The Future: 2021 NFL Draft Prospects DeVonta Smith
DeVonta Smith decided to come back to Alabama for his senior season after being projected as the 3rd Alabama receiver to be taken off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft. Both his former teammates were top 20 picks in last year's draft and after the season Smith has had he made the right decision to go back for his senior season as he now is projected by some to be the best receiver in this class. Both he and Ja'Marr Chase will be considered for many teams drafting in the top 15 and I would not be surprised if they both are taken within the top 10. Smith has put up some crazy number this year with 98 receptions for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns and he is being considered for the Heisman which has only been won by 2 receivers ever. I will discuss his hands, release, ability to separate, ability to adjust/body control, and his yards after the catch (YAC).
Hands- DeVonta's hands are very good. He has a long, lanky frame that allows him to catch the ball away from his body consistently. He has shown that he can hold onto the ball through big hits and contact as well as in heavily contested situations. Against LSU he made a spectacular catch over Devin Singletary where he ran a post corner and brought it down with 1 hand. He consistently snatches the ball out of the air with ease and can make every catch you could want him to.
Release- Smith is very smooth with his releases as he uses a variety to beat press. He can win with both inside and outside releases that allow him to line up all over and field. He knows how to use both his hands and feet to beat press and stay skinny to make the target for corners to jam as small as possible. I continue to go back to Smith's games against LSU where he lined up against Derek Stingley and consistently beat his press. The biggest question with Smith will be with his strength when corners can land jams on him. At 6'1, 175lbs he does not have the muscle mass to out muscle NFL level corners and is going to need to put on muscle mass to his very slight frame.
Separation Quickness- He has shown elite athleticism to create separation through the use of his speed, acceleration, agility, and quick feet. His route running technique is very good but there are still some small nuances that he can learn and add to his tree. He is best at creating separation on in cutting routes and has also shown that he can create separation at the catch point by going up and catching it over defenders. He will not be able to create separation through his play strength at his current weight/strength in the NFL. Against zone, he knows where to find the openings and when/where to sit down and come back to his quarterback.
Adjust/Body Control- He has an elite ability to control his body both on the sidelines and the back of the endzone to make sure that he secures the catch and gets his feet down in bounds. He is very good at adjusting to back shoulder throws as well as anything outside of the frame of his body. He can consistently make circus-like catches where he needs to go up and get the ball. He can out jump most defenders and "Moss" them. One of his best attributes is in the red zone where he is a threat on slants and well as in the back of the endzone where he shows his ability to go up to get that ball while remaining in bounds.
YAC- Smith is very good in the open field. He has the speed/acceleration to run away from defenders and beat angles as well as the vision to find green grass and get upfield. When in traffic he is a tough runner who is willing to take hits. I am a little worried about his slight frame when going over the middle of the field and taking big hits. He isn't going to be able to run through contact much but he is tough and always fights for yards. He has shown that he can make people miss with some suddenness to his movement but he isn't electric like Jaylen Waddle with how he is going to make people miss. Smith is also capable as a punt returner where he can find open holes and take any touch to the endzone. He is explosive in the sense of his speed and acceleration and can take a slant to the endzone but again he isn't going to be like a running back with the ball where he can make people miss in the open field.
An extra note about Smith is that in the run game he is a good blocker. He gives all his effort and is a team-first type of player who is willing to get down the field to make that last extra block to have a run play break off for a big play.