The Philadelphia Eagles made goals come true by buying and selling as much as No. 10 within the 2021 NFL Draft to pick DeVonta Smith. With a purpose to be taught much more about him, I reached out to SB Nation’s Alabama weblog: Roll Bama Roll. Crimson Tide author Brent Taylor was variety sufficient to reply my questions.
1) Are you able to recap his school profession?
Smith got here to Alabama as a borderline 5-star prospect out of Louisiana however was usually the third-most talked-about man, as Jerry Jeudy had all of the Twitter video highlights with ankle-breaking route-running whereas Henry Ruggs was setting all types of monitor data together with his ridiculous velocity. All three guys performed behind Calvin Ridley, and seniors Cam Sims and Robert Foster in 2017, however acquired important time within the second half of video games as Tua Tagovailoa labored with the second-team offense. Smith had his first actual second in a low-scoring slugfest in opposition to Mississippi State, the place he caught a slant from Jalen Hurts, broke a sort out, and scored the game-winner on a do-it-or-die drive.
Then just a few months later, your complete nation was placed on discover when he caught the additional time game-winner on 2nd and 26 within the Nationwide Championship in opposition to Georgia.
(I’ll by no means move up a possibility to hyperlink to this play)
With your complete season on the road, Alabama inserted a gaggle of freshmen on offense (Tagovailoa, Smith, Ruggs, Jeudy, Najee Harris, and Alex Leatherwood), they usually gained all of it, formally migrating Alabama from the defensive juggernaut of 2008-2017 to an offensive powerhouse that we’ve seen ever since.
In 2018, Smith shortly grew to become an everyday starter, although he cut up a number of the catches with Jeudy, Ruggs, freshman Jaylen Waddle, and TE Irv Smith. Whereas he began out the season properly, he pulled a hamstring that stored him restricted for a lot of the center chunk of the schedule, and he fell behind the opposite pass-catchers when it comes to media hype. He got here on robust once more within the playoffs, however a championship loss to Clemson made it a bit forgettable.
In 2019, Jeudy, Ruggs, and Waddle all returned, however this time, Smitty wasn’t restricted with a bum hamstring. He had an 8-catch, 136-yard sport in a shootout in opposition to South Carolina, after which rotated a torched Ole Miss for a ridiculous 274 yards and 5 touchdowns. Whereas Jeudy and Ruggs continued to get all of the NFL Draft hype, Smith simply went on and led the workforce in yards, catches, and touchdowns all season lengthy, together with one other 200-yard efficiency in opposition to LSU and All-American cornerback, Derek Stingley.
Slightly than bolting for the professionals as a possible early second-round decide (he had all of the manufacturing one might ask for as a junior, however lacked the flashy velocity of Ruggs or jukes like Jeudy), he returned for a senior season, risking breaking in a brand new QB for the prospect to win one other championship. And boy, what a season it was. He truly had a relatively quiet first two video games (solely 14 catches), however racked up 164 yards in a shootout in opposition to Ole Miss, one other 160 yards in opposition to the #1 protection within the nation in opposition to Georgia, after which strung collectively a streak of 203, 144, 171, and 231 yards video games after Jaylen Waddle was sidelined with a damaged ankle. Slightly than wilting with further consideration positioned on him by opposing protection, Smith simply stored getting an increasing number of dominant.
His 231-yard sport in opposition to LSU featured the spotlight 1-handed catch at the back of the endzone over the top of Stingley once more, and that efficiency vaulted him to the forefront of the Heisman dialog. Arkansas went with a novel, 3-high stop fashion protection that acquired them eviscerated by Alabama’s operating sport, however they at the very least held Smith to solely 22 yards (although he did return a punt for a landing). He completed off the season with large performances within the SEC Championship and each playoff video games, gained the Heisman, and closed out the profession of a legend.
2) What are his strengths?
First off, his velocity.
