Howie Roseman, Andy Weidl and Nick Sirianni
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Excited to get [Alabama WR] DeVonta Smith. He was very highly rated on our board, someone who we feel like is not only a great player, but a great person, will come in and be ready to roll.
We talked about it through the draft process about getting guys in here who could help us build the type of culture we want. We had a plan that we talked about and we had a list of guys that we were really targeting in this draft.
With the amount of picks we had, the flexibility we had because of the picks, we felt like it was important to get one of those guys, and that’s why we made the trade up to go get them.
Howie, when you made the trade down from 6 to 12, did you always think there was a possibility that you would need to make another trade up to get a player? And if so, was DeVonta Smith the guy you were after getting the whole time? (Dave Zangaro)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Dave, I think when we made the trade from 6 to 12 we really had to make a list of guys that we would have been really happy to take at 12.
I think that from March to Draft Day a lot has changed. I think at the time maybe we thought there would be more quarterbacks, to be honest with you, going before we picked.
And at the same time, we also had a projection of what would go in front of us and what we thought would go in front of us.
We talked about it with [Eagles Insider] Dave [Spadaro] on [PhiladelphiaEagles.com] that as much as we look at the mock drafts, more importantly we make sure we do our board and we have 12 players that we really like. DeVonta was standing out on our board, his grade, the type of player he is, the type of person he is, so we just wanted to make sure he got him.
Just really think he can be a difference-maker on and off the field for our football team.
What do you guys like about DeVonta and how does he fit in your offense? I know Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni mentioned previously he’s coached a lot of different shapes and sizes of wide receivers at the ‘X’ position. Speak on what wide receiver position he’ll play in your scheme, Nick. (Jimmy Kempski)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Andy is going to talk about the player a little bit and then coach will talk about how he fits in the scheme if that works.
ANDY WEIDL: Yeah, we saw a player that is a smooth mover; he can open up and run. He’s a player that can win in all three levels from different alignments. I think his ability to high point the ball, to play above the rim, to adjust to the football, to make contested catches, really stood out.
I think another thing about Smith that we really liked about the guy is his selflessness. Not only was he a productive receiver, he was a punt returner. He returned a punt for a touchdown this year against Arkansas. He’s been a gunner in the past on the punt team.
You want to talk about a teammate that would go above and beyond to do anything to help his team win, he embodied that, so we’re excited to bring him in, excited to have the caliber of receiver that DeVonta brings to us.
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Just to add, we talked when we had our pre-draft press conference about Alabama and getting Alabama guys in. When you talk to the people at Alabama, the things that they say about this kid. They needed a corner, he goes and plays corner, and he’s as good as anyone they have as a defensive back because of movement, his toughness.
His work ethic is unbelievable. His route detail. He’s got incredible length and strong hands, so just adding to what Andy was saying.
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, as far as just where he fits in the offense I think if you look at any offense that I’ve been a part of for the past eight years, we move our guys around all over the place. So to say he plays ‘F’ in the slot, to say he plays the ‘X’, he plays the ‘Z’, yes, he’ll play all those things because we move our guys around, how we want to get them the ball.
What I saw in DeVonta was just a guy who can consistently win one-on-one. It’s a little different with how he does it. He does it with speed, quickness. He does it at the top of the route, beginning of the route, off the line of scrimmage.
But I consistently saw him win one-on-one versus some of those top corners in the SEC, and when you have a guy like that in your offense that can do that, it makes everybody else around him better. Quarterback can go one, two, three, four, five, hitch, throw. One, two, three, four, five, hitch, throw. One, two, three, four, five, hitch, throw. And get the ball out of his hands, right?
And when it’s a one-high safety look, he can just play football with him over there. Takes the read out of it a little bit. What that does to the offensive line, ball is out of the quarterback’s hands quicker, so he has that ability to win one-on-one that we like so much.
He’s a long strider and fast, as we’ve all seen with his tape. To be able to — we throw a lot of crossing routes in our offense and you can just see some of the guys in our past that we’ve had that can run away from the defense. He has that part of his game as well.
He has very good [yards after catch] ability, easy touches to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and into his hands, and he just showed that in a very competitive league obviously.
