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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: WR DeVonta Smith

  • The Draft Network
  • December 19, 2020
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DeVonta Smith is a wide receiver that has played multiple spots for the Alabama offense but has aligned in many different areas depending on the formation and field position. Although he’s a slender wideout who has body dimensions that are maxed out in both his upper and lower halves, he plays much bigger than his frail structure indicates. Possessing sure hands and body control, he has little trouble with making catches in traffic, but his fundamentals remain the same on routine ones as well. Although he may never make defenders miss consistently in space, he has elongated strides that allow him to eat up operating room quickly. A polished route-runner, he has a well-developed understanding of how to create separation and he also contains a diverse release package when facing challenges at the line of scrimmage. An added incentive to his game, Smith also has value on special teams, as he’s proven to be a dangerous punt returner. In 2019, he was among a loaded position group and still produced despite the many mouths to feed. Serving as the No. 1 option in 2020, he proved to be one of the most valuable and explosive players in the country. Smith will likely not gain another pound onto his frame and his lack of body strength shows up as a blocker or when operating without the ball.   

Ideal Role: Smith is an ideal Z receiver who can operate to the field, but also has the versatility to play along the boundary as an X receiver and take advantage of mismatches in the slot.

Scheme Fit: Smith has the versatility to fit in many types of offenses. His most ideal fit is in a West Coast offense where he can operate quickly and take full advantage of his route-running skills. That scheme would also get the ball in his hands fast in order to showcase his run after catch abilities.


Written by Jordan Reid

Games Watched: LSU (2020), Auburn (2020), Miss. St. (2020), Missouri (2020), Georgia (2020)

Best Game Studied: Ole Miss (2019), LSU (2020), Georgia (2020), Miss St. (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Texas A&M (2020), Arkansas (2020)

Route Running: Smith is a smooth operator as a route-runner. He has a Ph.D. level understanding of how to win on routes, the sharpness of angles associated with them, and how to leverage defenders in order to make them alter their coverage into favorable outcomes for him. A frequent defeator of man-to-man coverage, he embraces the challenge of winning matchups against the man across from him. Against zone coverage, he’s able to settle into soft spots when running patterns in the short to intermediate areas. As a three-level threat, he’s capable of stretching the roof of the defense for explosive plays down the field.

Hands: Smith possesses soft and more than reliable hands in all areas and situations on the field. When going up to make catches, the ball comes to a complete halt as he has strong hands to squeeze and quickly tuck away the ball. His catch consistency hardly ever wavers no matter the surrounding elements, as he has superb hand-eye coordination.

Separation: One of Smith’s better traits is his ability to create operating room in his route stems and at the top of routes. The challenges of man coverage don’t alter his approach or his confidence. He welcomes the challenges associated with it and competes to win each rep that he’s involved in. Containing all branches on his route tree, he’s a multi-level threat that also can run any route that he’s asked.

Release Package: The Alabama target takes a diverse mindset when facing press coverage. He successfully implements lots of wide-legged stabs into the ground and rapid hand movements to steer clear of hand fights at the line. When wanting to take certain paths, he’s able to create room by disguising his desired route paths with movements in opposite directions in order to create new avenues in initially preferred paths. 

Run After Catch: Even though Smith has extremely thin legs and slim upper dimensions, he’s able to fend off low tackle attempts while building up speed. While not a target that has consistent “make you miss” ability with creative jukes, he has the play strength and open-up-and-run speed necessary to create plays after catching patterns in the underneath areas. His instincts as a punt returner take over once the ball is in his hands. 

Ball Skills: Smith enters the draft as one of the more dominant players at the catch point. There are few defensive backs that are able to rival his go up and get it mentality as he has the understanding of knowing how to position and contort his body in order to create advantageous situations. He also has the body strength necessary in order to climb the ladder no matter if there are bodies draped on his frame. 

Football IQ: Contained in Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s pro-style offense are a lot of “sight adjustments.” These are quick answers based on the coverages that defenses are playing against certain route concepts. Smith has a high-level understanding of how to read coverage on the run and make decisive decisions within route stems while also carrying out the catch process. Coming into the next level, reading coverage and attacking it is an aspect that he already has a wealth of experience with.

Versatility: Smith has shown to be capable of playing in the boundary (X), field (Z), or in the slot. He has been equally effective in all spots, but one of the best aspects of his value overall is his effectiveness with aligning anywhere in the red zone and winning against any type of coverage.

Competitive Toughness: A competitive player on the perimeter, Smith isn’t afraid to mix it up as a blocker and has a “die slow” mentality as his frame and muscle capacity will only allow his body to do so much when sustaining as a perimeter blocker. His competitive juices overflow when competing at the catch point as there aren’t many situations that he isn’t able to win.

Big-Play Ability: Smith is a multi-faceted receiver in that he’s able to generate explosive plays down the field but also able to create them with his run after catch abilities. He also can serve as a quarterback's security blanket on third down as a go-to target because of his ability to create separation against man-to-man coverage, but also find and settle into the soft spots of zone coverage.

Prospect Comparison: Marvin Harrison (1996 NFL Draft, Indianapolis Colts)


TDN Consensus: 86.25/100

Joe Marino: 85.50/100

Kyle Crabbs: 85.50/100

Jordan Reid: 87.00/100

Drae Harris: 87.00/100

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