Smith is the skinniest tough guy in the NFL


He looks like a finesse player. Tall, skinny and fast.

He plays like a linebacker. Not just avoiding contact but welcoming it.

DeVonta Smith is the skinniest tough guy in the NFL. A 165-pound wrecking machine who doesn’t back down from anybody.

It’s amazing to watch.

At 6-foot, 165, Smith is the lightest starting wide receiver in the NFL and the lightest in Eagles history – a few pounds lighter than 1980s slot receiver Gregg Garrity, who was listed at 171. Todd Pinkston, DeSean Jackson and Harold Jackson were all 175-ish.

But he sure doesn’t play light.

These first five games of 2022, Smith has displayed a physical brand of football – taking on bigger corners, catching balls in traffic, blocking down the field, fighting for extra yards – that you just never see from guys his size.

When you’re 165, you’re supposed to be a finesse player. Smith is a bulldog, and his teammates love it.

“Smitty coming out, the big knock on him was his size and him not being able to take hits and whatever,” Dallas Goedert said. “And you saw a little bit last year of him going over the middle, taking hits from linebackers, falling forward every time, and this year you see it more and more. 

“He’s got great body control, great awareness. When guys hit him, sometimes he flies a few yards, lands on his feet and keeps running. He’s just really good with his body getting in positions where when he gets hit it doesn’t hurt him.”

Thanks to the wonders of Stathead, we can tell you that no wide receiver 170 pounds or under has ever gotten off to a faster start to their career than Smith.

Smith has 92 catches for 1,269 yards in his first 22 games, and that’s 121 more yards than 168-pound Anthony Carter, the three-time Pro Bowler with the Vikings in the 1980s, and 23 more catches than Stacey Bailey, the 162-pounder from the Falcons in the 1980s.

But if all the physical play is affecting Smith, he doesn’t let on. He’s played 85 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps over the last two years, and only Jason Kelce and Jalen Hurts have played more.

“He’s a tough player, he’s a physical guy, it’s fun being out there with him,” Goedert said. “He loves it. Whether he’s run blocking, catching the ball, trying to get extra yards, he’s not one who’s going to slide down and not get hit.”

Miles Sanders said Smith reminds him of K.J. Hamler, his teammate at Penn State and now in his third year with the Broncos. Hamler stands 5-9, 178.

“DeVonta is one of those guys who’s got that grit and got that dog in him,” Sanders said. “All it takes is the kind of person you are inside. He doesn’t care about his height or weight, he just plays the way he plays. He won the Heisman for a reason.

“A lot of respect for him. He could easily go in there and play a certain way just to keep hits off his body, but he absolutely doesn’t care. I love it. And he’ll go in there and block, too.”

Kenny Gainwell played at Yazoo County High School in Mississippi with Alexander Hollins, who spent time with the Vikings and Browns and is now with the British Columbia Lions of the CFL.

“Alexander Hollins is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever seen,” Gainwell said. “He’s 6-3, a buck-50, and he’s a tough guy, and DeVonta’s the same way. You watch guys like that play and you’re like, ‘Man, a guy that small plays like that?’ It makes you be like, ‘I want to be tough, too. He’s doing it, why can’t I do it.’

“Not everybody has that mindset, that same mentality. Being a dog when it’s time to be a dog. DeVonta has it.”

In his first year playing alongside A.J. Brown, Smith has 28 catches for 353 yards through five games for the undefeated Eagles, who are one of only three teams with two WRs with at least 350 yards. The Dolphins (Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle) and Seahawks (D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett) do as well.

And he's such a capable and willing blocker that in many cases he stays on the field when the Eagles go to 13 personnel, with three tight ends, one back and one receiver. 

Hurts, who played with Smith at Alabama, said nothing he does surprises him anymore.

“I don’t think there are many out there (like him),” he said. “I’ve seen that for a long time. I always joked with him in college, I always asked him, ‘How much do you weigh?’ And it’s always the same (answer).

“But he’s tough. I just know him as the competitor he is. I don’t look at him and see size. I see a hell of a player. A dog. And a great receiver.”

 Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast

Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube

Contact Us