the Top 5.

In the Eagles’ defense, three other teams also bypassed Jefferson. But the Birds had the least productive season from their top pick.

Lead image credit: Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal New Jersey sports betting.

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