Heisman winner DeVonta Smith has scary potential
By: Jacob Keppen
The question on every football fan’s mind going into the season is: who is going to be the next superstar wide receiver? Now more than ever, rookie wide receivers are making an impact on their franchises. In recent years, the football world has seen rookie wide receivers waste little time introducing themselves to stardom. Last year Justin Jefferson set the standard for all rookies, with a record-breaking 1400 yard season. Next on the list of impact rookie wide receivers: Philadelphia Eagles first-round pick Devonta Smith.
When talking about Devonta Smith, it’s important to remember the caliber of player Smith was in college. Despite being surrounded by other superstars Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith still rose above all of his first round counterparts. While the draft world expected Jerry Jeudy to build off his fantastic 2018 campaign and cement himself as the top wide receiver in the 2020 draft, it was actually junior Devonta Smith who experienced the breakout season.
Elevating himself from the “other Alabama wide receiver” to the main Alabama wide receiver, Smith led the Crimson Tide in receiving yards with 1,256 receiving yards, as well as touchdowns with a whopping 14. Despite being surrounded by three first-round wide receivers and a first round running back, it was Smith who became the top star on offense. Who can forget Smith’s 213-yard two-touchdown performance against eventual National Champions LSU, or his five touchdown showcase against Mississippi? Despite being surrounded by top-tier talent, Smith still managed to rise above all.
The next question Smith had to answer was could he do it with all the attention on him. With attention being spread on multiple wide receivers, Smith was able to ascend to superstardom. With Jeudy and Ruggs off to the NFL, could Smith be as good? With all the attention on him, especially after Waddle went down for most of the season with an injury, Smith put up the best season by a wide receiver in decades.
The most valuable player awards are pretty much a quarterback award. Pretty much if quarterbacks are eligible to win it, they will. Since 2000, quarterbacks have won 16 out of the possible 20 Heisman awards. The only running backs who managed to wrangle the award away from the signal callers were Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram, and Derrick Henry. Three of the greatest college backs of all time. The one other non-quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, Devonta Smith. In an award race that didn’t really include wide receivers, the last pass-catcher to win the trophy Desmond Howard all the way back in 1991, Smith was able to be named the most outstanding player in NCAA football.
To say Devonta Smith was unguardable during his Heisman campaign would almost be an insult to the Louisiana native. Only four of the 13 teams Smith faced were able to hold him under 100 receiving yards. The only game he managed not to score was in the season opener against Missouri, a game in which Smith had 89 receiving yards. The game logs read like a created player in madden with the game difficulty on Rookie: 167 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia, 203 yards and four touchdowns against Mississippi State, 231 yards and three touchdowns against defending champions LSU, 184 yards and two touchdowns in a thrilling SEC Championship game against Florida, and finally a 215 yard three touchdown half against Ohio State in the National Championship. Nobody could stop the Bama receiver as he danced his way to multiple accolades and the 13th overall selection by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2021 NFL Draft.
As the third receiver taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, Smith’s status as possibly the most unstoppable receiver seen in the NCAA must be remembered. Smith has every opportunity to be a transcendent star in the NFL as well. His skill set is exactly what the modern NFL is looking for. Even in limited action in the preseason, Smith showed why he was able to dominate the NCAA.
Smith is an extremely advanced technician of a route runner. While not the biggest receiver at all, Smith negates more physical defensive backs, using his exquisite release package to avoid contact at the line of scrimmage. With his first few steps, Smith puts himself at an advantage. Smith can run any route in the book, his smooth athleticism allowing him to break on a dime and accelerate through cuts. He uses his smooth athleticism along with high football iq to gain easy separation from defensive backs. With the ball in his hands, Smith is extremely slippery. He’s a dangerous threat in the screen game, and to take a short pass the difference. Finally, despite being a smaller receiver, Smith can still go up and fight for the ball in the air. Similar to Washington receiver Terry McLaurin, Devonta Smith can make catches players his size have no business making.
Smith’s playstyle immediately translates to success usually in the NFL, and he’ll have all of the opportunity in Philadelphia to be fed the ball. Despite being a rookie, Smith is far and away from the most talented receiver on the roster, looking the part in training camp. The Eagles are in desperate need of a true #1 wide receiver, and after trading up for Devonta Smith they’ll look to give him WR1 volume. There’s no other consistent threat on the roster, the rest of the wide receiver group a cast of inconsistent speedsters for the most part. The only big target to take away catches is most likely Dallas Goedert, and he hasn’t proven to be able to handle a superstar workload yet.
When it comes to Smith, it’s the perfect situation of talent meets opportunity. Devonta Smith is one of the most talented receivers to enter the draft in recent years. Smith will forever go down in history books for his play in college. The way he wins is how a lot of top receivers in the league win, including last year’s rookie standout Justin Jefferson. Philadelphia has been looking for a true wide receiver #1 for years now and the opportunity is there for Smith. Devonta Smith in Philadelphia can be a special player for years to come.