By Dylan MacKinnon
Devonta Smith comes into the draft with a lot of hype. 117 catches, 1,856 yards, and 23 touchdowns. That insane level of production was good enough to make him the first WR to win the Heisman since 1991. He also dropped only two passes. If you just looked at the box score, one would call Smith cant miss prospect. But will his game work in the NFL?
No Stranger to Doubters
Because of his sleight frame, 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Smith has heard a lot of people tell him he is too small to play Football. Smith said in high school, he would do 10 pushups every time he saw his own reflection. He heard the “too small” label so much he felt he had to get bigger and stronger.
Now several years later, people are still calling him too small. But that hasn’t stopped him from putting himself at the top of the Record Books at Alabama. He leaves the Crimson Tide as their all time leader in receiving touch downs, receiving yards, and receptions. Because of his small size, along with his crazy production, he earned the nickname Kevin Durant goes by, “The Slim Reaper.”
When asked about people doubting his ability because of his size, Smith said the following, “It gave me a lot, and it just made me want to do everything more physical. Be a bigger version of what I am. Everyone thinking I am so small… show everyone I am not the person you can bully.”
One NFL Coach is on the record saying Devonta Smith’s size doesn’t concern him. Brian Flores, head coach of the Miami Dolphins, told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that Smith is a good player regardless of his size. Flores coached Smith at this year’s Senior Bowl, and had high praise. By the way, the Dolphins are three picks ahead of the Eagles.
Flores on DeVonta Smith: "This guy is a very, very good player." Asked if size is a hinderance, Flores said: "You can nitpick all you want about a guy's size. Good players are good players. This guy is a very good player. Made a lot of plays in college.. [in] biggest games."— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) January 26, 2021
Ask any of his former coaches, or team mates and they will gush about Smith’s practice and off the field habits. Alabama WR John Metchie told Charlie Potter, who covers Bama for 247 Sports, that it is Smith’s work ethic that truly separates him.
#Alabama WR John Metchie on DeVonta Smith: "I think what separates him the most from everybody is definitely just his hard work and discipline. He's an extremely disciplined person and works extremely hard. And also consistency, just shows up and brings his best every day."— Charlie Potter (@Charlie_Potter) December 29, 2020
That same work ethic is what led Smith to return to Bama his senior season. Despite being a likely first round pick had he come out last year. He said the following on his Instagram when he announced his return to the team. “There’s a lot I have left to accomplish as a player and as a student, and I feel that my time is not up at Alabama. I have unfinished business to take care of and the only way to do that is to stay one more year.”
Alabama fell short of their goals the year prior. They missed the College Football Playoffs altogether. The year before that Bama was blown out by Clemson in the National Championship. Alabama did however win it all in his rookie year, where he had the game winning 41 yard TD in OT vs Georgia in the Championship.
Nick Saban had high praise as well. “Probably one of the most selfless guys that I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach in terms of whatever he can do to help the team he wants to do. The guy is one of the most popular guys on the team and also one of the leaders of the team that everybody looks up to because of the example that he sets every day and how he goes about his work.”
"He competes as well as anybody pound-for-pound that I've ever had the chance to coach."— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) February 5, 2021
Hall of Famer @BrettFavre and @AlabamaFTBL Head Coach Nick Saban discussed what makes @DeVontaSmith_6 a special player.
⬇️WATCH⬇️ | #RollTide pic.twitter.com/NDGXDnmVh4
Big Game Player
If you want a guy that shows up when it counts, look no further than Smith. We already mentioned the 41 yard overtime TD in his rookie year that won the National Championship for Alabama. But there is also this last National Championship. In the 2021 National Championship vs Ohio State, he put up a staggering 215 yards, on 12 catches with 3 TDs. This despite him missing the entire 2nd half. But one half was all it took for him to set the all time record in National Championship games for receptions. He also came close to the record for yards that is still held by Ja’Marr Chase with 221 yards.
OH MY DEVONTA SMITH 🤯— ESPN (@espn) January 12, 2021
That makes THREE TOUCHDOWNS for the Heisman winner 🔥 pic.twitter.com/u9qpKEKnTC
What do the Draft Experts Say
“In a group loaded with NFL talent, Smith always finds a way to make the important play for the Tide. That goes back to his freshman season, when he hauled in the walk-off TD in the national championship game against Georgia. In last year’s biggest game, Smith did his best to keep ‘Bama within striking distance against LSU with seven catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He’s the only player I’ve seen get the best of Derek Stingley Jr., having beaten LSU’s star corner a handful of times in that shootout. I love guys who play big in big moments. That’s what Smith has always done.”
“Although he’s a slender wideout who has body dimensions that are maxed out in both his upper and lower halves, he plays much bigger than his frail structure indicates. Possessing sure hands and body control, he has little trouble with making catches in traffic, but his fundamentals remain the same on routine ones as well. Although he may never make defenders miss consistently in space, he has elongated strides that allow him to eat up operating room quickly. A polished route-runner, he has a well-developed understanding of how to create separation and he also contains a diverse release package when facing challenges at the line of scrimmage. Smith will likely not gain another pound onto his frame and his lack of body strength shows up as a blocker or when operating without the ball.”
Smith comes out of college as one of the most productive college players ever. There are concerns about his size, but those who have been around him believe he will over come that hurdle in the NFL. We have already discussed the Eagles needs at WR, and Smith would certainly address them. The questions on if he becomes an Eagle will be; Does he go before pick 6? Is he the Eagles first choice at WR? Do the Eagles even want to take a WR at 6? But he is certainly a name to watch on draft night.