Should DeVonta Be a Slam Dunk for Dolphins?

The Miami Dolphins could use playmakers on offense and there might not be a better one in the 2021 NFL draft than Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith
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After DeVonta Smith put on an absolute show Monday night to cap his Heisman Trophy season, the next step is for the Miami Dolphins to take him with the third overall pick and watch him work more magic at Hard Rock Stadium in the 2021 and beyond.

It's that simple, right?

After all, Smith is the kind of playmaker the Dolphins so desperately need to put around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the fact the two played together at the University of Alabama makes it even better.

There's even a movie-script aspect to it with Smith's final college performance coming at the stadium that would now become his NFL home.

During and after Smith's performance against Ohio State, which saw him catch 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone, social media told us Smith to the Dolphins should be a done deal.

But is DeVonta Smith coming to the Dolphins as much of a slam dunk as many would have you believe?

Let's examine all sides of the situation.

We can start with the top of the draft, which has the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets drafting before the Dolphins.

Barring a massive surprise, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be the first overall pick, whether selected by the Jaguars or another team.

The Jets at number 2 are difficult to predict because they have so many needs and a major question to answer in whether they want to move forward (with a new head coach) with 2018 third overall pick Sam Darnold at quarterback or take one of the other blue-chip non-Lawrence QB prospects, namely Justin Fields of Ohio State or Zach Wilson of BYU.

If they don't take a quarterback, the Jets could trade down to a team wishing to take one or simply use the pick on another position. If it's the latter, one popular name among mock drafts is Oregon tackle Penei Sewell. But former Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum believes Smith also is a possibility for that second pick, according to a post on the33rdteam.com.

For the purpose of this story, we'll assume Smith is available when it's time for the Dolphins to make the third overall selection.

Let's first examine the history of wide receivers and the draft, specifically the previous times one has been among the first three selections.

Since the start of the common draft in 1967, it has happened nine times: Calvin Johnson in 2007 (2nd overall), Braylon Edwards in 2005 (3rd), Larry Fitzgerald in 2004 (3rd), Charles Rogers in 2003 (2nd), Andre Johnson in 2003 (3rd), Keyshawn Johnson in 1996 (1st), Irving Fryar in 1984 (1st), Lam Jones in 1980 (2nd) and Wes Chandler in 1978 (3rd).

Of those nine, at least four were badly overdrafted (for different reasons): Jones, Keyshawn Johnson, Rogers and Edwards; Chandler and Fryar both were very good; Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Fitzgerald were Hall of Fame-caliber players or on their way to the Hall of Fame.

So history suggests taking a wide receiver with one of the first three picks hasn't provided great value so far.

Another factor is the large number of top wide receiver prospects available in the 2021 draft, which will make it easier for the Dolphins to land a playmaker with their own first-round pick at number 18 if they choose to address a different position at number 3.

Simply put, are the Dolphins better off taking, say, Sewell or Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at number 3 and a wide receiver at number 18, or take Smith at number 3 and then addressing another position at 18?

Then there's the issue of whether Smith is even the top wide receiver in the 2021 NFL draft, and we say this because there are some draft analysts who like LSU's JaMarr Chase. The latter has superior size and speed to Smith, though Smith proved plenty fast enough to put together a 2020 season that rivaled just about any ever produced by a college wide receiver.

The same questions would apply with Chase when it comes to the value of taking a wide receiver third overall instead of waiting longer in the first round.

Here is NFLdraftbible.com Director of Scouting Ryan Roberts' take on the Dolphins taking Smith third overall scenario:

"The Miami Dolphins are in need of pass catchers in the worst way. Guys like DeVante Parker and Preston Williams have flashed but neither have been able to consistently stay healthy. They both also play the position similarly, winning at the catch point working on the vertical third of the field. The team lacks explosive playmakers who have the ability to create a ton of separation and clear throwing lanes for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. A player in the mold of DeVonta Smith brings that ability in leaps and bounds. He is a crafty route runner who creates instant separation out of his breaks. In that respect, you can’t blame the Dolphins for toying with the idea of Smith, coupled with the reunion aspect with Tua.

"The bigger question is if the depth of the wide receiver position in the 2021 NFL draft alters the third selection strategy. With a top of the class that includes players like Smith, Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) and Jaylen Waddle (Alabama), the depth of the position is fantastic. With the Dolphins' second first-round selection at 18, it might be more wise to continue to strengthen the offensive line or defense and sit on who the most dynamic pass catchers available is at number 18. Of course, you are playing with fire a little bit in that situation but no matter the round, there are talented pass catchers who can immediately upgrade the Dolphins position group."

For the Dolphins, there's always the possibility of trading down in the first round for a quarterback-hungry team and then taking a top wide receiver, but the question then becomes how low could the Dolphins go and still get, say, Smith or Chase. And, of course, talking trade-downs always brings the question of finding a trade partner.

One interesting scenario could unfold if quarterbacks go first and second because Sewell going to the Bengals to protect Joe Burrow's blind side just makes too much sense and the Bengals aren't likely to get Sewell picking fifth. So the Dolphins would be in a position to pick additional draft capital by working a trade to move down only two spots.

The bottom line when looking at all the options is that assuming that Smith will come to Miami because of his performance Monday night and his connection with Tagovailoa is, while certainly a normal knee-jerk reaction, a premature evaluation.

It most definitely isn't a slam dunk and we'd go as far as this point as to suggest it's probably even less than 50-50.