They loved him. They wanted him. They weren’t sure if they were in a major position to get them.
That was his love for the Giants and Devonta Smith. That’s the Eagles and their love of the same player.
As the two NFC rivals move to the opposite direction (Eagles Up, Giants Down) ready to disperse for the first time this season, the Eagles, who won the prize at Sunday’s MetLife Stadium, get to put Smith on the field. Wear green. And the Giants are tasked with finding a way to stop a desired player and fail to get it.
“I’m happy that we did business because they are really special to this team and I’m sure we have them on this football team,” Eagles head coach Nick Siriani said.
The Giants wanted Smith on their team. After his crummy 6-10 record in 2020 made him the 11th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, many players were interested in selecting the Giants – believing that players still had a real chance to be on the board after the top 10 picks. He was high on cornerbacks Jacey Horn and Patrick Surtein II. They are wide receivers on Smith and Jaylen Waddle. He (correctly) calculated that offensive tackle Penny Sewell would go.
As the first round progressed, the players preferred by the giants were unleashed. He expected the Cowboys would not take the receiver at No. 10 (he already had plenty of talent in that position) and would instead focus on improving their poor defense. The Giants thought okay, but couldn’t wait to see what happened with Dallas on the clock. The Eagles, seated at number 12, are called the Cowboys, and the rare trade-off between division rivals was discussed and finalized. The Eagles traded Smith to No. 1. Took it at 10, and just like that, the Giants realized they needed to find a way to stop him twice a year for the foreseeable future, rather than slipping a Heisman Trophy winner to their offense.
“We’re doing what we have to do to get the player we really wanted in that draft, that’s Devonta Smith,” said Siriani. “I’m sure we’ll have him.”
It was a blow to the giants. Smith was the last of the group of players the Giants considered a top-11 pick. The Bears are the No. 1 pick to take on quarterback Justin Fields. General manager Dave Gettleman made the first trade of his NFL career when he wanted to get to 11. The Giants are down to 20th place and Florida’s slot receiver Caderius Tony has been rated high, but is below Waddle and Smith.
Tony has struggled through an inconsistent rookie year, battling injuries and often confusing where he fits in the offense, which led to the dismissal of head coach Joe Judge offensive coordinator Jason Garrett on Tuesday. Tony has missed practice time this week – this time due to quad contusion. In nine games, he has 35 receptions for 392 yards and has yet to score his first NFL touchdown.
There have been questions about Smith’s durability – he’s train-thin – but he hasn’t missed a game for the Eagles, who are rising at 5-6. Smith leads the team with 46 receptions for 664 yards and four touchdowns. He looks completely NFL-ready. Tony, with more rough edges, doesn’t.
“I can’t get on this bus without him,” Siriani said. “We need Devonta Smith because he is one of our toughest guys. He’s tough, he’s intelligent, obviously his talent speaks for itself and what he’s done in college and what he does in the NFL.
“He’s very natural and I think that’s a good divider for a lot of people in this league. All the players in the league have talent. The guys have the knack for making plays. So Devonta, I think they are a lot lighter than other rookie wide receivers I’ve coached, which means they’re defensive. Really understands how to attack the back.
The Giants, for the first time, see what they missed.
“I think he’s crafty, he’s athletic,” said James Bradberry, the Giants’ best cornerback. “I have seen his releases run his way. I feel like he runs very well.
Eagles enjoy that tenderness. The Giants see what they missed.