Alabama WR DeVonta Smith is lean, but the tape is loaded

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which begins April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our leading 100 total potential customers. We’ll count them down in groups of 5 for Nos. 100-51, followed by more extensive reports on our leading 50 gamers, with aid from our searching assistant, Liam Blutman. We schedule the right to make modifications to gamers’ grades and examinations based upon injury updates, pro-day exercises or late-arriving details from NFL groups.

Other possibility rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Balcony Marshall Jr. | 48. POUND Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. POUND Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. POUND Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. POUND Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker

Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Here’s how we utilize our possibility grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

12. Alabama WR DeVonta Smith

6-foot, 170 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.12 — possible instant starter

TL;DR searching report: Ultra-lean big-play device whose size and strength issues shouldn’t avoid him from winning in the NFL

Games viewed: Georgia (2020), Tennessee (2020), Texas A&M (2020), Notre Dame (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Competitors hire (No. 46 nationally), Smith rejected Georgia to go to Bama. He played in all 14 video games in 2017 as a real freshman and captured 8 passes for 160 lawns and 3 TDs — the last of which beat Georgia in the championship game video game in overtime. In 2018, Smith captured 42 passes for 693 lawns and 6 TDs in 14 video games (10 starts). He led a getting corps that included 4 prospective first-round choices in 2019 with 68 catches for 1,256 lawns and 14 TDs in 13 video games, consisting of a school-record 274-yard, five-TD effort vs. Ole Miss, making second-team AP All-America and second-team all-SEC.

Smith went back to school in 2020 and kipped down maybe the best analytical season of a college receiver ever. He captured 117 passes for 1,856 lawns and 23 TDs — leading the country in all 3. He likewise ran for a goal, returned 4 kickoffs for 52 lawns and returned 11 punts for 237 lawns and a TD. Smith won a variety of awards — the Heisman Prize, Biletnikoff Award and Walter Camp Gamer of the Year — and was called first-team AP All-America, first-team all-conference and SEC Offensive Gamer of the Year. He was called MVP of the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Notre Dame and suffered a finger injury in the national-title win over Ohio State. The injury required Smith to miss out on the 2021 Senior citizen Bowl.

Upside: Extraordinary path runner. Leaves the line along with any receiver in the nation and speeds up to leading equipment rapidly. Smooth, fluid, misleading and abrupt in his method — a genuinely difficult cover. Quick change-of-direction abilities. Beats press with burst off the line, fast hands and smart body lean.

Exceptional at returning for the football — a quarterback’s security blanket. Sells the deep path, knocks on the brakes and works back rapidly. Gains simple separation. Utilizes pace to lull corners to sleep and after that does a fly-by. Plays quick and has big-play capability — 44 receptions of 15 or more lawns last season alone.

Three-level risk — can burn a defense short, intermediate or deep. Lined up gradually more in the slot the previous 2 seasons and was fantastic there — might be foreshadowing for his NFL use. Sculpted up guy and zone protections. Scheme-versatile receiver who has a house in every NFL offense.

Entirely unreasonable production the previous 2 seasons — was the most efficient member of a Bama WR corps that will wind up having 4 first-rounders. Over his previous 26 video games: 185 receptions, 3,112 lawns, 37 getting TDs, plus a hurrying TD and a punt-return TD. 6 video games with 11-plus catches because period. Twelve video games because period with 130 or more getting lawns. Eleven multi-TD video games, too. Flourished after Jaylen Waddle’s injury regardless of more protective attention.

Alabama WR DeVonta Smith might not be big, but his separation ability is above reproach. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Alabama WR DeVonta Smith may not be huge, however his separation capability is above reproach. (Picture by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Exceptional hands — snags anything in his frame. Soft mitts to take passes quickly and end up being an immediate YAC risk. Can take a hit at the catch point and hold on — likewise great hand strength. Quality ball tracking on deep balls, particularly getting used to underthrown passes.

Excellent body control — can twist to get off-target tosses and pluck balls off the lawn. Terrific sideline awareness and foot control — can be seen getting 2 feet in currently with the NFL in mind. Made some highlight-reel grabs. Regularly makes the very first guy miss out on after the catch.

Flashes on unique groups in little sample size — got punt-return tasks after Jaylen Waddle got hurt and appeared like a natural. Likewise saw some representatives as a gunner on the punt-coverage group and aimed to have a propensity for it.

Wired differently — possesses elite determination. Elite football character. Carries himself like a perpetual underdog. Businesslike approach to the grind. Toughness belies his size. Sincerely loves football and gives all-out commitment to the game. Rare two-time captain under Nick Saban.

Downside: Unusually small-framed receiver with birdlike legs. Weighed 170 pounds at his pro day and 166 at combine medical recheck. Lean, wiry frame with little capacity to pack on much additional weight — possible injury concern over time. Limited length, too — middling arm length (31 1/8 inches) and wingspan (78 1/4 inches). Smaller hands (9 1/4 inches).

Can be battled by bigger, more physical corners — especially in press coverage. Will be bodied and run out of bounds on outside releases. Loses some battles at the catch point — can’t always box out on deep balls. Play strength will always be a shortcoming despite his toughness. Might not be able to win quite as frequently on the outside in the NFL. Gives effort as an undersized blocker but can’t always make hay.

Beefed up his production with a steady diet of high-percentage throws — screens, drags and darts. Lined up surrounded by elite talent at QB, on the offensive line, at receiver and in the backfield. Operated in a terrific environment with friendly coverages and great play design where someone was always open.

Didn’t run or test pre-draft and likely would have been an average timer in some regards. Play speed makes up for it, but not a true vertical burner. Was guilty of some concentration drops early in his career.

Hot-under-the-collar play style ran over a few times — tried to punch Texas A&M safety Leon O’Neal in 2019 and was ejected after O’Neal (who was not ejected) took the first swing at Smith. Suffered some early growing pains at Alabama but by most accounts solved any immaturity issues that he might have had. Suspended for the first quarter of the 2019 opener, reportedly after missing a group meeting.

Best-suited destination: Smith’s dizzyingly consistent production the past two seasons on the most talented WR group in the country should give most evaluators some level of assurance that he can thrive in the NFL despite ideal size.

Perhaps that means more snaps in the slot or using motion to give him cleaner releases. But other than that issue, Smith’s tape shows the confidence of a possible WR1 in time who can be an early contributor and also add some punt-return ability to virtually any NFL team.

Did you know: Smith, aka “The Slim Reaper,” referenced his lack of size in his Heisman Trophy-winning speech. Although it didn’t resonate the way Joe Burrow’s did the year prior, Smith delivered a heartfelt message about his journey as the Little Engine That Could.

“And to all the young kids out there that’s not the biggest, not the strongest, just keep pushing,” Smith said. “Because I’m not the biggest, I’ve been doubted a lot just because of my size. And really it just comes down to … you put your mind to it, you can do it. No job is too big. If you put your mind to it you can do it, just believe in God and you’ll get where you want to be.”

Player comp: There simply haven’t been too many 6-foot, 170-ish-pound receivers to populate the NFL in recent years — Steve Breaston? Bernard Berrian? Mario Manningham? — so there aren’t many apples-to-apples comparisons.

Marvin Harrison has been a popular comp for Smith, and it makes a lot of sense. We also would throw the name Isaac Bruce out there. Smith’s NFL career could mirror Bruce’s early-career production where he flashes as a rookie however truly rounds into kind as a leading receiver in Year 2, comparable to how Smith broke out at Alabama.

Anticipated draft variety: Top-20 choice

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.