Former Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith absolutely dominated elite-level SEC competition en route to winning the Heisman Trophy a season ago.
Catching passes from fellow Heisman finalist Mac Jones for the eventual champion Crimson Tide, the 6-foot Smith tallied 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in 13 games. It was one of the greatest single-season performances for a wide receiver in modern college football history.
Despite this, Devonta Smith is not considered the top wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. That distinction goes to another dominant former SEC pass-catcher in LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase.
With sentiment regarding Smith split among experts, one unnamed NFL general manager is lavishing the biggest possible praise in the wide receiver’s direction.
“Devonta Smith is one of the best football players I’ve ever seen,” the GM said, via Peter King of NBC Sports. “I know he scares teams with his size [170 pounds], but his hands and his presence and how smart he plays. I think he’ll have an incredible career.”
One of the best football players? We’re not talking about wide receivers here. That’s a pretty remarkable statement for a professional in the football evaluation community to make.
Given Smith’s performance against SEC defensive backs who will be starring in the NFL on Sundays, this unnamed general manager might not be too far off the mark. Other evaluators see someone special.
“While Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley is my NFL comparison for Smith, I feel like a better comp might be Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry,” NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein noted in his recent scouting report of Devonta Smith. “Like Curry, Smith is thinner than you’d like and isn’t the strongest player, but he has rare quickness, speed, and change-of-direction fluidity, and he creates separation from defenders seemingly at will.”
So, now he’s being compared to a two-time NBA MVP. Noticing a theme here? It seems rather obvious that talent evaluators believe Smith’s game will translate well to the professional football ranks. If so, what teams make the most sense?
Best fits for Devonta Smith in the 2021 NFL Draft
- Miami Dolphins: While Smith was dominant with Jones tossing him the rock last season, it must be noted that the wide receiver also performed well with Tua Tagovailoa the year before. He caught 68 passes for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2019. With the Dolphins potentially looking to trade down from six, a Tua-Smith pairing could be in the cards in South Beach.
- Detroit Lions: Our most-recent NFL mock draft had Smith landing with Detroit after the team traded down to the 15th selection in said mock with the New England Patriots. By now, it’s well known that the Lions need to get more pass-catchers for recently-acquired quarterback Jared Goff. Smith could make an immediate impact. If that’s how first-year general manager Brad Holmes sees it, I wouldn’t be surprised if Detroit took him at seven.
- Carolina Panthers: After acquiring Sam Darnold from the New York Jets and committing to the quarterback for the next two seasons, there’s absolutely no reason to believe Carolina won’t be targeting a top-end pass-catcher. That could come with the eighth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Teaming Devonta Smith up with the impressive D.J. Moore could help Darnold turn the corner in his career.
- New York Giants: By virtue of the team signing Kenny Golladay in free agency, it’s clear that New York is committing to Daniel Jones as its franchise quarterback. Sure offensive tackle or some help on defense are needs at 11. But why not find a way to give Jones more options? Golladay and this reigning Heisman winner would be an absolutely tremendous duo in Jersey for years to come.
Looking a bit further down in the first round, the Philadelphia Eagles (12th), New England Patriots (15th) and Las Vegas Raiders (17th) would all be fits for Devonta Smith. It remains to be seen whether he will be available. If other general managers feel the same as this executive, that’s unlikely to be the case.