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DeVonta Smith the Slim Reaper


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Daniel Jeremiah

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NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2020. This is the ninth in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout the offseason.

During the 2019 college football season, Alabama featured the most talented receiver group I've ever seen since my scouting career began back in 2003. Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy were both selected in the top 15 this past spring, and they were flanked by two other potential future first-round picks. One of those players was DeVonta Smith, who led the group in yards and touchdowns. I recently studied his game. Here is my scouting report:

Height, weight: 6-foot-1, 175 pounds (school measurements).

2019 statistics: 68 receptions for 1,256 yards (18.5 average) and 14 touchdowns.

Game tape watched: All of his targets during the 2019 season.

What I liked: Smith is a smooth, fluid route runner with outstanding body control, hands and toughness. He can play inside or outside and uses his quickness to routinely defeat press coverage. He understands how to set up defenders and can sink his weight at the top of the route to efficiently get in/out of his breaks. He does a really good job working back down the route stem to the quarterback.

He has outstanding concentration and hands to finish in traffic. He can pluck the low ball off his shoes, reach back for balls on the back hip or high point the ball down the field -- and he does it all so smoothly and effortlessly. After the catch, he is extremely elusive, consistently making the first defender miss. Also, despite his lean frame, he is surpassingly strong to break tackles on the perimeter. His run-after-catch skills are featured with several quick screens and fly sweeps in the Crimson Tide offense.

Where he needs to improve: The only real knocks on Smith are his lean frame and lack of elite top speed. That being said, he plays much bigger and stronger than his body type would suggest. For durability purposes, it would be nice to see him add 10 pounds, but I believe he can be an effective pro at his current weight. My sources at Alabama expect him to run the 40-yard dash in the low 4.5s, with the potential to sneak into the high 4.4s. That doesn't place his speed in the special category, but it's plenty fast enough for me. Most of the top receivers in the NFL today were clocked in the 4.5s coming out of college (Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams, to name a few).

Biggest takeaway: 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.

He reminds me of: I couldn't find an obvious comparison in today's NFL. However, I did see some glimpses of Marvin Harrison while studying Smith. I hate comparing college kids to Hall of Famers, but Smith and Harrison have several things in common: lean builds, crisp route-running, excellent hands and toughness. I think Harrison was more sudden and explosive, but Smith's playing style is quite similar. I will give Smith the nod in one area: I believe he's more physical than Harrison. (Coaches at Alabama think Smith could start for them at cornerback.) Let's be real: I'm not expecting Smith to produce Harrison's gaudy numbers at the next level, but I do believe he has Pro Bowl potential, provided he lands in the right spot with the right support.

While this may be hyperbolic I have not seen many folks dare compare WR to Marvelous Marvin so this got my attention.

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I'll admit. I might have misheard him.

https://twitter.com/fbgchase/status/1374168906118672387 Old FBG buddy Chase with some data. Worth reading the entire thread.    

Really hoping somebody takes him before I pick fourth in dynasty draft and either Chase or Etienne falls to me. I'm not sold on this guy's pro career. Nor am I sold on Etienne's, but that's a differen

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Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash writes that Alabama senior WR Devonta Smith was "lethal after the catch and generated separation against any cornerback he faced, especially against press coverage (in 2019)."

"On those press-coverage reps, Smith posted the nation's highest raw PFF grade per snap and averaged nearly 30 yards per catch, [five] yards more than any other receiver," Treash writes. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Alabama standout could have declared for the draft over the winter, but opted instead to take his talents back to Tuscaloosa for his senior season. Smith posted a 68-1256-14 receiving line in the fall, leading Alabama in both receiving yards and touchdowns. Treash ranks him as the No. 2 wideout in college football for the 2020 season. Treash slotted Biletnikoff winner Ja'Marr Chase in the pole position.

SOURCE: ESPN Insider

Mar 21, 2020, 2:25 PM ET

 

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Pro Football Focus lists Alabama senior WR Devonta Smith as the top returning player for the Crimson Tide.

Smith was able to post a 68-1,256-14 line in 2019, and as PFF notes, the fact he was able to put up those numbers and a 3.52 average in yards-per-route while playing with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle is very impressive. Waddle returns, but Ruggs and Jeudy are off to burn NFL cornerbacks, and even without Tua Tagovailoa, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound wideout should put up monster numbers for the Crimson Tide when the 2020 season gets started. 

