Rookie Rundown: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

Rookie Rundown: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

Fantasy football player analysis tips and advice

Rookie Rundown: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

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What’s not to like about the Heisman Trophy winner who set all-time receiving records at Alabama? Maybe his size? Does it matter? It certainly didn’t matter playing at the highest level in college football.

While DeVonta Smith played sparingly as a freshman, he became a factor on the 2018 National Championship team when he provided the game-winning touchdown in overtime. That was playing behind Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. In 2019, Ruggs left and Smith outplayed Jeudy when he became the Crimson Tide’s top receiver with 68 catches for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Rather than follow Jeudy in declaring for the 2020 NFL draft, Smith returned for his senior season, where he posted an astronomic 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in only 13 games. Smith became the first wideout ever to win the AP Player of the Year. He  secured the 2020 Heisman Trophy as the first wide receiver since 1991 and only the fourth ever.

Smith’s final matchup was another National Championship where he set records for the title game with 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns. He was named the Offensive MVP of the game. He only played in the first half because of a finger injury.

Height: 6-1
Weight: 170-ish pounds
40 time: 4.4-ish seconds

Smith did not merely dominate, he was the best player on the best team versus the best of all opponents. Smith leaves Alabama with every conceivable box already checked. He opted to sit out of the 2021 Senior Bowl because there was nothing left to prove.

Without an NFL Combine and electing to sit out of both Alabama Pro Days, there is no current measure on his weight or 40-time. He’s been listed between 170 and 179 pounds, but his frame suggests the 170 is more likely. According to previous 40-yard dashes that were not official, Smith ran between a 4.3 and 4.5. Regardless, catching 117 passes and scoring 24 total touchdowns for Alabama indicate that he’s plenty “football fast” in any case.

WR Devonta Smith, Alabama Stats

Year Games Catch Yards Avg. TD Runs Yards. TD Total Yards Total TDs
2017 8 8 160 20.0 3 0 0 0 160 3
2018 13 42 693 16.5 6 0 0 0 693 6
2019 13 68 1256 18.5 14 0 0 0 1256 14
2020 13 117 1856 15.9 23 4 6 1 1862 24

His weight will likely cause him to drop slightly in the draft, though by all accounts he remains a first rounder. Finding a player to equate him to is difficult. Over the last ten years, the number of wideouts drafted that were over 6-0 and yet weighed under 180 pounds is zero. The only 6-0 receivers in that metric were DeDe Westbrook (2017: 6-0, 178 pounds) and Paul Richardson (2014: 6-0, 175 pounds). Neither have done much.

The only lighter first-round wideouts drafted in the last ten years were Marquise Brown (2019: 5-11, 165 pounds) and Tavon Austin (2013: 5-8, 174 pounds). Neither delivered on their expectations. The reality is that NFL-caliber defensive backs are hard to beat regardless, and more so for those less able to contend with physical contact from elite cornerbacks.

Tavon Austin’s senior season at West Virginia produced a stat line of 114-1289-12, plus 643 yards as a runner. He’s never gained more than 473 receiving yards in the NFL. Marquise Brown’s final year at Oklahoma totaled 75-1318-10, and he was the first wideout drafted in 2019. Two years in the NFL and his best season was 769 yards and eight scores in 2020.

Another parallel that gets drawn considers Marvin Harrison who stood 6-0 and weighed 181 pounds at his 1996 combine. And he excelled. Then again, he also was a rookie 25 years ago and the NFL evolves every season.

The other reality is that Smith crushed it at every level that he’s ever played. Reaching two National Championships means he already faced the best defenses that the NCAA can provide and won big. He won the Heisman Trophy. He became the MVP of a National Championship game.

What more could he have done?

Pros

  • Excellent route discipline
  • Tremendous timing
  • Smart and instinctual football player
  • Elusive runner
  • Doesn’t shy away from the ball ever
  • Polished and mature player
  • Initial quickness negates press coverage
  • Consistent
  • Always gets the job done
  • Special teams experience
  • Great hands, makes contested  catches

Cons

  • Blocking skills are average
  • Smaller frame a concern versus NFL defenders

Fantasy outlook

In Smith’s final game when he was the National Championship MVP, he dislocated his finger and tore ligaments but there are no concerns that it will be any issue.

While Smith has a slimmer frame than any other wideout of any note, he’s still expected to be selected in the first fifteen picks of the NFL draft and among the first three  receivers taken.  He’ll be fascinating to watch from a pure football perspective since he’s been the best of the best and could end up as a first-round “bargain” if he can continue to deliver.

He projects mostly as a slot receiver since he may not possess the size and strength to be a traditional X-receiver. But he will be drafted to become a No. 1 receiver and his poise, intelligence and experience should shorten any learning curve significantly.

Smith is linked to the Bengals, Dolphins, Lions, Panthers, Eagles, Patriots, and Chargers but he could go almost anywhere if a team opts to move up and select the talented prospect. That could very well end up happening if there is any sense that he is falling in the draft.

We’ll see if Smith is the next Marvin Harrison or just the next Tavon Austin. Or maybe, he’ll just continue to be the elite player that others are compared against.

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