This would be a surprising development for several reasons, including Bill Belichick’s lack of success drafting wideouts, the depth of this year’s receiver class and the Patriots’ glaring need at quarterback.
Then, there’s the issue of Smith’s size, which has become a major talking point ever since NFL insider Albert Breer reported Wednesday, citing sources, that the reigning Heisman Trophy winner measured in at 6-foot and 166 pounds at the recent medical combine for prospects in Indianapolis.
There have been plenty of lanky receivers over the years, some of whom have thrived at the highest level. But 166 pounds is extremely lean by NFL standards. And thus, there are questions about whether Smith is built to withstand the physical punishment that looms, especially since he’s not all that tall, either.
Will the Patriots be scared off?
Well, NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry pointed out Wednesday that the lightest receiver New England ever drafted is Braxton Berrios, who weighed 184 pounds. So, Smith would be an unprecedented pick for the franchise.
Plus, there’s this anecdote since shared by Perry’s colleague, Tom E. Curran, who’s been covering Belichick and the Patriots for years:
Somebody’s going to love DeVonta Smith in the first round of this draft. Could it still be the Patriots? I will just relate this story to you. At the 2010 NFL Owners Meeting, we were sitting with Bill Belichick at the annual coaches breakfast. I kinda thought a third down back to complement Kevin Faulk was a need spot. And I LOVED Dexter McCluster from Ole Miss.
So I mentioned him to Belichick. And Belichick looked at me and said with that “You’re kidding, right” tone: “What’s he, like 175 pounds?”
Perhaps there were other reasons the Patriots decided not to draft McCluster — who, according to Curran, actually was 170 pounds — before the Kansas City Chiefs picked him in the second round (36th overall) in 2010. After all, New England selected safety Devin McCourty in the first round (27th overall) and tight end Rob Gronkowski in the second round (42nd overall) of that draft. Not bad.
It’s an interesting comment by Belichick, though. And it’s one that’s definitely worth noting when trying to figure out whether New England would be willing to overlook Smith’s physical stature in favor of his elite production at Tuscaloosa.
The Patriots have had some diminutive contributors. Just not that wiry. Although maybe ‘Bama head coach Nick Saban can alleviate any concerns Belichick might have about Smith’s ability to hold up in the long run.