Will DeVonta Smith's size scare off Eagles?


We know he’s fast. He didn’t run the 40 at Alabama’s pro day, but all you have to do is watch him play to know he’s a 4.3-low guy. He can fly.

We know the production is there. The guy caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns this past season playing at the highest level of college football. Nobody in the last 20 years has matched those numbers.

Really, the only question about DeVonta Smith is whether he’s too small. At 6-1, 170 pounds, it’s fair to ask.

No wide receiver that size has ever been drafted in the first half of the first round.

Mel Kiper, who has called Smith one of the five-best players in the draft, also acknowledged that the Alabama star “could drop a bit” because of his size.

Could he land in the Eagles’ lap at 12? Not likely, but it’s possible. Every year there’s one or two players that start sliding for some reason or other. A little too slow. Not a character guy. Had trouble picking up the scheme. Too small. 

Should the Eagles be scared off by Smith’s size? The kid looks like a star, but there’s a reason very few wideouts his size have been drafted in the 1st round.

“In high school I used to feel some type of way when people would tell me (I was too small),” Smith said in a recent interview with Bleacher Report’s Master Tesfatsion. “But now, I really don’t care. If somebody says that, I’m just gonna look at them and laugh. I mean, it is what it is. At the end of the day, I know that when I get on the field and line up, I’ll do what I’ve got to do.”

There’s never been a wide receiver 175 pounds or less taken in the first 15 picks. In fact, the only player at any position taken in the first 15 spots since 1950 who weighed 170 or less a kicker, Charlie Gogolak, who Washington took No. 6 in 1966. He managed to make 56 percent of his field goal attempts. 

Things have changed since then.

According to the Pro Football Reference database, the only wide receiver listed at 170 or lighter who’s ever been drafted in the 1st round is Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who the Ravens picked at No. 25 just two years ago. Brown has had a nice if unspectacular couple seasons, with 104 catches for 1,353 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Three others listed at 175 or less went in the 20s - Earl McCullouch (5-11, 175) went No. 24 to the Lions in 1968, Jessie Hester to the Colts at No. 23 in 1985 and Aaron Cox No. 20 to the Rams in 1988.

Hester never had a 1,000-yard season or made a Pro Bowl but he had a decent career, with close to 6,000 yards  in 10 seasons. McCullough had nearly 700 yards as a rookie but was only a starter for three seasons. And Cox only caught 102 passes in a short career.

If you open it up to later rounds, there are some interesting names. Drew Hill was a 12th-round pick at 5-9, 170 in 1979 and had nearly 10,000 receiving yards. Cliff Branch was a 4th-round selection in 1972 at 5-11, 170 and had nearly 9.000 yards. And Anthony Carter was a 12th-round pick in 1983 and had nearly 8,000 yards.

But in all, out of 19 receivers listed at 170 or less who’ve been drafted in the first four rounds, only Branch ever made a Pro Bowl as a WR (Clarence Verdin and Dexter McCluster made Pro Bowls as returners).

Now, if you open it up to 175 pounds - and talking about players’ weights is an inexact science - you add guys like Gary Clark, Webster Slaughter and DeSean Jackson, who were all 2nd-round picks and made multiple Pro Bowls.

One thing that sets Smith apart is his height. Most of these lighter guys we’re talking about are 5-9 to 5-11. Smith stands 6-1.

There have been a few WRs in that range - 6-1 or taller but 175 or lighter - including Slaughter. The next-most successful is Todd Pinkston, the Eagles’ 2nd-round pick in 2000.

With a smaller receiver, teams are going to ask whether he’s durable and whether he can beat press coverage against big, tough NFL cornerbacks. There’s no reason to think based on what Smith did at Alabama that he can’t be a star in the NFL.

It’s understandable that teams are concerned about Smith’s stature, but watch the tape. The kid is special.

Maybe the reason no WR his size has ever been drafted high in the 1st round is because there's never been a WR his size who's this talented.

Most likely, Smith will be gone when the Eagles pick, but the draft is a funny thing. If teams start believing the “too small” tag, he could drop. And if he’s there at 12, the Eagles would be crazy to let him keep sliding.

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