With Davante Adams, the Green Bay Packers have one of the NFL’s premier receivers. The supporting cast isn’t great and lacks a pure slot threat, but Allen Lazard brings size and physicality, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a premier deep threat and Devin Funchess is back after being a COVID opt-out. While Adams presumably will be given a contract extension, Valdes-Scantling, Funchess and Equanimeous St. Brown will be unrestricted free agents at this time next year. That means Green Bay, at least, needs to add a receiver or two to get ready for what could be an offseason of change in 2022. Note: In the 16 drafts conducted by Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst, Randall Cobb was the shortest receiver selected at 5-foot-10 1/4. Thus, any receiver shorter than 5-foot-10 (no rounding) will not be considered in our series.
Alabama’s DeVonta Smith is our No. 2-ranked receiver.
You know what they say about dynamite.
It comes in small packages.
As one of the top receiver prospects in this year’s draft, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith is small now at about 170 pounds. He was small when he burst onto the national scene with the game-winning, 41-yard touchdown catch against Georgia in the 2017 national championship game as a freshman. He was small as a 120-pound freshman at Amite (La.) High School. And he was really small in neighborhood games, when he was knocked around by his older cousins, among others.
“That’s where I got my toughness from,” Smith, known as Thinuine back home, told SI.com. “I believe it prepared me mentally because when I was at the park, me being the smallest person, they tried to bully me. I could never let that get to me. I have the edge I have now... I like contact. I get that from the park. It was tough out there.”
As a senior at Alabama, Smith wasn’t just tough to stop. He was impossible to stop. Smith hit the receiving triple crown with FBS-leading figures of 117 receptions, 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. He scored a touchdown or moved the chains on 85 of those receptions, according to Pro Football Focus. He had 44 receptions of 15-plus yards; nobody else had more than 30. He dropped only 2.5 percent of catchable passes.
Smith was the MVP of both playoff games, with seven receptions for 130 yards and three touchdowns in the semifinal vs. Notre Dame and 12 receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns vs. Ohio State in the championship clash. That monster game against OSU came despite missing most of the second half with an injured hand.
The overwhelming dominance that gave Smith the Heisman Trophy was born in Amite. Back when he was 140 pounds, whenever he saw his reflection in the mirror in school, he’d drop to the floor and do 10 pushups. He wasn’t big but he was fearless, starring on offense, defense and special teams.
"He is probably the toughest kid I've ever coached," the Slim Reaper’s high school coach told Bama Central. "Most kids don't want to play defense because there isn't a lot of shine and you have to be tough. But when we would put him at defensive back, he would come down, throw his body into guys and knock them out. That's what I'm really proud of, his toughness. He will try to rip your head off."
With a toughness and mind-set, he wasn’t overmatched physically when he got to Alabama.
"What you saw was a guy that was very skilled and a guy that could get open and make plays and was very productive regardless of the talent level," former Alabama receivers coach Billy Napier, now the head coach at Louisiana, told ESPN.com. "Even at a young age, you put him up against the best cover guys and he could get open."
Measureables: 6-foot, 170 pounds. He did not run a 40.
Stats and accolades: Smith capped a record-setting career by winning the Heisman Trophy as well as the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the most versatile player in college football. Not only did he lead the nation in receptions, yards and touchdowns to become the first receiver to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard in 1991, but he averaged 21.5 yards with one touchdown on punt returns. His 3,965 career receiving yards and 46 career receiving touchdowns set school and conference records.
NFL Draft Bible says: Smith can create separation as well as any receiver in college football. He really thrives versus man coverage, as he shows the burst and acceleration to blow right past defenders; extremely quick release off the line of scrimmage. His run after catch ability, aggressiveness to finish runs and willingness to block, complement his solid route running, making Smith a complete package. He also shows a nice vertical game, smooth change of direction footwork and speed that must be respected.
About This Series
Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft. The series is starting with the top five at each position, then will add additional players as the draft approaches, with a focus on positions of need.