Is DeVonta Smith’s Draft Stock Plummeting?
With his brilliant campaign in the 2020 college football season, Devonta Smith without a doubt solidified himself as one of, if not the best receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft class.
Even before Smith hoisted Heisman bronze, he was being projected as a possible top pick, and his ridiculous run to end the 2020 season guaranteed that. Just how ridiculous was Smith in 2020?
Well, in the last eight games of the season, Smith averaged an insane 162.5 yards per game receiving, and if you take out the regular season finale against Arkansas where Smith wasn't featured much in the offense (he still ran a punt return for a touchdown), that number becomes 182.5 yards per game.
In those eight games, Smith found himself in the end zone 20 (TWENTY!) times. The numbers he put up in 2020 were almost silly, and they speak for themselves.
So why does it seem like recently mock drafts have featured Smith dropping, in most cases, outside of the top 10?
There could be several reasons for this. For one, since the beginning of the draft process, draft experts have been concerned about Smith's size. Standing at 6 foot 1 but weighing just 175 pounds, Smith earned the nickname "Slim Reaper" for a reason.
Coach Saban did his best to shut down any concerns about Smith's size at a press conference a couple weeks ago.
"I'll be honest with you, when we recruited Devonta Smith he weighed 159 pounds. I wished he was bigger. And now he weighs 170 pounds and I think people at the next level are probably saying 'I wish he was bigger. But saying all that to say this: there are bigger people who don't perform anywhere near how he performs. There are people that are bigger than him that don't have the competitive spirit that he has nor the competitive toughness."
Coupled with concerns about size around Smith is the fact he already has quite a bit of tread on his tires, and since 2011 no round one receiver with four or more years in college has become an NFL star.
Names like DeVante Parker, Corey Davis, and Brandon Aiyuk offer some hope in this area, but guys like Corey Coleman, John Ross, and Kevin White may be scaring some people off.
Finally, there is the factor that it seems like many teams are falling in love with the potential of LSU star Ja'Marr Chase.
Chase opted out for the 2020 season to prepare for the draft, but in 2019 with Joe Burrow throwing him the ball even while sharing targets with Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall, he put up 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.
While Smith's numbers in 2020 were significantly more impressive (117 receptions, 1,856 yards, 23 touchdowns), it is without a doubt that the injury to Jaylen Waddle increased Smith's use and target share.
Many teams may feel as if Chase is more of a prototypical size and build for NFL production, and it is possible that Chase would be the consensus WR1 had he not opted out in 2020.
Chase's draft stock has only gone up since the conclusion of the season, while it appears that Smith's has dropped. If Smith does indeed fall outside the top 10, someone is going to get a great player for a steal. Only time will tell who is the correct choice between the two SEC stars.