SOURCE: Pro Football Focus

Apr 4, 2020, 1:56 PM ET

 

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Pro Football Focus notes that Alabama senior WR Devonta Smith had the most catches with 10-plus yards after the catch among returning wideouts for the 2020 season.

Smith ended up picking up 29 catches where he was able to add 10-plus yards after the catch. The only player who came close to that total among returners was Louisville's Tutu Atwell, who had 26 for the Cardinals in 2019. It's scary to think how good Smith was last year (68-1,256-14) when you think that he was playing in an offense with Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy; both of whom were first-round picks this April. Jaylen Waddle and a host of other highly-recruited players will get theres, but Smith appears to be the top option in this passing attack. The question is who will be throwing him the football. 

RELATED: 

Tutu Atwell

SOURCE: PFF College on Twitter

Jun 19, 2020, 1:31 PM ET

 

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ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., tagged Alabama junior WR Devonta Smith as a potential first-round sleeper for next spring.

"Smith isn't as fast as Henry Ruggs III or as explosive as Jerry Jeudy, but he has smooth speed and creates separation on every route," Kiper writes of the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, adding that "[h]e has also shown the ability to break tackles in space, and he's a good route runner." Smith is coming off an immaculate 11-274-5 (!) receiving line against Ole Miss and has caught 31 passes for 537 yards and eight touchdowns in five games this season. He has already set a career-best for receiving touchdowns and is just 156 yards shy of topping his yardage best for a campaign (set last season). Consistency and health (especially health) have limited Smith in the past, but he's been out-and-out brilliant during the current campaign. Kiper sees the first round as being within reach, here, but currently grades the Alabama junior as a second-round prospect.

SOURCE: ESPN Insider

Oct 1, 2019, 3:36 PM ET

 

 

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Guy outproduced Jeudy and Ruggs last year

He may be the least physically talented of all 4 (including Waddle) but he pops off on tape as much as anyone

I bet the physical talent part will push him to the late 1st but his release alone gives him a very high floor as a pro

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Don’t like him.  This is just another Riley Ridley situation for DJ.  Elevating a talent because he “runs good routes” and goes to a top school but isn’t a special talent in any way.  

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12 hours ago, Zyphros said:

Don’t like him.  This is just another Riley Ridley situation for DJ.  Elevating a talent because he “runs good routes” and goes to a top school but isn’t a special talent in any way.  

Riley Ridley never outproduced talents like Jeudy and Ruggs and did test horribly athletically

Besides Smith’s biggest strength is his release not his routes

I don’t see how they are comparable or any way Smith falls to day 3

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27 minutes ago, KChusker said:

Riley Ridley never outproduced talents like Jeudy and Ruggs and did test horribly athletically

Besides Smith’s biggest strength is his release not his routes

I don’t see how they are comparable or any way Smith falls to day 3

Comparing the situation and the tout, not the player themselves.  DJ is just hyping a player because Smith fell under the radar because of so many other Alabama players and being the older/last declare (along with Najee).  Ridley was under the radar because he was at Georgia and the thought was they just ran the ball all the time really well.  Comparing the thought that they both were under the radar because of talent/scheme around them.  

No arguments here, Smith is a better prospect than Ridley was.  Just not over the moon with Smith.  

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4 minutes ago, Zyphros said:

Comparing the situation and the tout, not the player themselves.  DJ is just hyping a player because Smith fell under the radar because of so many other Alabama players and being the older/last declare (along with Najee).  Ridley was under the radar because he was at Georgia and the thought was they just ran the ball all the time really well.  Comparing the thought that they both were under the radar because of talent/scheme around them.  

No arguments here, Smith is a better prospect than Ridley was.  Just not over the moon with Smith.  

I get it, but Smith is under the radar (relatively speaking) despite outproducing the talent around him

I guess I wouldn't say I am over the moon on him either: when watching Smith I see someone who plays like Tyler Boyd but is 20 pounds lighter.

He needs to bulk up

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Pro Football Focus notes that Alabama senior WR Devonta Smith had the most catches with 10-plus yards after the catch among returning wideouts for the 2020 season.

Smith ended up picking up 29 catches where he was able to add 10-plus yards after the catch. The only player who came close to that total among returners was Louisville's Tutu Atwell, who had 26 for the Cardinals in 2019. It's scary to think how good Smith was last year (68-1,256-14) when you think that he was playing in an offense with Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy; both of whom were first-round picks this April. Jaylen Waddle and a host of other highly-recruited players will get theres, but Smith appears to be the top option in this passing attack. The question is who will be throwing him the football. 

