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Former NFL Scout feels the receiver with exceptionally long arms will be a star in the NFL | Devonta Smith Scouting Report

DeVonta Smith NFL Draft Scouting Report Alabama
Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith is a stud and won the Heisman but does he have any flaws? Former NFL Scout Daniel Kelly breaks down his film

Scouting Report: WR DeVonta Smith 6’1” 170 (Alabama) 40-time: 4.27 (combine) 

Film Exposure: South Carolina and LSU (2019). Florida, Mississippi State, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas A&M (2020).

Natural-born fluid receiver with good athletic ability and playing speed with freakish-looking long arms. He has the longest-looking arms I have seen on a receiver in my 40 years of watching the game. Fluid is the one word I would use to describe him. High cut frame. Longer-looking legs. Fluid long strider. Excels at all route levels, especially deep routes. Smith has the home-run hitting ability. Big play receiver. Strong hands. Confident hands. Plucks the ball. Will drop one consistently that he should have caught, but catches a good percentage of what is thrown in his direction. He had a 53.3% catch rate in 2017, 100% catch rate in 2018, 79.1% catch rate in 2019 and a 79.6% catch rate in 2020 (playerprofile.com). Does an excellent job set up defensive backs? Highly skilled at doing this. Plays defensive backs extremely well. This is a big part of his game. Looks like an all-purpose football player who can catch, take an end-around, block, return punts, and kicks and they also put him on the hand’s team on a kickoff return. Gives a strong effort blocking. 

Excels at short receiver screens (bubble screens), quick slants, and shallow crossing routes. Great on routes along the back of the end zone too. Reaches up with his long arms and confidently plucks the ball out of the air with his very strong hands. Gets into routes quickly. Can explode into routes or he can start out slowly on purpose in order to set up corners before exploding at the breakpoint to create separation. Does an excellent job setting up corners on slants with fast body movements and head fakes before darting inside and creating enough separation to make the grab? Shows good focus and concentration looking the ball into his hands Fluid hips. Can snap it off at the breakpoint of routes. Crisp at break-point, but also at times will round off unnecessarily. Tough. Courageous. Willing to go into heavy traffic areas to make the grab. Great job at finding the open spots in coverages. Has a knack for getting open. Okay, YAC ability (yards after the catch). He is not elusive in the open field, but he does show he wants to pick up additional yardage. Showed a good second effort to pick up the first down. Will take what a defense gives him after the grab. Sometimes jumps when he does not have to and progress is stopped as a result when making a reception. 

Can get downfield at the intermediate levels and make grabs with coverage draped all over him. Looks the ball into his hands. Very good concentration and focus downfield. Not afraid of the contract whatsoever. Even with defensive backs closing in his face he showed he was more concerned with making the catch than getting drilled. 

Excels on deep routes. Great job selling a double move and then taking off. Has burst and acceleration to turn it on and absolutely blow past the corner. Deceptive burst. Big-play capability. Smith can run away from defense and take it to the house. High-points and times jumps well on 50-50 deep balls. An illustration on CBS showed with his vertical and arm length he can extend to the equivalent of a basketball rim. Tracks and adjusts to deep passes very well. Smith is like a ball magnet deep. Physical. Competes and battles defensive backs for the ball when it is up in the air. Wants it. Looks very fluid running deep routes. Looks pretty running deep routes. Fluid long strider in the open field. Looks like he was born to go deep. Fun to watch.  

“The Slim Reaper,” as he is called, looks like a very natural receiver who will excel in the NFL. Plug and play type of player who will be a star from day one. Put up good numbers in 2020: 117 receptions, 1,856 yards, 15.9 avg. 23 TD, 66 Long. However, he was targeted 148 times. The consistent dropping of passes he should have caught is a real concern and it is my biggest concern. 

Where would I draft DeVonta Smith? 

Daniel Kelly’s Draft Board: First Round (1-15). He is a sure thing. Has the skill set and the heart for the game. I like him. I think he has a bright future ahead of him. 

Probability of being a bust: Extremely low. 

If I were a GM, this is the question I need to be answered in my mind about DeVonta Smith: Just double-check to make sure the finger he dislocated is okay that he injured in the National Championship game in 2021. That was a gruesome injury that required surgery. Check with the team doctor. 

My Top 5 concerns about Smith:

  1. Consistently dropping a pass he should have caught. In almost every game I watched he dropped one he should have caught. It was a consistent issue. 
  2. Why does he choose to round off some routes when he has the hip flexibility to snap it off at the break-point? Does he get undisciplined in his route running at times? 
  3. Why does he jump unnecessarily for the ball sometimes when he does not have to? Has long enough arms where he could just reach up and pluck the ball and keep running to pick up additional yardage. However, instead, he will jump sometimes unnecessarily which makes it so he cannot pick up any additional yardage because he loses his body control.  
  4. Is he a bit of a hothead? He got suspended for the first half of a game in 2019 against Tennessee after he got into it with Texas A&M safety Leon O’Neal. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and Smith was ejected for throwing a punch. 
  5. He was suspended for part of a game versus Duke in 2019 after missing a team function. 

How NFL defenses will beat him: Play off coverage as to not bite on the moves he sells and close once the ball is actually in the air. His whole game centers around setting up defensive backs and dictating the route flow. 

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK. 

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