What Andy said, the guy — the major requirement of the position is you catch the football, right? That’s the major requirement. You got to be able to do that, and he does that exceptionally well. Not only when bodies are around him, when the ball is — no matter where the ball is, seems like he has a knack to go get it even when bodies are around him.
Super impressed with a lot of things that he can do, and we see a lot of different ways that he can fit our offense.
Howie, it’s very rare that you see a team draft the same position back-to-back seasons, back-to-back years, and this year obviously after Jalen Reagor you take another wide receiver. Why do that, and is that kind of a philosophical shift for you when we’ve seen you so many years look at more foundational priority positions? (Jeff McLane)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Yeah, I think when we look at it, obviously we got a lot more work to do here tomorrow and Saturday, and it is definitely not shifting our focus or philosophy.
Again, we stuck to our board on this. This is a guy whose grade stuck out. This was one of the top players in the draft for the Eagles. We thought it was a great player and we didn’t want to bypass that to fill a need.
Howie, I think when everyone thought about a potential trade up, they looked at Carolina or Denver. How difficult is it to make a deal with somebody in your division? How does that complicate things? And then Nick, I know you say DeVonta can play all three positions and you’re going to move him around, but don’t you have to anchor certain receivers at certain spots, even if it’s somebody else who’s more comfortable in the slot or Z or X? (John McMullen)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I think the first part about us trading up is obviously the more you trade up in the round the more you’re going to have to give up. By the same token, when you trade in the division you understand that you’re not going to get any values to that either. It’s going to have to work for them as well.
But when we talk about our relationship with Dallas, we made a trade with them last year. I remember back when we drafted Kevin Kolb, we had made a trade with them. They traded up into the first round as well.
I think when you’re dealing with the draft, you’ve got to do what’s best for your team, and obviously they thought this was the best move for their team and that’s why they did it. They got who they wanted, and we got who we wanted, and it’s always been a good relationship. It’s respect for their organization and certainly Mr. Jones, Jerry, and Steven. We have a lot of respect for them as well, competing against them.
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, that’s just not my philosophy. I don’t believe that. So, again, the best offenses I’ve been on have been able to move guys around, and they have to know each position. So, what we see in DeVonta is the ability to move around. I saw very high football IQ in him when we did our meetings with him. He was able to explain his offense in great detail, what he was doing, what his quarterback was doing, what his other receivers were doing.
So, he definitely gives us that option and position flexibility. He’s able to play inside, he’s able to play outside. And so, again, that’s just not my philosophy. We’re going to have to move him around, and that’s just how we roll with our offense.
Howie and Andy, with the cohabitation matrix you presumably spoke with QB Jalen Hurts about DeVonta Smith. What were those conversations like and what type of trust do you think is between the two of them already? (Mike Kaye)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: It got me thinking when — I don’t remember who asked us the question about us not picking Alabama guys, because we have so many connections to the Alabama program. Obviously, you got Jalen and we have coaches in the building who have been part of that program as well.
So we know it really well, and Jalen told us what everyone has told us: That his work ethic is legendary. His desire to be great, to inspire his teammates, and then his ability, he’s just got unique ability.
I think for us, when we looked at this, I think the interesting thing for us was when you look at the talented players that are at Alabama with him, the receivers, and obviously you go back to last year and think about the receivers in the draft and obviously this draft and you look at all those four guys, and the most targeted guy was DeVonta.
We studied the corners in this draft, and you look at the corners in this draft, and when they’re playing man coverage and they’re lined up against guys, they’re on DeVonta. So you don’t have to go far to see his competition against guys who are playing in the National Football League and who are being picked in the first round.
Then you see what the quarterbacks think of him. They love throwing to him because he has these targets, and that means something. I think the best line we got from one of the guys in Alabama is, ‘The ball finds him.’ You don’t need any — Coach does a great job getting everyone the ball and finding ways to get guys the ball — but the ball finds him because he’s in the right place and does the right things and he has unique ability.
So, I don’t even know if I answered your question now. I’m just talking about DeVonta.
