National Football League

DeVonta Smith's stature under a microscope ahead of NFL Draft

April 22

With a week to go until the 2021 NFL Draft, the poking and prodding of the top incoming prospects is reaching a crescendo.

The latest presumed first-round pick under the microscope is Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith.

The Heisman Trophy-winning Smith would never be considered a "big" target, but the latest reports about his measurables have some folks raising their eyebrows.

Smith measured a hair taller than six feet and weighed 166 pounds at the medical combine at Indianapolis earlier in April, according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer.

That's about an inch shorter and ten pounds lighter than what he was listed at on Alabama's roster, which was 6-foot-1, 175 pounds.

Of course, Smith and Alabama aren't the first player or team to goose a guy's measurables, nor will they be the last, but that's not what's prompting the discussion.

Rather, Smith would be uncommonly sinewy at his current height and weight.

Only one wideout in NFL history with dimensions equal to or less than Smith's has put up a 1,000-plus receiving yard season: Stacey Bailey of the Atlanta Falcons in 1984.

Stacey Bailey played in 91 games in nine seasons with the Falcons.

At six feet tall, 162 pounds, Bailey had 67 receptions for 1,138 yards that season. Of note, that was the only full 16-game season of Bailey's nine-year NFL career.

Plenty of wideouts at or below Smith's height have had tremendous success in the NFL, but it's the weight of 166 pounds that seems to be the real sticking point.

A more contemporary comparison for Smith worth mentioning is DeSean Jackson, who measured just under 5-foot-10 and weighed 169 pounds at the 2008 combine.

Throughout his career, Jackson has lit up the NFL as a deep threat for the Philadelphia EaglesWashington and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

However, Jackson has only played a full 16 games twice during his 13-year career.

Sensing a trend here?

Durability is the biggest red flag when it comes to lighter players, as LaVar Arrington pointed out on "First Things First."

To his credit, Smith stayed largely healthy throughout his collegiate career.

The only really notable injury he suffered was a hand injury in the third quarter of January's CFB National Championship, and that was after Smith had set two title-game records with 12 catches and three touchdown receptions. 

One person who doesn't think Smith's stature is of consequence is Brandon Marshall, who played wideout in the NFL for 13 years.

"I'm tired of this talk around, 'Oh, this guy is too small.' Man, doesn't matter! Can you get open?" Marshall said.

"And also, do you have the vision, do you know where everyone is on the field? I played 13 years in the NFL, and I've probably taken four or five big hits ... because I always was aware of where everybody was."

Aside from durability, there's also a perception that small wide receivers are susceptible to being jammed at the line of scrimmage.

As ESPN's Dan Orlovsky broke down, there are ways to counter that potential drawback.

"DeVonta Smith is 166 pounds. He's going to get pressed in the NFL," Orlovsky said. "Coaches, it's on you ⁠— motion him down a little bit, put him in the slot, stack them ⁠— and he's really good at beating that man coverage."

Lastly, there's no telling how much weight the 22-year-old Smith will be able to put on once he's in an NFL environment, with top-flight nutritionists and strength training coaches for him to work with.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban pointed out that Smith was brought in as a recruit at 159 pounds, and all he did was add weight and wind up with 3,965 career receiving yards and 46 receiving touchdowns.

Smith knows that his size is often held against him, and yet he's done nothing but prove his doubters wrong up to this point.

"To all the young kids out there that’s not the biggest, not the strongest, just keep pushing," Smith said at his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech.

"Because I’m not the biggest. I’ve been doubted a lot just because of my size. And really, it just comes down to if you put your mind to it, you can do it. No job is too big."

His next job will be the biggest job he's yet to face.

Odds are, Smith will be determined to measure up.

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