With the NFL Draft less than seven weeks away we tackle another prospect in our latest Eagles draft profile: Alabama WR DeVonta Smith.
At 6’1 175 the Alabama product isn’t your typical blue-chip receiver, lacking the desired size and top-end speed that normally characterize prospects of his status; but Smith’s route-running, body control, explosiveness, and overall ball skills are elite. In last week’s profile of Ja’Marr Chase I remarked that his show-stopping 2019 campaign would be the talk of the pre-draft process had it not been for Smith outdoing him a year later on his way to winning The Heisman, and each has a real claim to WR1 in this class.
While his thin, lanky frame mostly has perceived disadvantages, long legs and arms have their benefit at the receiver position, and Smith is proof of that. Paired with quick feet, his length allows him to release off the LOS with ease, and long strides allow him to work out of breaks with consistent separation. When he gets moving vertically he glides past coverage, and he uses those long arms to high-point and reel in throws over-top of and through defenders—Smith’s catch-radius is maxed out, capable of adjusting to and catching anything he can get a fingertip on.
A month ago I ranked Smith as the third overall prospect in the class and WR1 over Ja’Marr Chase (ranked 4 overall). While I understand Chase is the slightly favored prospect within the fan base and media, I’m all in on Smith. Here’s what I had to say about him in my original big board:
“Smith doesn’t have the gaudiest physical or athletic traits, but he’s an absolute stag on the field. He wins at the line, he wins on his routes, and most importantly he wins at the point of catch. He’s a quarterback’s best friend in every sense of the phrase, and he’ll become a go-to target on third down and in the red zone for whatever QB is fortunate enough to work with him.”
What separates Smith from equally/more-talented receivers is his competitive streak; two words that you’ll often hear from evaluators are “tough” and “clutch.” I normally scoff at the second tag, but it jives with a history of him being the go-to option for Bama’s offense under both Tua Tagovoila and Mac Jones. Even among a 2019 WR group loaded with four NFL receivers, ‘Bama called Smith’s number when they needed a big play most, and there’s a reason for that.
It goes without saying that receivers of his talent level can line up anywhere on the field, in any scheme, and Smith is the poster boy for that. He’s an elite red zone threat:
Most red zone touchdowns since 2019:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 10, 2021
1. Jaelon Darden, N Texas – 17
2. DeVonta Smith, Bama – 16
3. Terrace Marshall Jr, LSU – 15
4. Kyle Pitts, Florida – 13 pic.twitter.com/cgFSOjwWIt
An elite YAC threat in the screen-game:
Most yards after the catch off screens in 2020:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 8, 2021
1. Travis Etienne, Clemson – 439
2. DeVonta Smith, Bama – 400
3. Amari Rodgers, Clemson – 327
4. Anthony Schwartz, Auburn – 317 pic.twitter.com/I3AIL9U5Cz
A big-play threat downfield:
Most 15+ yard TD RECs since 2018:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 4, 2021
💥DeVonta Smith – 29
💥Jaelon Darden – 20
💥Cade Johnson – 20
💥Ja'Marr Chase – 18
💥Dyami Brown – 17
💥Jerry Jeudy – 17 pic.twitter.com/s6NAgqqg5p
And even from the slot:
Most REC TDs from the slot in 2020:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 5, 2021
🎰Jaelon Darden – 16
🎰DeVonta Smith – 12
🎰Kadarius Toney – 9
🎰Terrace Marshall – 8 pic.twitter.com/94WMAgVKa8
If it’s not already clear from the record-breaking numbers, the jaw-dropping tape, or the Heisman Trophy: DeVonta Smith is a do-it-all football player who, despite an awkward physical build, is one of the top WR prospects of the last decade.
Can Smith stand to add 10-15 lbs. of muscle at the next level? Absolutely. But if he can’t put that weight on a near maxed-out frame without losing his explosiveness then I wouldn’t call it necessary—if he can hang tough enough in the SEC to produce 185 catches, 3,112 yards, and 37 TDs over the last two seasons then he isn’t suddenly going to crumble from hits at the next level.
Now that the Eagles have reportedly committed to Jalen Hurts as their QB1 for next season, they shouldn’t hesitate to grab a familiar target in DeVonta Smith if he’s available at six overall.