After spending his first three seasons on the Forty Acres in a relatively limited role, thanks in large part to the presences of Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Devin Duvernay blossomed into one of the nation’s truly elite receivers as a senior.
Following a move from his previous role on the outside as a Z receiver, Duvernay thrived in the slot, just as Humphrey had only a year ago, only more so. Entering his final campaign in Austin, Duvernay had only 70 career receptions to his name for 1,082 yards, but surpassed that total in a single season, tallying a Big 12-best 106 receptions for 1,386 yards; efforts good enough to respectively rank third and fifth nationally.
Along the way, the first-team All-Big 12 talent emerged into a legitimate NFL prospect who’s almost certain to hear his name called at some point throughout the 2020 NFL Draft, with the most notable proof being in the pass-catching.
A tremendously sure-handed receiver, Duvernay dropped only five of the 244 passes intended for him throughout his tenure at Texas, and hauled in 176 of those targets; making for a mind-boggling drop rate of only 2.04 percent. That number reduces to zero percent in the red zone, where Duvernay never dropped a pass as a Longhorn. Furthermore, beyond the fact that Duvernay catches nearly everything that hits his hands, his track speed — Duvernay is a former Texas 6A high school 100-meter state champion who more recently registered a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL combine — and bullish running style saw him lead the nation with an incredible 719 yards after catch.
Given that more than half of his 2019 receiving yards came after the catch, it’s evident that Duvernay isn’t widely regarded as a lethal deep threat, and that will likely remain true at the next level. Rather, Duvernay is at his best when his speed and violent running style is utilized with quick passes such as screens or intermediate passes across the middle of the field, where he displays an ability to diagnose the soft spots in coverage and make himself available before essentially becoming a running back with the ball.
Such a skill set largely paved the way for Duvernay to finish with 62 first-down receptions, which trailed only LSU’s Justin Jefferson (66) nationally.
Nevertheless, while Duvernay’s bread and butter has been the short-to-intermediate game, he’s still a plenty capable option down the field, thanks in large part to his aforementioned 4.39 40-yard dash speed, as he often simply ran past defenders. On the few instances in which Duvernay wasn’t able to do so, he displays an ability to use his 200-pound frame to shield defenders to maintain leverage and a knack for tracking and adjusting to the ball to make difficult catches.
That all said, the sure-handed speedster isn’t without his share of deficiencies.
Maybe his most notable critique is that Duvernay is tight-hipped, which is often reflected in a lack of elite-level fluidity; this, he isn’t considered a crisp route runner. While that wasn’t an issue too often in Austin, it remains to be seen if Duvernay can develop that aspect of his game to create separation against the best defensive backs on the planet. And then, of course, Duvernay doesn’t feature impressive size at 5’10, so aside from beating defenders on pure speed, he isn’t likely to win many 50-50 balls at the next level, despite boasting a vertical leap (35.3 inches) comparable to many of the elite receivers in this class.
To that end, though the positives Duvernay presents far outweigh the negatives, it doesn’t help that Duvernay is among a draft class that’s especially rich in receiver talent. In a crop that features names such as Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, LSU’s Justin Jefferson, Clemson’s Tee Higgins, and Baylor’s Denzel Mims, just to name a few, Duvernay is listed as just the 15th-best receiver prospect, per CBS Sports.
Given that general ranking, it’s likely that Duvernay ultimately becomes a late-Day 2 — early-Day 3 selection. Sports Illustrated projects the former, slotting Duvernay as a 3rd Round pick, going 97th overall to the Cleveland Browns, while CBS Sports projects the latter, penning Duvernay in as a 5th Round pick at 150th overall to the New York Giants.
Regardless of where Duvernay ultimately lands in the draft, his remarkably productive senior campaign suggests that at the very least, he’ll be a safe pick, especially if he slips to the third day of the event. Duvernay doesn’t necessarily project as a star at next level, but if placed in the right situation, the speed, ability with the ball in his hands after the catch, and sure hands should allow Duvernay to become a reliable and often-utilized third or fourth option in an NFL offense.