Ruggs at all times acquired all of the hype for his velocity, however Smith hung in there with him on a regular basis. He’s acquired nice top-end striding velocity, however even higher, can speed up to the highest velocity with out losing a step (a by-product of not having to exert an entire bunch of additional drive to hurry up a 200-pound body). He’s a slick route-runner, and that interprets to his capacity to make guys miss within the open discipline. He’s gentle however has by no means shied away from launching shoulder-first into defenders to get an additional yard or two on each catch. Mix that velocity, route-running, and YAC capacity, and you may see how he’s made a profession of turning routine slants into big performs.
On high of that, he’s at all times had phenomenal arms, whether or not it’s making powerful, contested catches or simply making the routine ones, and he’s acquired that pure really feel for leaping over and round defenders to drag in catches with out ever getting bodied out. When he got here to Alabama with Ruggs and Jeudy, the overall consensus on every of them was that Ruggs was the velocity man, Jeudy was the route-runner, and Smith had one of the best arms.
3) What are his weaknesses?
I imply, you’re speaking in regards to the first pure receiver to win the Heisman in… 30 years…? There’s actually not a lot to say. I’ve seen loads about him being a nasty run-blocker, however man I’ve seen him spring Waddle and Ruggs free on many broad receiver screens over time. If something, I’d say that his YAC capacity might not switch as properly within the execs. He’s by no means actually had that ankle-breaking juke capacity in opposition to a defender proper in his grill and is extra somebody that may simply weave by way of seams between defenders and blockers to select up big chunks of yards.
All that mentioned, I may also say that a number of his manufacturing got here off of well-designed performs seeking to faux screens, faux RPOs, precise RPOs, and important game-long setups. It’s not like NFL groups can’t do these issues, however I additionally haven’t seen an excessive amount of proof that many professional coaches are prepared to deviate from their completely pre-planned run/move splits to truly run an offense with out placing synthetic constraints on themselves. So I assume we might name it a doable weak spot that we’ve by no means actually seen him work with a nasty QB and unhealthy OC and should bail them out with pure expertise.
4) Are you stunned the place he was drafted? Increased or decrease than anticipated? Excellent?
How the NFL can take a receiver that didn’t even play in 2020 and one other receiver that’s by no means had a full season of manufacturing over probably the most dominant school receiver since Larry Fitzgerald is past me. Smith even performed on the identical discipline as each of those guys and was at all times one of the best receiver on the sphere.
Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle are nice gamers and completely worthy of being thought of high 10 picks, however DeVonta ought to have been the primary non-QB off the board in my view. Some groups did the patented NFL GM factor and actually overthought issues. Simply take one of the best participant within the nation already. However, hey, it labored out for Philly, huh?
5) How do you see his NFL profession taking part in out? To what extent do you suppose the burden considerations are overblown?
I’ll reply your second query first: In 4 seasons of manufacturing in opposition to SEC competitors, Smith has pulled a hamstring as soon as and dislocated a finger as soon as. And I’m positive that being 185 kilos as a substitute of 170 would have prevented these accidents, proper? If something, he’s extra versatile and fewer prone to blow out a knee than among the 230-pound monsters that run a sub-4.5 forty. Plus with the best way guidelines are slanted in direction of defenseless receivers nowadays, it’s not like he’s going to be taking large hits just like the receivers again in 2005. He’s confirmed time and again he can out-jump and out-position defenders on contested catches, so I can’t think about including 15 kilos would make him any higher at it both.
As for the way I see his profession? I’m a bit nervous about Philly’s QB scenario, to be sincere. I’ve seen an entire lot of Jalen Hurts in my profession… And that results in a number of video games with 1 passing landing, 2 speeding touchdowns, and 12 punts. After all, that additionally led to Calvin Ridley getting like 60% of the receiver manufacturing. Hurts actually likes his #1 receiver. Particularly in the event that they’re on the precise facet and might run a comeback on the sidelines when he rolls proper. I do have excessive hopes for the Eagles’ new coach although. However finally I see Smith as a 10-plus-year strong #1 receiver within the league, with an opportunity to develop into an everyday All-Professional expertise if the scenario round him is nice sufficient to help it.
6) Something to find out about him off the sphere?
He’s a reasonably soft-spoken man however has at all times displayed a number of quiet confidence in himself. He’s principally been a very boring interview, however he did appear to interrupt out of his shell slightly bit as a senior. However he’s positively by no means been an off-field concern.