RELATED: 

Tutu Atwell

SOURCE: PFF College on Twitter

Jun 19, 2020, 1:31 PM ET

 


 

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Dane Brugler of The Athletic ranks Alabama senior WR DeVonta Smith fourth among all wideouts eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft coming into the 2020 season.  

Smith is the highest rated senior in this group, as the three names ahead of him -- LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, Minnesota's Rashod Bateman and Purdue's Rondale Moore -- are all underclassman. "Nothing about Smith’s height (6'0), weight (172) or speed screams playmaker, but his ball skills and ability to separate earn him a spot on this list," Brugler writes. He notes that the wideout has quick, accepting hands and that he is able to pluck the ball away from defenders. His concern comes in Smith's frame, as you don't see many top options weighing in that 170-175 range that he does at this point. Still, his production can't be questioned, and his ability to make plays down the field will assuredly make him one of the first wideouts off the board this spring. 

SOURCE: The Athletic

Jul 18, 2020, 2:21 PM E

 

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Alabama senior WR DeVonta Smith caught eight passes for 89 yards in a 38-19 win over Missouri on Saturday. 

Smith tied for the team lead in catches with eight with Jaylen Waddle, although Waddle was able to find the end zone and go for 134 yards in the rout. Still, a solid debut for a projected first-round pick, as he was able to connect with both Mac Jones and Daniel Young in the contest. Expect Smith to put up similar numbers -- and find the end zone -- next Saturday against Texas A&M. 

Sep 26, 2020, 10:19 PM ET

 

 

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Alabama senior WR DeVonta Smith caught 11 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown in a 41-24 win on Saturday over Georgia. 

It's still amazing that DeVonta Smith was essentially the third option in this Alabama offense last year; or at least it was debatable. It's not debatable now, although Jaylen Waddle is putting up monster numbers, as well. Smith scored on a 17-yard strike from Mac Jones to tie the game at 17-17, and his 13-yard score from Jones' right arm made it 27-24 a quarter later. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound wideout has scored in three consecutive games, and he's gone over double digits in receptions in back-to-back contests. Both streaks can -- and probably will -- stay intact next Saturday against Tennessee. 

Oct 17, 2020, 11:41 PM ET

 

 

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The senior receiver continued his assault on the Magnolia State on Saturday, reeling in 11 catches for 203 yards and four touchdowns. That came after Smith recorded 164 yards and a touchdown on a school-record 13 receptions while also running in a 14-yard score against Ole Miss earlier this season.

Over the last two years, Smith has torched the state of Mississippi for 773 total yards and 11 touchdowns over five games (two apiece against Mississippi State and Ole Miss and one against Southern Miss).

Smith got off a slow start Saturday night, losing 6 yards on a shovel pass before uncharacteristically dropping a ball in the end zone. He atoned for the mistake later in the first quarter as he got on the other end of a 35-yard touchdown pass from Mac Jones. The two hooked up for a 53-yard score on Alabama’s next possession before adding an 11-yard scoring strike before the half. Smith’s fourth touchdown of the game, a 10-yard grab, gave him 31 on his career, tying him with Amari Cooper for the school’s all-time record. LINK

 

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Alabama senior WR DeVonta Smith brought in seven passes for 130 yards with three touchdowns on Friday in a 31-14 rout of Notre Dame on Friday in the Rose Bowl Game. 

What more can you say about Smith? The Heisman finalist -- and in some circles, the favorite -- was simply dominant (again) as Notre Dame didn't have any athletes on that side of the ball to keep up with him. He opened the scoring with a 26-yard touchdown, and he scored on a 34-yard connection with Mac Jones to extend Alabama's lead to 21-7. A seven-yard touchdown in the third solidified the rout. Smith (6'1/175) is going to be drafted very highly in April, but he will have another chance to put up ridiculous numbers against either Clemson or Ohio State in the title game on January 11. 

Jan 1, 2021, 7:32 PM ET

 

 

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Alabama senior WR DeVonta Smith (finger) caught 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns in Monday's 52-24 win over Ohio State in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T.