For any of you, in following up from what we spoke about last week about how players come in all shapes and sizes, how did you weigh the special production and makeup that he has against the lack of historical success of sub-170-pound receivers? (Zach Berman)
ANDY WEIDL: I would say this. When we watched him play, when I watched him play, what I saw was a guy with length and a guy with toughness. You catch 117 passes in the SEC you’re doing something right. You set the SEC record for career touchdown receptions, you’re doing something right.
But even more so, whenever his team needed him, he stepped up. The moment was never too big for him. You saw in different situations this year, Jaylen Waddle went down, he steps up his game and showed up in big moments. It was never too big for him. He was a clutch player for the Crimson Tide.
Those are the things that really capture the player and what we saw during the evaluation process.
HOWIE ROSEMAN: When we talked about it through the process, just our scouts and the guys who went in there and their feeling for him, and you do a great job leading that meeting, and we have a meeting where we really talk about the guys who have had a huge impact and DeVonta.
When you think about it, even as a true freshman he went in and caught the game-winning touchdown in a national championship game. This is a big-time player. The stage is never too big for him.
I can’t wait for all of you guys and our fans to see him and get to know him.
NICK SIRIANNI: 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.
This question is for Howie. Obviously, cornerback is one of the positions of need that you were alluding to earlier. The fact that both Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn were off the board by the time you picked, how important does that make that pick for you guys going forward into the second and third round? (Martin Frank)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I think because of how many picks we have over the next two years we really don’t want to get in a position — we’ve made some mistakes forcing picks and positions, so we’ve spent so much time on this draft and process and so much discussions about the players in this draft that we’re not going to reach.
We’re going to take the best guys. We know that if we get out of here — I don’t even know who is going. We may have to go back up and see who is still there, because obviously we’re picking high tomorrow.
We know if we don’t get back in the first round that we’re going to be sitting there tomorrow morning and know we’re going to get a really good player. Maybe it’s at a position that can come in right away and fill a need, but maybe it’s just a guy that we know is going to be part of the core of our team going forward as we climb the mountain again.
Nick, given DeVonta’s weight and size, how did he get off the line of scrimmage successfully against press-man in college, and what can you do to help him out at the next level? (Tim McManus)
NICK SIRIANNI: He’s got great quickness off the line of scrimmage. He’s wiry, he is tough to get your hands on. He does have that quick jab to one direction to move the defender to get him off his spot to get into his route. Even when the guy can somewhat get his hands on, he can get his body off it.
So that’s where it really starts with press coverage, is can you win at the line of scrimmage? The other places that correlate to you winning at the line of scrimmage is the ability with the ball in your hands.
When you’re good with the football — again, you see this press coverage, and he does beat that, but the other thing that correlates to the NFL is the way they are with the football in their hands.
When they get the ball in their hands, do they have that quick change of direction with the ability to stick their foot in the ground, make a defender miss, and continue on.
He has that. He has that acceleration when they have the angle on him and he beats the angle and goes, right? So those are the things that correlate into that press man to man. So not only did I see that when the corners of the other team were up in his face, but also when the ball was in his hands.
For any of you guys, while you were going through this process, was there a specific video or interaction that you had with DeVonta that you felt like, Hey, you know what, this guy should be an Eagles receiver, or, Hey, I got to tell everybody else in the building we should take a look at him? (Chris Franklin)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Andy is laughing because I tried to zoom as many senior bowl interviews as I could, but obviously coach was filling his staff and I was back here, and I was in there for the DeVonta interview. These guys did an amazing job of leading them.
Andy remember I said, ‘Andy, could I just say one thing?’ I said, ‘DeVonta, can you fit in Andy Weidl’s suitcase and we take you back to Philly with our guys, man?’ He was just so impressive in that interview in that moment, and then we handed him off to the coaches.
How did he do with you guys?
NICK SIRIANNI: Again, just felt like the whole process, everybody that talked about him talked about him the same. Our interview with him was outstanding. His football IQ and his love for the game really showed out when we had our hour-long Zoom with him. Really showed out.
So, again, just feels like everybody was saying the exact same thing. You can’t fake that of who he is because he did it every single time we were with him.