DeVonta Smith’s speed explained by former Eagles WR Jason Avant

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Jason Avant explains DeVonta Smith’s unique speed originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

DeVonta Smith did not work out at the Alabama pro day during this pre-draft process so we don’t have any test numbers for the Eagles’ No. 10 pick.

How fast is Smith?

Well, the short answer is fast enough to consistently pull away from SEC defensive backs on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy as a senior.

It’s also probably safe to say that even if Smith had run the 40-yard dash at his pro day, his result wouldn’t have blown anyone away. His former teammate Henry Ruggs III ran a 4.27 last year, but that’s not the type of speed Smith has.

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The combination of a lack of size (Smith is tall at 6-foot, but just 166 pounds) and a lack of that top 40-yard speed might be a scary one. After all, when you think about the success of light receivers, they often have impressive 40 times. Think about guys like DeSean Jackson and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.

But don’t get it wrong. Smith has speed. It’s just a different kind of speed.

And former Eagles receiver Jason Avant did a great job recently breaking down the type of speed Smith has. Not only is Avant a former NFL receiver but he also helped coached the Eagles’ wideouts in 2020, so when he gives his analysis, we listen.

On the most recent episode of Q&A with Quintin Mikell and Jason Avant (part of Inside The Birds) Avant called Smith a “builder.”

“When it comes to DeVonta Smith, people are comparing him to — it’s a different sport — but Allen Iverson being small. And they also compare him to DeSean Jackson,” Avant said. “Now, I’m going to let everybody know, he’s not as fast as DeSean Jackson.

“However, he’s a builder. And a builder is special, ladies and gentlemen. When I say special, look at me in the face: They are special! It’s very, very hard to be a builder when it comes to this sport because we do such short sprints, 100 yards, 50 yards or quick bursts and we’re taught to be explosive. You only have to run 4 seconds, 3-4-5 seconds at the most. A lot of guys don’t have the stamina for it. But this kid gets faster as he goes. So I would be more inclined to figure out what he runs in the 60, what he runs in the 80 or the 100. That’s the true tell for me.”

And this seems to add up. Because while Smith is light at 166 pounds, he is long. At 6-foot, he’s a long strider. And these next-level numbers from PFF show that he has the ability to create explosive plays despite this perceived lack of elite short-distance speed:

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Avant had an intriguing comparison for Smith:

“He reminds me of a player named Ted Ginn,” Avant said. “That’s who he reminds me of. Because Ted Ginn just keeps building and you can’t ever catch him. I don’t care if the dude runs a 4.2, Ted Ginn runs a 4.4 on paper but that’s not including the 60 and the 80 and the 100. That’s the type of speed DeVonta Smith has. DeSean was 0 to 100, is really fast and he can sustain his speed and he can run as fast as anybody, but DeVonta Smith in a race for 100 yards would give DeSean Jackson hell. That’s just true. And may beat him. How often do you need that long speed going down the field? Not in every situation. But that’s something that I want to tell the fans in comparison to DeSean Jackson.”

Back in the 2007 draft, Ginn actually ran a 4.38, which is faster than many expected Smith to run this offseason if he did. But the point still remains that Avant sees that kind of long speed from Smith. And it’s also important to note that Smith has short-area quickness that helps him beat press coverage off the line. And having an incredible 40 time certainly doesn’t always translate to NFL success; and a slower 40 doesn’t always translate to a lack of success.

Avant admitted that Smith’s weight is a concern for him but then said the body of work from Smith at Alabama gets him over that concern rather quickly. Avant pointed out that Smith was the best receiver at Alabama despite the other first-round talents there and also said the fact that he faced Patrick Surtain II in practice daily definitely helped.

“This kid makes it work,” Avant said. “With that being said, I’m concerned about his weight but I just got a feeling that this kid knows how to maneuver with his ability and understands how to get open. Some people have a knack for it. Some people are comparing him to (Iverson) and all of this stuff. Time will tell about that but I’m not doubting this kid. I think it’s an educated guess for me to say that for this particular kid, his size won’t matter.”

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