Devonta Smith destroyed the competition in the National Championship game; he had 12 catches for 215 yards and 3 TDs at halftime. He broke the SEC single season receiving yard and TD record, which is obviously impressive. He also broke the SEC career receiving yard record… which while impressive, illustrates one of the knocks against him.
In the 2020 season, Smith ranked 1st in the nation in yards/route run among primary-perimeter WRs; 2nd if you count slot WR Jaelon Darden. Smith’s 2020 4.19 YPRR was more than CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, and Jerry Jeudy in 2019. One difference was that these guys were sophomores and juniors, while Smith is a senior. If you back to last season, these guys ranked higher than Smith in YPRR.
A long college career for a WR, and a non-impressive breakout age will be a knock against them regardless of how talented they are. GMs will have to battle eye test and production vs analytics with Smith.
Here’s the thing: out of all these indicators, draft capital is always the most predictive. Draft capital + < 20 breakout age increases your chances a ton. With Smith, his draft capital alone gives him a good chance to be a productive and sought-after fantasy asset. Calvin Ridley did it (>20 breakout age, but still had the talent and 1st round draft capital), so Smith can too… but will he?
Regardless of how you view Smith coming into the league, watching him dominate the the level he has this year has been amazing to watch. It’s really tough to imagine him not being an alpha WR1 in the NFL, and we know he’ll have every opportunity to be one based on him expected to be taken early in the 1st round.
Are you betting that Smith lives up to his draft capital?