Unfortunately Smith’s day was cut short due to a hand/finger injury, but  the Heisman winner posted a full game’s worth of stats in the first half. Through just two quarters, Smith was almost the entire Alabama passing offense, especially so considering the run game had not really gotten going to that point. Everyone will remember Smith gashing down the middle against one of Ohio State’s linebackers, but Smith dominated every single defender put against him, no matter their position. Smith put one hell of a cherry on top of a fantastic career. 

Jan 11, 2021, 11:30 PM ET

 

 

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On 7/7/2020 at 9:12 AM, Zyphros said:

Don’t like him.  This is just another Riley Ridley situation for DJ.  Elevating a talent because he “runs good routes” and goes to a top school but isn’t a special talent in any way.  

I’m curious if your opinion has changed?

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33 minutes ago, Andy Dufresne said:

He's good but boy, OSU didn't even pretend to play defense last night.

That and Sarkasian does a fantastic job of using him and Najee Harris (and all their talent)...when you combine elite talent with elite play-calling it looks so simple...real impressive effort last night and all year long. 

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19 minutes ago, G-King said:

It looks like this was written before the Ohio St game.  I think the answer is clear now.

Wouldn't shock me to see waddle end up better. Hes bigger and faster.   Cant they both be great?

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2 hours ago, G-King said:

I’m curious if your opinion has changed?

Definitely. I don't think he's a top talent WR for the year though. All this Heisman talk and blowing up yesterday, he'll be elevated higher than he should be. Doesn't mean I hate him, but it does mean he's overvalued for what he is. He's a senior prospect, that was never THE #1, who is 175 pounds. That profile doesn't project well. He might be an outlier which it looks like he will be but I'm avoiding the risk there because he'd have to be an outlier to be successful. 

If you read back my clarification was:

On 7/7/2020 at 9:14 PM, Zyphros said:

Comparing the situation and the tout, not the player themselves.  DJ is just hyping a player because Smith fell under the radar because of so many other Alabama players and being the older/last declare (along with Najee).  Ridley was under the radar because he was at Georgia and the thought was they just ran the ball all the time really well.  Comparing the thought that they both were under the radar because of talent/scheme around them.  

No arguments here, Smith is a better prospect than Ridley was.  Just not over the moon with Smith.  

So I'm not sure if you're trying to be cheeky or if you're genuine in your question. Smith was always a good prospect, I just don't like the profile or the elevation of a guy because he plays for Alabama and that he was buried on the depth chart. He wasn't, and he still never stood out from the crowd until he was older than the rest of the players in college football. Doesn't make him a bad prospect though. 

Right now he's my 4th most talented WR in the 2021 class. He's my WR3 for rookie drafts, and my rookie 1.08. 

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I have to say, he doesn't profile as a top NFL WR. 

Short answer is he either looks like a rich man's Brandin Cooks or a skid row man's Tyreek Hill.

There's a reason that Jefferson/Lamb/Higgins performed well as rookies - they're just bigger and stronger.

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12 minutes ago, Zyphros said:

Definitely. I don't think he's a top talent WR for the year though. All this Heisman talk and blowing up yesterday, he'll be elevated higher than he should be. Doesn't mean I hate him, but it does mean he's overvalued for what he is. He's a senior prospect, that was never THE #1, who is 175 pounds. That profile doesn't project well. He might be an outlier which it looks like he will be but I'm avoiding the risk there because he'd have to be an outlier to be successful. 

If you read back my clarification was:

So I'm not sure if you're trying to be cheeky or if you're genuine in your question. Smith was always a good prospect, I just don't like the profile or the elevation of a guy because he plays for Alabama and that he was buried on the depth chart. He wasn't, and he still never stood out from the crowd until he was older than the rest of the players in college football. Doesn't make him a bad prospect though. 

Right now he's my 4th most talented WR in the 2021 class. He's my WR3 for rookie drafts, and my rookie 1.08. 

Not cheeky at all. Genuine question, as I too was skeptical of his size. But, this guy has proven to have the “it” factor in my book. Sometimes small guys play giant. TY Hilton was 5’10” 180 and a good example.

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3 minutes ago, G-King said:

Not cheeky at all. Genuine question, as I too was skeptical of his size. But, this guy has proven to have the “it” factor in my book. Sometimes small guys play giant. TY Hilton was 5’10” 180 and a good example.

For every Hilton, who is an outlier, there's 10 more that weren't successful (I don't know the numbers 10 is just random but it's probably even more than that). 

