The New England Patriots could go a few different directions with their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If they go after a wide receiver, the choice might be DeVonta Smith.
As brilliant as Smith was in 2020, helping Alabama win the national championship, the Heisman Trophy winner has received some troubling labels ahead of the draft.
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A Bit on the Thin Side
Smith is not the most physically imposing receiver you’ll ever see. The Heisman Trophy winner’s thin frame has been the reason for just about every negative take and the questions about his ability to succeed in the NFL.
While ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum and Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer have tabbed Smith as the Patriots pick, if New England remains at No. 15, some still have concerns about his 6’1″ 170-pound frame holding up in the NFL.
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In addition to referring to him as “wispy,” and a “bigger risk” because of his build, former NFL and college head coach, Jim Mora Jr. said the following about Smith during in a recent interview on Sports Illustrated:
It is a serious concern. You have to balance that against the amazing talent that he brings to the table. The elusiveness, the speed. One of the things about DeVonta is he’s hard to hit. At least he was in college. Now that’s all going to change in the NFL; he’s going to take a shot. It’s also a grueling, grueling schedule. (It) is an absolute grind, and you’ve got to have something, some meat on your bones. You’ve got to have some endurance to be able to handle that grind.
Wide receivers in the NFL look increasingly muscular and sturdy. Seattle Seahawks star DK Metcalf is a horse. He’s listed at 6’4″ 229 pounds, and by the looks of him, it’s only about 2 percent body fat.
The Tennessee Titans’ AJ Brown looks a lot like a running back, and is listed at 6’0″ 226 pounds.
On a side note, both men were passed on in 2019 when the Patriots elected to draft N’Keal Harry at the end of the first round with Metcalf, Brown, Deebo Samuels, and others on the board, but I digress.
Comparing the frames of guys like Metcalf and Brown to Smith’s leaves the incoming rookie coming up a bit short.
Even with Smith’s slight build, Mora Jr. did acknowledge his fantastic gifts. The latter added the following:
But I’ll tell you what, you’ve watched DeVonta play, I’ve watched DeVonta play, not many people touch him, he’s got a certain element of toughness and he’s a little bit like Gumby. Like when you hit him, you don’t break him, he just kind of changes his configurations. I love the talent. I love the competitiveness. I love the fact that he played in the toughest conference in football and excelled and didn’t get hurt a lot. But I’m gonna tell you what, it would be a huge discussion in my draft room.
If Smith is Legit, He’ll Be a Steal
If the Patriots get Smith at No. 15, and he’s every bit of the faster version of Marvin Harrison he appears to be on film, Bill Belichick will have eliminated a good portion of the lousy history he has earned when drafting wide receivers.
A durable and productive Smith to go with a healthy Julian Edelman (fingers crossed), Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, anything from Harry, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and James White out of the backfield would equate to one of the more talented groups of passing weapons in the NFL.
That’s a far cry from what the team put on the field in 2020.