Analytics point to DeVonta Smith as Lions best pairing

Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports) /

If the Detroit Lions are going to have any chance to be competitive this upcoming season, they’ll need to come away with a stellar draft class as several young Leos will need to contribute immediately and play major roles. None more important than the first-round selection.

Owning the seventh overall pick in the draft, the pressure on the Lions’ latest first-rounder is already going to be immense. The fact he’ll be the first pick of the new regime in the Motor City just adds to that pressure, as Detroit has to get this one right.

The Lions figure to have plenty of worthy candidates to choose from. With the first three selections in the first round all but guaranteed to be quarterbacks, Detroit should have their pick of talented football players who aren’t passers.

One area that’s easy to identify as a major need is the wide receiver position. The team went from one of the league’s top trios in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., and Danny Amendola to relative unknowns in Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, and Kalif Raymond.

And while there are plenty of high-quality receivers expected to be available for the Lions to choose from with the seventh overall pick, does Detroit have a perfect match? Perhaps the answer can be found in the numbers.

Here’s what NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund wrote on the league’s official website when trying to pair the perfect wide receiver prospect with the right NFL home. For the Lions, Frelund chose Alabama’s DeVonta Smith as the landing spot that will maximize the draftee’s 2021 win share.

"“Any receiver who ends up in Detroit will likely be asked to help raise the Leos’ deep-passing potential, given the free agency departure of Kenny Golladay. PFF shows that Smith led the FBS in receptions (15), receiving yards (589) and receiving TDs (8) on targets of 20-plus yards in 2020. Should Smith end up in Detroit, don’t be surprised if he leads all rookie receivers in yards.”"

All DeVonta Smith did last year was dominate college football. The first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991, the senior racked up an incredible 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and a total of 24 touchdowns in 13 games for Crimson Tide.

While winning his second CFP National Championship with Alabama earlier this year, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Smith put on a show. He was named Offensive MVP after recording 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State. And that’s despite being out most of the second half after suffering a hand injury.

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The Detroit Lions are in desperate need of wide receiver talent. Especially considering the fact they have a new quarterback under center in Jared Goff. Giving the newcomer Goff a weapon like DeVonta Smith at receiver could go a long way in helping the Lions bounce back after three-straight losing seasons.