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June 02, 2021

Eagles rookie NFL player comparisons: DeVonta Smith

Eagles NFL
DeVonta Smith Peppers KIRBY LEE/USA TODAY SPORTS

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was selected by Philadelphia with the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

During this semi-dead period of the offseason, we'll be comparing each of the Eagles' rookies to current and/or former NFL players. We'll kick off the series with the Eagles' first-round pick (duh), DeVonta Smith.

Who does Smith remind me of?

The most obvious and commonly comped player to Smith has been Marvin Harrison, who you should all be aware of, regardless of age. Harrison played for the Colts from 1996 to 2008, twice leading the NFL in receptions and yards, and once in TDs. Over a Hall of Fame career, Harrison was a high-volume receiver who racked up 1,102 catches (fifth all-time), 14,580 yards (ninth all-time), and 128 TDs (fifth all-time).

Harrison stood at a hair under 6'0, and weighed in at 181 pounds at the NFL Combine in 1996, and played his entire career as an undersized receiver who won by gaining copious amounts of separation though outstanding route running, rarely ever dropping passes, and threatening the defense at all three levels. 

But beyond that, he was also probably the most consistent of the star receivers of his era, as he had at least 80 catches and 1,100 receiving yards in eight consecutive seasons, which included a four-year stretch in which he had at least 100 catches and 1,400 receiving yards, playing in a loaded offense. Similarly, Smith racked up huge numbers in his final two years at Alabama in a loaded offense, outproducing first round picks in Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jaylen Waddle, as well as a possible future first round pick in John Metchie. 

And then even stylistically, Smith's on-field demeanor mirrors Harrison's. After touchdowns, like Barry Sanders, Harrison was always a "hand the ball to the official" guy. Everything about this highlight reel from Harrison's 2006 season reminds me of highlight reels I've watched of Smith, most notably that he wasn't a 4.3 guy, but he got open, was a weapon after the catch, and just knew how to play the position.

As you'll see in this crazy long highlight reel of Smith, stylistically, they're just so similar.

It's just such a good comp, but since it feels kind of boring to just recycle Harrison's name again, I'll throw out two more comps.

Isaac Bruce, Rams and 49ers: Bruce is another undersized Hall of Famer who was a rare good player on some crappy Rams teams for the first half decade of his career, before Kurt Warner and "The Greatest Show on Turf" happened.

Like Harrison, Bruce was an under-sized receiver for the duration of his career, and he had an even slighter build than Harrison when he measured in at a hair under 6'0 and 173 pounds at the 1994 Combine. Smith infamously weighed in at 166 pounds at his pre-draft medical check.

Bruce was a little bit more a deep threat-oriented player, as he averaged over 15 yards per catch for the bulk of his career, while Harrison was more of a high-volume guy. Still, Bruce could win at all three levels of the defense, getting separation, making highlight reel catches, etc.

Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers, Broncos, Niners, Saints: And then if we're going to set the bar a little lower than a couple of Hall of Famers, a current player who's game reminds me of Smith's is Sanders, who has a similar slight build (5'11, 186 at the 2010 Combine), but who played bigger than his actual size, and was an inside-outside receiver who produced because of his excellent route running and sticky hands.

Obviously, these are some lofty comparisons, but I think they're fair, as long as Smith is able to prove that he can be durable over the course of his career.

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