Eagles' DeVonta Smith is having rookie year similar to former All-Pro's

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Smith is on pace to match former All-Pro's rookie numbers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

DeVonta Smith has been one of the silver linings this year for Eagles fans, showing off the skillset that made him the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner and a no-brainer Top 10 overall pick in last spring's NFL draft.

Smith has 38 catches for 537 yards and two touchdowns in nine games so far, and is on pace for a 1,000-yard receiving season - albeit in a 17-game season instead of a 16-game season.

But still, the point remains: Smith is crushing his rookie year.

And while the difference between the 16-game season and the 17-game season might make it slightly harder to gauge what counting stats would qualify Smith's first go-round as a successful one, the advanced numbers over at Football Outsiders make things much clearer.

Through nine games, Smith is on the same trajectory as a wideout who wound up making two All-Pro first teams and seven Pro Bowls.

That wideout? Texans great Andre Johnson.

Football Outsiders took a look at the rookie wide receiver class in a blog post Tuesday, and dropped this fascinating nugget about the parallels between Smith and Johnson's rookie campaigns:

"Smith is on pace to finish with 164 DYAR and a 5.3% DVOA. Those almost exactly match the numbers Andre Johnson (169 DYAR, 5.4% DVOA) had as a rookie in 2003."

If those abbreviations aren't in your football jargon, they're a pair of extremely helpful analytics. DYAR and DVOA both attempt to limit the affect opposing defenses have on a player's production by adjusting for league-average defense. (You can read more about them here.) https://www.footballoutsiders.com/info/glossary

It's doubly interesting to see Smith and Johnson on similar trajectories because those Texans were not any good. They finished last in the AFC South with a 5-11 record, and Johnson was a bit hamstrung by quarterback David Carr (56.6% completion, 6.8 yards/attempt, 9 TD:13 INT), but the rookie Miami product still put up a monster season.

And a look at Johnson's counting stats that year, compared with Smith's current 16-game pace, show that Smith's trajectory isn't just similar in the advanced numbers realm:

  • Johnson '03: 66 catches, 976 yards, 4 touchdowns

  • Smith '21: 67.5 catches, 954 yards, 3.5 touchdowns

The two have drastically different sizes and play styles - Johnson a big-bodied, high-point wideout; Smith a slight, quick, space-generating wizard - but their respective effects on the game as rookies are almost exactly the same.

If Smith goes on to replicate Johnson's career, all those All-Pro teams and Pro Bowl selections and monster receiving years, Eagles fans will be plenty happy with that pick.

We're off to a good start.

Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast:

Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube