WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama (6’1”, 175)
Caught eight passes as a true freshman, then saw his production escalate each season. Went 42-693-6 (16.5) as a sophomore, then 68-1,256-14 (18.5) as a junior before finishing his career with an unfathomable senior line of 117-1,856-23 (15.9) en route to the Heisman trophy.
Long-limbed receiver with adequate height for the position. Takes snaps both inside and outside for the Tide, predominantly on the left side of the field this past season. Excellent, nuanced route-runner who works at all three levels of the field. Has crisp releases at the line and gets up to top speed in a hurry. Can win there with his footwork, but also does a great job of sinking his hips and generating separation at the route stem with his attention to detail, quickness, and explosiveness, providing opportunities for timing-based throws on comebacks, curls, etc. Works over the middle of the field despite his lack of bulk, winning inside positioning and using his excellent speed to rack up yards after catch when given space to work with. Length, flexibility, body control, leaping ability, and aggressiveness to high-point passes makes him seem bigger than he is, climbing the ladder to win over the top or plucking inaccurate passes thrown away from his frame. Body control and awareness when working the sideline are very impressive. Has the focus to come down with contested catches in traffic. Plays with more physicality than expected given his bulk, working hard to engage opponents as a blocker and fighting for additional yards after the catch. Also has some experience returning punts.
Has a very spindly frame and may need to add additional bulk to hold up at the next level, particularly beccause he plays with a tough and physical style of play. Faced some press coverage at the college level but didn’t have to deal with physical press coverage during the games reviewed, something he may struggle with. Can be knocked off of routes when working over the middle. Would like to see him work on the right side more frequently, as the slightly different footwork can make it difficult for some players to flip from left to right, or vice versa. Was forced from the national championship early with a hand injury.
Was unstoppable at college football’s highest level this past season, being a pleasure to watch because of his excellent releases, route running, ball skills, and body control. It’s rare to see receivers with his particular build, but if he can add another ten pounds or so of bulk without losing his speed and explosiveness, could be the type of long-term solution teams build passing games around. Almost a lock to go in the first round, probably as high as the top ten or so.