The Heisman Trophy went to a wide receiver this year, it was something not many saw coming and so far out of left field that it was normal for the year 2020. But that’s what Alabama’s Devonta Smith did. Amid a flurry of opt-outs and an injury to his co-star, Jaylen Waddle, Smith made himself the story of the 2020 college football season and left with its most prestigious award.
Smith came into this season as a potential first round pick, but his slight frame and never being a primary receiver made him an unknown. 117 receptions, 1,856 yards, 23 touchdowns, a previously mentioned Heisman Trophy and a National Championship later, Smith may be the first receiver taken in the draft.
The competition for who gets the privilege of being dubbed “WR1” come draft day is between 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Smith. Chase opted out of the 2020 season and Smith quickly caught up and even surpassed Chase, according to some evaluators.
I personally have Chase as my top-ranked receiver, but I sit in my room and watch film, not in an office reporting to an NFL general manager, so my opinion only has so much value in the end. Smith has already left his imprint on the media, but his most recent move is as crafty and calculated as one of his 15-yard in-routes and designed to impress the right people.
Smith was of course given an invite to the Senior Bowl, the premier college football all-star game, which is a landmine for NFL scouts and coaches. In fact, the two teams are coached by an NFL coaching staff and while Smith is unable to play because of injury, he may walk out the week’s biggest winner.
Smith accepted his Senior Bowl invite to network with decision makers and more importantly sit in on meetings with the coaching staff of the Miami Dolphins, the holders of the draft’s third overall pick and a popular destination for Smith in mock drafts.
The Dolphins are in need of a receiver for last year’s top-five pick, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who went to Alabama with Smith and the two connected on plenty of passes during their time together in Tuscaloosa.
Plenty around the NFL see the benefit of giving Tagovailoa a target he is already familiar with, but where the Dolphins sit on this is an unknown.
Fortunately for Smith, his biggest competitor to be the best prospect at the receiver position is only a junior, meaning Chase was ineligible for an invite to the Senior Bowl.
The Dolphins now get an inside look at Smith and what he contributes to a locker room in a way that they can’t with Chase. With the 2021 NFL Combine being significantly altered, this proves to give Smith an even bigger advantage.
Smith going to the Senior Bowl and showcasing what he can do for the Dolphins during meetings is a stroke of genius and the obvious choice for the former five-star recruit. To be honest, there’s a good chance it pays off. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins select Smith with the third overall pick and make him the first receiver selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.