Good morning New York Giants fans and welcome to another Saturday of college football!
The 2019 and 2020 NFL Drafts produced a pair of deep, talented, and productive groups of wide receivers. The previous two classes are good enough that any draft class will have difficulty measuring up.
And we probably shouldn’t expect the 2021 wide receiver class to be quite as excellent as the previous two. That isn’t slight on this year’s receivers, simply an acknowledgement of how good the previous classes were. We could also find ourselves in the curious position of the Biletnikoff Award winner (potentially) being among the most polarizing players in the draft.
Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith is a skilled receiver who has been explosively productive for the Crimson Tide, but he also has significant physical limitations that could hold him back at the NFL level.
Prospect: Devonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
- vs. Auburn (2019)
- vs South Carolina (2019)
- vs. Missouri (2020)
- vs. Georgia (2020)
Red Flags: none
Height: 6-foot-1 (6010)
Weight: 174 pounds
(Note: Stats exclude 2020 as the season is still in progress)
Games Played: 34
Receptions: 118 receptions
Yards (YPC): 2,109 yards (18.3 yards per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 23
Best: Route running, quickness, hands, and ball skills
Worst: Size, strength, long speed
Projection: A starting slot receiver in a West Coast Offense.
Alabama senior Devonta Smith is a highly productive receiving prospect with good size, quickness, agility, route running, and ball skills.
Smith has been used in a variety of roles in the Alabama offense, lining up in the “X” and Flanker positions, as well as in the slot and used in jet motion. Smith features quick feet and a variety of strategies to beat tight coverage at the line of scrimmage and get into his routes with a minimum of wasted time and motion. His most effective move is a quick stutter step at the snap of the ball to disrupt defensive backs’ timing and prevent hard contact as he gets into his route.
Smith is a smooth, savvy, and nuanced route runner, routinely varying his stride length and tempo to further keep defensive backs out of phase with him. He is at his best on quick routes or routes that require quick breaks, showing very good stop-start quickness as well as sharp, precise breaks at the top of his routes. Smith shows a good understanding of coverage schemes and routinely adjusts his routes to find voids in zone coverage or take advantage of defenders put in conflict by route concepts.
He possesses good ball skills down the field, easily locating, tracking, and adjusting to the ball in the air. Smith is a natural “hands” catcher who extends to maximize his catch radius and secure the ball in contested situations. Smith shows good competitive toughness as well and doesn’t back down from those situations and is willing to battle defensive backs throughout the game.
Smith’s lack of size and slight frame will be the most significant question marks in his evaluation. He is severely undersized at 6-foot-1, 174 pounds, and that lack of size makes winning physical match-ups difficult at best. Smith can be rerouted at the line of scrimmage when he isn’t able to quickly gain a clean release at the start of the play. Likewise, he struggles to separate against physical man coverage and can be bullied at the catch point. Smith also lacks great long speed and doesn’t appear to have an “extra gear” running down the field. He can be caught by faster defensive backs and doesn’t regularly generate separation if he gets a step on a corner.
And while Smith is a willing blocker, his blocking ability is a liability due to a lack of play strength. He shouldn’t be asked to make key blocks at the NFL level.
Smith projects best as a starting slot receiver in a West Coast Offense.
Playing exclusively out of the slot — and bunch sets — will help protect Smith against the bigger, more physical cornerbacks he would see routinely playing the “X” or Flanker positions outside in the NFL. The slot position will give Smith the opportunity to match up against corners down opposing defenses’ depth chart, or safeties and linebackers, any of which would favor his route running and ball skills.
Smith’s precision route running would fit well in an offensive scheme built around quick-strike West Coast principles, where Smith would be able to win quickly without having to rely on his average long speed in vertical routes. Likewise, his nuanced, intelligent route running would benefit an offense which uses route concepts to create separation and beat coverages with scheme rather than individual athleticism.
Smith is capable of making explosive plays when put in position to do so, but his physical limitations could make him a more scheme-dependant player at the NFL level.
The greater concern for Smith is whether his size will make him more susceptible to injury exclusively playing the middle of the field at the NFL level.
Games to watch
(9) Georgia at (25) Mizzou
SECN - noon
Players to watch
- Ben Cleveland (OG)
- Trey Hill (C)
- Monty Rice (iLB)
- Azeez Ojulari (EDGE)
- Eric Stokes (CB)
- Tyson Campbell (CB)
- Rirchard LeCounte (FS)
- Nick Bolton (iLB)
- Tyree Gillespie (S)
- Joshua Bledsoe (S)
(17) UNC at (10) Miami
ABC - 3:30 pm
Players to watch
- Quincy Roche (OLB/EDGE)
- Al Blades (CB)
- Bubba Bolden (S)
- Brevin Jordan (TE)
- Dyami Brown (WR)
- Dazz Newsome (WR)
- Chazz Surratt (LB)
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