WR Devonta Smith
Weight: 175 lbs.
Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have been a glutton at the wide receiver position for quite some time, with some well-known receivers like Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and Calvin Ridley leading the way.
Now comes another crop of strong NFL ready receivers starting with Devonta Smith, who won the AP College Football Player of the Year honors in 2020, the first receiver to win the award. He also won the 2020 Heisman Trophy, which is the sport's highest honor, and the last receiver to win the award was Desmond Howard in 1991 (Michigan).
Smith attended Amite High Magnet School in Louisiana, a program that has produced NFL alumni including Reggie Porter, P.J. Franklin, Cletis Gordon, Kevin Hughes, Aaron Morgan, and Alan Ricard. Smith came out of high school as a four-star recruit and was the 62nd ranked prospect in the nation, according to 247 Sports.
Smith could have potentially joined Ruggs III and Jeudy as first-round picks if he declared for the draft after his junior season. He recorded 68 receptions for 1256 yards and 14 touchdowns with Tua Tagovailoa and Mack Brown tossing him the pigskin.
He’s been ultra-productive for the Crimson Tide; he has recorded over 3,750 yards at Alabama and 46 touchdowns. He tied the FBS record for receiving touchdowns by scoring 20 (before playoffs) in 2020. He dominated the Fightin’ Irish in Alabama’s Rose Bowl victory.
Owns a four- and five-touchdown game making him the only receiver in SEC history with multiple career games totaling four or more receiving touchdowns. Also holds the SEC and Alabama career record for receiving touchdowns with 43, passing the previous mark of 31 held by Amari Cooper (2012-14) and Chris Doering of Florida (1992-95).
Smith will hear his name called early in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Suffered a dislocated finger in the college football championship game, but that injury shouldn't be a factor in his draft stock. Once contemplated walking away from football to concentrate on basketball.
Smith doesn’t look imposing by any means. He’s lean, thin waisted, and lacks the bulk to push a pile like Julio Jones.
However, his frame doesn’t necessarily impede him in terms of running through arm tackles, nor does it deter him from going over the middle of the field and risking big hits.
Smith is a good overall NFL caliber athlete with exceptional explosive traits, smooth movement skills, and electrifying playmaking ability maximized by good vision with the ball in his hands. He doesn’t have the speed of Henry Ruggs III or the natural physicality of Julio Jones, but he adds so much to an offense.
Smith’s best traits are his hands, route running, and ability to win at the line of scrimmage. He is very smooth with his releases and does a good job with his footwork at the line of scrimmage.
He’s also very savvy up the stem of his routes with subtle head fakes, and shoulder turns to manipulate defensive backs. He’s very smooth with sinking his hips in and out of breaks in a quick manner - he’s very sudden with all these movements.
His adept hands tie in directly with his impressive ball skills and ability to win at the catch point, despite his lack of size. He does an excellent job contorting his body, tracking the football, locating the football, leaping into the air, and then securing it into his frame for a catch. I love the competitive toughness and physicality he brings to the position for a guy of his size.
Another trait I love about Smith is his football IQ. There’s a play in the second quarter (about 14 minutes left) against Georgia where he saves an interception by coming back to the football and wrestling the ball out of the grasp of the Georgia defender.
He has an excellent sense about him and comes back to the football so well for a college football player; it’s just another testament to his ability to adapt, read routes, read coverages, and then react to assist the betterment of his team.
It’s well within his wheelhouse to manipulate defenders in man coverage with his route running, and he does a great job finding the soft spots in zone coverage. Smith is a willing blocker that will mix it up, but his lack of size doesn’t help him with more physical corners and safeties.
Smith isn’t a “burner," but he makes up for the lack of top-end speed by being incredibly reliable at the line of scrimmage, up the route tree, and at the catch point. He would do excellent as a slot receiver in the NFL because of the two way go and ability to win at the line, but he’s not only a slot.
He may struggle on the line of scrimmage with press early on. Still, he would fit into an offense as a “Z.” He would probably be maximized in a West Coast offense that relies on precise timing and route running in the short to intermediate parts of the field where he can use his ability to create YAC, but he could play in any offense. He’s a locked-in top-15 selection in the upcoming draft.
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