Here’s a question: Would you be upset if the Miami Dolphins drafted a skill player coming off a season with 117 catches, 1,856 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 15.9 yards per catch with the sixth overall pick?
Now, would you be upset if the Dolphins drafted DeVonta Smith at sixth overall? Even with Ja’Marr Chase on the board?
If you said yes, then you’re telling on yourself—that player from the first question IS DeVonta Smith. Oh, and I forgot to mention that he was the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner and paved the way to a National Championship with 12 catches, 215 yards, and 3 touchdowns in that game alone.
That was all in the first half, by the way.
After that game, people took to Twitter with nothing but love for Smith. Rightfully so, he dominated the Ohio State defense and won the offensive MVP award for the championship that was hosted in the Dolphins’ own stadium. At the time, the Dolphins held the third pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Hence, both casual fans and football analysts alike wondered publicly if Smith could simply stay in Miami and head to the Dolphins facility after the game, saving everyone the trouble of waiting for Smith to hear his name called third overall.
Hell, even a man most Dolphins fans despise—Skip Bayless—weighed in with a characteristically bold take:
Seriously, if DeVonta Smith can stay healthy, he has the tangibles and intangibles to be Jerry Rice.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) January 12, 2021
Now, the NFL Draft is almost upon us. And what has happened to the DeVonta Smith hype since then?
It fell off a cliff.
I find this odd and unfair to Smith because the draft cycle, once college football season is over, is so, so hard to predict. And so, so silly at times.
The slander towards DeVonta Smith has been intense in recent weeks, and many people now don’t even have him as their favorite receiver in the draft. Some people have him third, behind both Ja’Marr Chase and fellow Bama wideout Jaylen Waddle. So I’m here to tell you something:
This isn’t to take away from either Waddle or Chase. They both have fantastic skill sets and will help any team in the NFL with what they bring to the table. But they’re not Smitty.
Now, if Kyle Pitts is somehow on the board at pick number six, where the Dolphins now sit, I think you have to take him. I can’t make a powerful argument for Smith over Pitts, given the depth of this receiver class compared to the tight end depth both in the draft and around the league. If it’s between Smith and anyone else at sixth overall, though, I’m riding with Smith.
So let’s explore why. And let’s start with the elephant in the room: Smith’s weight.
He reportedly weighs in at 166 pounds heading into the draft, which has understandably raised some eyebrows in league circles. At about six feet tall, that’s rail-thin. Now that I’ve set up Smith’s biggest critique allow me to blow it to smithereens.
How much did Smith weigh when he won the national championship? 166 pounds.
And how much did Smith weigh every time a corner tried to press him at the line and came away looking silly, grasping at air? Oh yeah, 166 pounds.
They don’t call Smith the “Slim Reaper” for nothing. I’d draft him just because of that nickname, honestly.
As long as he can stay healthy, his weight hardly matters because of how he plays. And so far, he has stayed healthy. Aside from the finger in the natty, he has a limited injury history that isn’t nearly as daunting as, say, Jaylen Waddle’s.
Even former star NFL receiver Chad Johnson came to Smith’s defense on Twitter to dismiss concerns about his size:
Any component scout or GM that’s done their homework via film on Devonta Smith could care less about weight, what he brings to a team can’t even measured, that shit is just in you, he’s built different & I’m not talking about size‼️ https://t.co/1s7QvqE3jR
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) March 22, 2021
This brings us to the way Smith plays the game; it’s beautiful to watch. There are things he does that make him unique and ready to succeed at the next level right away, regardless of size. I’m no analyst, at least not yet, but I do have eyes. And in some cases, that’s all you need to see how good DeVonta Smith is with certain facets of the wide receiver position.
Check out this clip from Brett Kollmann on Twitter showcasing how nuanced Smith’s route running is; one thing that makes him more pro-ready than any other receiver prospect this year:
DeVonta Smith is just so smooth. He really "gets" the mental side of route running. Watch him in these two plays (top of screen) switch up his pacing multiple times in the drive phase so that the DB can't get a read on the depth of his route, and then he slams on the breaks. pic.twitter.com/8AHho8qACN
— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) January 5, 2021
“He’s maybe the best route runner I’ve seen, and he has an innate ability to read defenders’ leverage and get them to turn the wrong way,” DolphinsTalk’s own Kevin Dern told me over the weekend. That exact trait of Smith’s is on display in that clip, but the praise for Smitty doesn’t stop there. Kollman doubled down on Chad Johnson’s claim about Smith overcoming concerns about his weight by citing a game from 2019:
The best argument for team “DeVonta Smith will be fine on the outside” is the 2019 tape against South Carolina.
Jaycee Horn is a top 15 pick and the best press corner in the draft and he could barely touch him off the line. 170 don’t matter if DBs can’t even make contact anyway.
— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) April 7, 2021
In case you didn’t watch that game, Smith had 8 catches for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. Once again, he was an absolute force. The best part of Smith’s game, to me, is that he’s at his best when people try what SHOULD have the best chance of stopping him: press coverage. He’s so skinny that a solid press should stop him in his tracks. The problem, like Kollmann alluded to, is that his lack of size doesn’t matter if no one can actually get their hands on him.
The footwork comparisons between DeVonta Smith and Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers aren’t far off at all—they both use basketball-type releases at times that are scary effective. And if you don’t believe me, Kevin, or Brett Kollmann, then take a look at Dan Orlovsky explaining why the Slim Reaper is so good against the press:
Take a look at @DeVontaSmith_6 vs press coverage
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) April 21, 2021
Aside from all this, when Kevin and I talked, we identified many more reasons why Smith should be so good in the NFL. His weight lets him accelerate in a flash. He didn’t run a 40, but his play speed is above average. Even at only six-foot, he has a knack for high-pointing the ball. He’s got extremely soft hands and snags the ball away from his frame. He has great body control. He’s exactly what this Dolphins offense needs—a dynamic, man coverage-beating separator who catches everything and can run after the catch. And on top of everything, he has chemistry with Tua Tagovailoa.
Lastly, though, there’s this: Never underestimate the power of an underdog, because that description fits Smith the same way a football fits so naturally into his mitts. I’ve written some about “IT,” what “IT” is… That killer instinct, that sneering desire to prove everyone wrong, the want, the NEED to be great.
Smith has that. There’s no other way he’d have made it this far, weighing what he weighs. He’s adapted himself to thrive with what talent he’s been given, and I have to believe that he’s only just getting started.
If I’m the Dolphins and he’s there at six, I’m making damn sure that I don’t miss out.
(Thanks for reading, and for more content give me a follow on Twitter @EvanMorris72)