clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Eagles All-22 Film Review: DeVonta Smith is a pretty special player

It’s time for Philadelphia to start treating their WR1 like a WR1.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It’s time to get to diving deep on the Eagles’ rookies. Thank you for the lovely feedback on the Jalen Hurts piece last week, the comment section was awesome and there was some great points made.

Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing Eagles picks from their 2021 NFL Draft class. This week is a fun one. DeVonta Smith. Grab a drink, sit down and enjoy.

Rather than just do a scouting report on each player, I will try to include some scheme notes too. So each piece will start with useful stats and how they were used in the Eagles scheme, before going onto strengths, weaknesses, overall and how I see their future panning out with the Eagles.

Lets get to it.

RELATED: BGN Radio’s exclusive interview with DeVonta Smith

Stats/Scheme Notes

All data is taken from PFF, by the way.

  • Lined up as an outside WR for 87% of his snaps. Only in the slot for 12%.
  • Doesn’t just line up on one side. 477 snaps at left WR, 391 at right WR.
  • Had 13 catches out of the slot for 135 yards and 4TD’s. Largely moved to the slot in Red Zone packages.
  • 39th in the NFL in yards per route run, a low number considering his talent.
  • Only 6 targets behind the LOS all season. Ended up with 6 catches for 77 yards. Should be given more changes to create YAC.
  • 21% target share in the Eagles offense this season (not enough).
  • Only had 10 targets once all season (week 4).

Strengths

+ Outstanding route runner, incredibly smooth in and out of his breaks with very sudden feet. Nightmare to cover in man coverage. An extremely fluid athlete. Elite at comeback routes due to his stop/start ability.

+ Understands the nuances of route running like a veteran. Can use a variety of different tempos to get open and understands how to work a cornerbacks blind spot and use his leverage against him.

+ Despite his size, plays fearless and is more than happy to make catches in the middle of the field. Really good at deep in routes.

+ Has real vertical speed to get over the top of the defense. Excels at all 3 levels of the field, can win in the short game, intermediate game and deep game.

*NOTE - I was wrong when I posted on twitter. This is Smith in the slot running the seam NOT Quez Watkins.

+ Can line-up and win anywhere - either in the slot or out of the backfield. Had to play ‘X’ a lot due to the Eagles options this year but is not limited to this.

+ Outstanding body control, can catch balls in awkward positions and especially on the sideline. Can make exceptional catches low from the ground and can snatch inaccurate throws out the air due to his length.

+ Numbers would be far better if Hurts was a better pocket passer. Had multiple opportunities where he was open and did not get the ball.

+ Has the ability to make defenders miss and create YAC. Didn’t get this opportunity much this year with the Eagles but has proven that he can do it.

+ Extremely competitive on every snap. Never takes a snap off and is more than a willing blocker. Plays physical on every snap.

Weaknesses

- Very thin frame No one cares!

- He can be pressed at the line of scrimmage if he does not win immediately. Probably not suited to playing the ‘X’ position on an every snap basis.

- Can be forced to the sideline if he doesn’t get off press coverage immediately. Play strength is a concern against elite, physical corners.

- Doesn’t dominate in contested situations like a top physical wide receiver. This is not his game. Only had a 39% contested catch success rate.

Overall

This is an easy evaluation for everyone: DeVonta Smith is a pretty special player. He’s an elite talent and his frame really was not a problem this year. He has the ability to line up all over the field, can win against man coverage, understands the nuances of route running like a veteran and can also get down the field and create yards after the catch. In my opinion, he is already a pretty legitimate number 1 wide receiver and should get targeted a lot more moving forward.

There really are not too many holes to pick in his game. He is pretty exactly what the Eagles hoped he would be when they traded up for him. If he got targeted like a number 1 wide receiver, he could put up some pretty ridiculous numbers in a different style of offense.

The Future…

I absolutely love Smith as a player, but it will be interesting to see just how good he will be. We all know he is very, very good. That’s not a debate. In some ways, this is quite a tricky player to predict because I think every Eagles fan loves him… but how good is he?

In my opinion, I see Smith becoming a top, top receiver but probably slightly below the ‘elite’ in the NFL. Maybe a top 5-7 talent rather than a ‘best in the NFL’ talent. I’m not sure Smith has the size or physicality to dominate the top corners in the game, such as a Jalen Ramsey type. I don’t see the same physical ‘jump off the screen’ talent as a Ja’Marr Chase, Davante Adams or maybe even… Justin Jefferson (sorry Howie).

That does not mean Smith cannot be an elite producer in any offense. The Eagles coaching staff MUST start to treat Smith like a legitimate WR1. There is no way he should be getting 10 targets in a game… just once! All season! He needs to be moved around the formation more and not just stuck out wide. He should be moved into the slot, put in motion and used out of the backfield. Just because you find ways to create matchups for someone and to get them off press coverage does not mean they are not an elite talent. It is just smart to utilise a player like Smith in a variety of ways. I would love the Eagles to target a big bodied ‘X’ receiver in FA so Smith can be used in different ways and will not have to face consistent press coverage.

Seriously, if the Eagles do not target Smith and utilise him in different ways next year, I will be very mad. If the Eagles staff does commit to targeting him more like a number 1 receiver, I think he could end up in the top 5-10 for yards as early as next season.

Isn’t it fun to have a great wide receiver again?