Thursday night kicks off the 2021 NFL Draft, when teams will decide which NCAA stars will become their franchise players. Ahead of the big night, ESPN asked us to break down one of the Draft’s more contentious prospects: Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith. While Smith absolutely lit up college football on his way to a Heisman Trophy, he’s much smaller than your average NFL receiver. So Sport Science took a closer look at how Smith always seems to be making highlight reel plays, despite his lack of size.
DeVonta Smith’s route running was one of the things that jumped off the screen while we were watching game tape, but because of the speed of the game, that can sometimes be tough to really appreciate. We utilized freeze frames and 2D graphics in order to break down the intricacies of his game, highlighting vector changes and short burst speed in an easy-to-digest way. In addition to these graphic choices, we used a number of comparisons with other athletes to contextualize a variety of stats, from hand size to reaction time. These numbers become far more meaningful when you compare them with other phenomenal, well-known athletes.
We also developed a 3D model of Smith to help viewers visualize and contextualize a few different pieces of his game. Concepts like proprioception, body control, and catch point are all easier to explain with a model that we can manipulate and control. It provides viewers with a different perspective when visualizing these ideas, as opposed to only using highlights, which furthers their understanding of Smith’s outstanding abilities.
There is often a bit of informational overload when it comes to NFL Draft Week. But hopefully, Sport Science can help you cut through the noise, and understand how DeVonta Smith became one of the biggest names in this year’s class.