The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books.
While the annual selection process was dominated by quarterback talk — when isn't it? — there was an under-the-radar storyline that could play a big part in the success of three franchises.
That should help all three first-round pass-catchers transition to the NFL, but which of the three will pay the biggest dividends?
3. Eagles: Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith
Though DeVonta Smith is small in stature at 6-foot and only 166 pounds, he can be utilized in many different ways by new Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. Most NFL scouts think the “Slim Reaper” fits best in the slot, but Smith can line up on the outside as well. And do not forget that Smith is a splendid return specialist.
Last season, Nick Saban always talked about Smith's speed, character, and leadership abilities. This will come in handy for Hurts, who will be in just his second NFL season after Philadelphia drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Hurts is a natural-born leader but needs Smith’s help leading a young Eagles offense.
Jalen Hurts and Devonta Smith, teammates once again.— Word On The Birds (@WordOnTheBirds) April 30, 2021
Big things coming from these two! pic.twitter.com/exgncZodyw
The Smith and Hurts reunion gives the Eagles what they hope is a go-to receiver on a team that desperately needs weapons so they can truly evaluate whether the former Alabama passer is the franchise's QB of the future.
While Smith should excel in Philly, his lack of size and the potential of a low-volume passing attack could hurt the Heisman Trophy-winner's stat-stuffing capabilities and fantasy football output which is why he ranks third.
2. Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle
Tua Tagovailoa’s had a rocky rookie season, and, naturally, it didn't help that the No. 5 selection was severely outplayed by the player picked right after him: Justin Herbert. Even 87-year old (kidding) Ryan Fitzpatrick performed better than Tua did last season.
Despite the rollercoaster first-year for Tagovailoa, Dolphins coach Brian Flores is not ready to throw in the towel his young signal-caller. We have to remember that Tua was coming off a horrific hip injury that ruined his junior season at Alabama. Bringing in an old buddy of Tua’s like Jaylen Waddle should help the 'Fins flourish.
A Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle reunion in Miami🏝pic.twitter.com/bweyVzYezc— Kendell Hollowell (@KHollowell_) April 30, 2021
Waddle is possibly the most dangerous wideout in the entire draft and a legitimate playmaker. Some folks may have forgotten that Waddle was being mentioned as a possible Heisman favorite before breaking his ankle against Tennessee last season.
Adding Waddle to the mix should bolster Tua’s confidence and enable him to greatly improve during his second season 2021.
1. Bengals: Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase
The reunion most likely to pay the biggest dividends for their team is Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. Chase was possibly the biggest reason why Burrow won the Heisman Trophy in 2019. Though many draft experts thought that the Bengals would bring in a bruising offensive lineman like Penei Sewell, Chase adds some explosion to a Bengals offense that needs some excitement.
Though Hurts and Tagovailoa are both improving, Burrow showed last season that he is the most NFL-ready of the three quarterbacks. Burrow accounted for 16 total touchdowns in just ten games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Bringing in a true home run threat like Chase will only improve Burrow’s chances of having a sensational sophomore season. Chase reportedly ran a blazing 4.38 second 40 time at his pro day. With that type of speed, Chase won’t have any trouble torching lots of NFL corners.
🎶 Reunited and it feels so good 🎶— PFF (@PFF) April 30, 2021
Joe Burrow + Ja’Marr Chase is BACK pic.twitter.com/Yue6YYn1lF
The Bengals management knew they needed to make a big splash on draft day and they did just that by drafting Chase. Reuniting Chase with Burrow gives the longsuffering Bengals fan base a reason to have hope again. This terrific twosome will be a blast to watch in 2021.
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