DeVonta Smith was the best wide receiver in college football last season, winning the Heisman Trophy and leading Alabama to another national championship. Now he’s fighting for the right to be the top wide receiver selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Smith dominated the competition in 2020, with 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 TDs in 13 games. The one concern about how high he should go in the first round on April 29 is the fact he weighs 170 pounds at 6-1, or what’s considered to be around 20 pounds short of the NFL ideal.
But that seems to be an unfair criticism for an otherwise complete wideout with no holes in his game. Smith is a hard-working, sure-handed receiver who can run all the routes with precision, also capable of stretching the field and making plays after the catch in open field. He may not be a pure blazer, but his playing speed and quickness translate to continuing the big-play production in the NFL.
Smith isn’t certain to go ahead of LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and/or former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle, but being top three in that group still makes him an elite wideout prospect worthy of being taken in the top 10 overall. Here’s a breakdown of Smith’s best draft fits:
MORE NFL DRAFT: SN’s latest 2021 mock draft | Top 50 big board
DeVonta Smith mock draft 2021
1. Philadelphia Eagles (No. 6)
The Eagles did draft Jalen Reagor in the first round in 2020, but he’s better suited to be the “Z” deep threat receiver for second-year starting QB Jalen Hurts. Hurts and Smith have old-school chemistry from their time at Alabama together. Smith fits the profile as an all-around “X” go-to guy, with Greg Ward being a solid “Y” for the slot. With tight end Zach Ertz on the trading block, there’s a good chance the Eagles shift to using more 11 personnel (three-wide receiver sets), following what new offensive-minded coach Nick Sirianni did with Frank Reich’s Colts.
Philadelphia needs a reliable No. 1 who can line up everywhere and produce for Hurts, from early-down home runs to third-down chain-moving routes. Should Smith be the best player available, he would be hard to not take.
2. Detroit Lions (No. 7)
The Lions have gone from Kenny Golladay (Giants) and Marvin Jones Jr. (Jaguars) giving them one of the NFL’s best wide receiver duos to some post-free agency combination of Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams and Geronimo Allison. New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn needs a Cooper Kupp/Robert Woods-like target to help new starting QB Jared Goff. Detroit should be desperate to take the best wideout available between Chase, Smith and Waddle.
Waddle would be more than a fine consolation, but Smith is a better fit because of better technical skills and more natural route running. He is the kind of wideout who can get open quickly for Goff on short-to-intermediate passes that are a big part of his game. He would be a nice complement to the receiving skills of running back D’Andre Swift and tight end T.J. Hockenson.
3. Indianapolis Colts (No. 21)
Speaking of Sirianni and Reich, the Colts also could use a No. 1 wideout for the Eagles” former starting QB, Carson Wentz. T.Y. Hilton won’t be re-signed and although there’s some promise between Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell, none of them is a true No. 1, with Pittman made to be a big slot, Pascal a No. 2 possession man and Campbell a occasional big-play threat in his return from injury.
Smith’s versatility would be key to put the other receivers in position to succeed. He also can be more reliable than all of them for Wentz in critical situations. The Colts would need to be aggressive and trade up several spots to get him, but as an AFC contender, a game-changer such as Smith may be worth the reach for Reich.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (No. 5 overall)
The Bengals have big second-year second-rounder Tee Higgins ready for a steady role outside for Joe Burrow and feature Tyler Boyd as slot ace, but there’s a void for a classic No. 1 after A.J. Green (Cardinals) wasn’t re-signed.
Cincinnati may need to think pass protection first, but if it feels good enough about the tackle combination of Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff, it should think about an extra key weapon for Burrow, either Smith, Chase or Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
5. Miami Dolphins (No. 3 or No. 18 overall)
The Dolphins will first need to decide whether to go wide receiver early vs. Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. The signing of former Texan Will Fuller to put opposite DeVante Parker doesn’t take them out of consideration because they can’t totally count on a healthy Preston Williams. So if they go wideout, Chase, with more natural slot punch than Smith, might be the lean, but then again, there’s also great appeal of reuniting Smith with Tagovailoa as a familar target.
Should the Dolphins go Sewell at No. 3, they can still get Smith — if he drops a little behind Chase and Waddle — with an aggressive move of their own later in the first round.
6. New England Patriots (No. 15 overall)
The Patriots need to be on the lookout for a wide receiver falling to grab after their heavy investment in tight end (Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith) in free agency. If the right quarterback or best defensive player available drops, they would be fine with that. But they should be ready to take Smith or Waddle if one slips, either by staying put or a trading up 3-4 picks. Smith would clean up their entire mess at wideout and be the clear needed No. 1 for Cam Newton. Any Saban Alabama player who fills a.Patriots needs to be considered a fit in any draft.