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DeVonta Smith NFL Draft profile: Fantasy Football fits, scouting report, dynasty outlook, strengths, concerns

Rated a four-star prospect out of Amite Magnet High School (about an hour north of New Orleans), DeVonta Smith had offers from pretty much every major college football program but agreed to go to Alabama. He had to wait for his time to play, collecting eight catches as a freshman and 42 more as a sophomore. But by his 2019 breakout season, Smith was playing with Jerry Jeudy and ahead of Henry Ruggs in two-receiver sets for the Crimson Tide. While Jeudy and Ruggs elected to go pro in 2020, Smith stuck around for his senior season and in 11 games he reeled in 117 passes for 1,856 yards and an unfathomable 23 touchdowns.

Smith’s amazing year included a National Championship win (actually his second — he was on the 2017 team), the College Football Playoff Offensive MVP award, the 2020 Biletnikoff Award to college football’s best wide receiver, and the 2020 Heisman Trophy to college football’s best player.

We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Smith from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.

Fantasy fits

Miami Dolphins

Smith’s best Fantasy destinations involve teams that have plenty of opportunities available. Will Fuller’s arrival notwithstanding, the Dolphins could offer Smith the slot role as a rookie and have him evolve into their No. 1 option by 2022. Reuniting with Tua Tagovailoa won’t hurt — that was Smith’s quarterback for part of his breakout 2019 year.

Tennessee Titans

Is it a bad thing to have two shifty, savvy receivers on the same team? The Titans might be focused on being a run-first offense, but utilizing Smith off of play-action while splitting the field with Brown is a delicious concept. Plus there are plenty of targets available with Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith moving on.

Philadelphia Eagles

Smith might be able to rocket into Philly and become their No. 1 receiver overnight. Jalen Reagor is still their best bet as a speedy outside threat, but behind him and tight end Dallas Goedert, there isn’t a lot of reliability in the passing game. Jalen Hurts and Smith were teammates at Alabama in 2017-18.

Detroit Lions

Detroit’s receiving corps is wide open and their offense needs reliable receivers. That’s what Smith is. Jared Goff might not excite you but he does have an affinity for connecting with strong route-runners, plus the Lions are assumed to be among the worst teams in 2021, meaning they’ll play from behind a bunch.

Green Bay Packers

OK, this one’s a little out-there, but imagine Smith working opposite Davante Adams with Aaron Rodgers coming off an MVP year. Defenses will be in a massive bind between those two and the rest of the Packers offense. Would there be enough targets to make it work? That might be in question, but Rodgers’ accuracy and Smith’s efficiency would even things out. 

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Dynasty outlook

Smith, Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle are considered the top triplets of elite rookie receivers in the 2021 class. They’re going to be popular, but where they play will ultimately be the tiebreaker for who ranks where in Fantasy. In Smith’s case, envisioning him turning into a weekly playmaker at the NFL level will be a tough hurdle for some Fantasy managers to clear. Others might re-live his highlights and bank on Smith continuing his dominance. Chase seems like a safer prospect, but where they wind up playing is a massive factor. Ultimately there will be someone who takes Smith between first and seventh in every rookie-only draft.

Scouting report

Strengths

  • Stacked defensive backs off the snap with varied stutter steps and hesitation moves followed by excellent short-area quickness.
  • Smith’s magnificent footwork bought him a step, his very good burst bought him another. That’s how he gained leverage so quickly.
  • Was a route-running technician, which was how he got open frequently. Ran just about every route including some wild stuff in pre-snap motion.
  • Terrific change of direction. Masterful at the comeback/curl route; made defenders pay for being too far off of him in zone coverage.
  • Great head-fake also helped sell routes and buy separation.
  • Glided downfield with subtle speed changes to trick defenders.
  • Easy handed. Plucked most balls within his catch radius (and even a few that seemed out of his catch radius).
  • Had 145 targets, 117 receptions and five drops in 2020. Adjusted to off-target throws mostly well. Was a big-time leaper on high throws.
  • Made some incredible contested catches in the back of the end zone. The LSU highlight above is the best of the bunch, but there are others.
  • Didn’t tip his hand when passes came his way, keeping defenders from making a play on the ball.
  • Reliably followed blocks on screens.
  • Very good effort in blocking, good results most of the time.
  • Went injury-free in 2020 until freak finger dislocation cost him the second half of the National Championship Game. Didn’t miss a game in 2019 but did leave a game early with a shoulder/arm injury (left arm in a sling). Worth noting: missed two games in 2018 with a hamstring strain.  
  • Seems humble. Played with a chip on his shoulder because of his size. Believes in working hard to get results. Claims to be a film junkie.

Concerns

  • Upper-body frame and skinny legs reflect his lightweight status and put his durability into question. Claimed to weigh 170 pounds in March and refused to get weighed at January’s Senior Bowl. Has been undersized his whole life, reportedly weighing 157 pounds in high school.
  • Average hand size (9 3/8 inches) in line with the rest of his body.
  • Speed was inconsistent — sometimes he’d turn it on, sometimes he wouldn’t (or couldn’t). Rarely showed a top gear and frankly was sometimes disappointing to watch because he couldn’t always sprint past a defense.
  • Struggled to get away from physical cornerbacks who got their hands on him in the first few steps of his route.
  • Physical as a blocker, but not when it came to breaking tackles to extend plays.
  • Didn’t break a ton of tackles and had only 10 missed tackles forced in 2020, 39th in the nation.

Stats breakdown

G Rec ReYds Avg TD
2020 13 117 1856 15.9 23
2019 v top 25 4 22 448 20 4
2020 v top 25 6 58 930 16.0 13
Career 47 235 3695 16.9 46

Advanced stats to know

(all from 2020)*

  • 8.2 yards after catch per reception ranked tied for 20th in the nation. 
  • Scored at least two times in seven of his final eight games (19 touchdowns total). Four of the games were against ranked opponents. Smith had five multi-score games in his college career before those eight games.
  • Totaled over 100 yards in seven of his final eight games (1,300 yards total). Smith had seven 100-plus-yard games in his college career before those eight games.
  • Led the nation with 15 deep receptions for 589 yards in 2020.
  • Eleven contested catches tied for fifth-best in the nation.
  • Sizable percentage of his 2020 stats came on screens: 35 receptions and 304 yards led the nation. 
  • Ten missed tackles forced in 2020, 39th in the nation.
  • Ten career drops on 306 career targets.

NFL comparison

There has been some high praise for Smith when it comes to comps — Marvin Harrison and Antonio Brown are two names bandied about. I see Smith as a shorter, leaner version of Chad Johnson. Both receivers crave the football and get it because of their footwork more than their deep speed. That’s not to say Smith (or Johnson) never burned defenses, but it’s not their No. 1 quality. It’s the way they move off the snap and in their routes, and it’s special in the case of Smith. The difference between them is that Johnson had the size to line up as a split end and deal with the physicality of defensive backs. Smith should be used more as a slot receiver and flanker, lining up behind the line of scrimmage to avoid getting grabbed every play. That’s not a bad thing, especially if he indeed lands in an offense that needs to get the football into a playmaker’s reliable hands.




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