DeVonta is 3 inches taller than Hilton was and 5 pounds less.... Just think about that for a second. 

He definitely has proven his worth as arguably the best college WR of all time. I've been looking at college for about 4 years now only and I don't remember any college WR doing the things DeVonta is, it's nice to see and it's damn impressive. But that doesn't change the fact that there's few comparable players in the NFL that have been successful. 

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21 minutes ago, Zyphros said:

For every Hilton, who is an outlier, there's 10 more that weren't successful (I don't know the numbers 10 is just random but it's probably even more than that). 

DeVonta is 3 inches taller than Hilton was and 5 pounds less.... Just think about that for a second. 

He definitely has proven his worth as arguably the best college WR of all time. I've been looking at college for about 4 years now only and I don't remember any college WR doing the things DeVonta is, it's nice to see and it's damn impressive. But that doesn't change the fact that there's few comparable players in the NFL that have been successful. 

That’s why I said “sometimes”. 
 

Yes, he could flop in the NFL, but that’s with everyone. There are more examples of guys drafted NOT making it than DO make it at EVERY position. For every TY Hilton there are the JJAW’s also.🤷🏼‍♂️

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6 minutes ago, need2know said:

will be interesting to see where he gets drafted cause he wont have great combine numbers

They're different players, and the comp is probably mostly due to school, but he reminds me of Calvin ridley. 

I don't know if he can pack on 10-20 lbs, but he should if he can.

Dude is the same size I was in college and I packed on 16 lbs. ;)

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2 minutes ago, -OZ- said:

They're different players, and the comp is probably mostly due to school, but he reminds me of Calvin ridley. 

I don't know if he can pack on 10-20 lbs, but he should if he can.

Dude is the same size I was in college and I packed on 16 lbs. ;)

I’d give anything to have only packed on 16 pounds since I was 20.😂

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3 minutes ago, Andy Dufresne said:

Where's this "greatest college WR of all time" coming from? People that have only watched college football for two years?

You're kidding. Right?

Not to say that he is the GOAT. but it's not hard to see why he's in the discussion.

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11 minutes ago, -OZ- said:

You're kidding. Right?

Not to say that he is the GOAT. but it's not hard to see why he's in the discussion.

In the discussion? Sure. But there have been a lot of really great college players. Put a Notre Dame jersey on him and he's Raghib Ismail.

Anyway...not a hill I'm prepared to die on or even defend.

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5 minutes ago, Andy Dufresne said:

In the discussion? Sure. But there have been a lot of really great college players. 

Anyway...not a hill I'm prepared to die on or even defend.

Ok.

:shrug: #6 most receiving in a season, playing all SEC, and then 2 of the best 3 teams in the nation. No other top seasons played anywhere near as tough a schedule.

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Great college WR......sure......NFL WR, not sure.  I followed his recruitment as he’s from Louisiana, same as Chase.  Coming out of High School they were both big time prospects but Chase had the physical element that separated the two imo.  Smith has gained 0 muscle definition in his legs from his high school days.  Chase is a better overall WR and should be the higher pick in the NFL and FF.

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My only question on him is how he does against press man coverage? Can you get physical on him and take him out of his game?

Otherwise I've seen enough to know if he gets a free release he can't be covered.

 

 

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46 minutes ago, Tha Guru said:

Great college WR......sure......NFL WR, not sure.  I followed his recruitment as he’s from Louisiana, same as Chase.  Coming out of High School they were both big time prospects but Chase had the physical element that separated the two imo.  Smith has gained 0 muscle definition in his legs from his high school days.  Chase is a better overall WR and should be the higher pick in the NFL and FF.

 

40 minutes ago, menobrown said:

My only question on him is how he does against press man coverage? Can you get physical on him and take him out of his game?

Otherwise I've seen enough to know if he gets a free release he can't be covered.

I agree Chase is the better pro prospect, but it is hard to ignore how impressive Smith looks.  Yet, he is rail thin at 6-1, 174 pounds; DeVonta is still a couple dozen quarter pounders from being a buck eighty!  He has elite acceleration and runs smoothly through his routes without losing speed.  His hands and body control are elite even by NFL standards, but I have the same concerns about Smith vs. NFL corners.  @menobrownis spot on that DeVonta Smith is almost uncoverable if he gets a free release.  If Smith runs a sub-4.45 forty, he will challenge Chase for the top spot.

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