ATLANTA, GA  OCTOBER 28:  North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker (9) attempts to catch a pass during the college football game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on October 28th, 2023 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, GA.  (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA OCTOBER 28: North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker (9) attempts to catch a pass during the college football game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on October 28th, 2023 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Who is Devontez Walker?

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CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 09: Fans hold a sign supporting Devontez “Tez” Walker #9 of the North Carolina Tar Heels before the game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Kenan Memorial Stadium on September 09, 2023 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Tar Heels won 40-34 in double overtime. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

North Carolina wide receiver Devontez “Tez” Walker is a name that’s found a way into the 2024 NFL Draft discussion.

SCRATCH THAT.

He’s done more than become part of the conversation. NFL.com has a first-round grade on Walker (nflmockdraftdatabase.com). That got my attention since the league’s website is plugged in.

But, who is this guy?

He had controversy surrounding his name after transferring from Kent State to North Carolina but ended up being ineligible for the first four games of the 2023 season due to ‘being ruled ineligible to play,’ by the NCAA (CNN.com).

That decision was overturned and Walker was allowed to join his team and he posted decent production in eight games.

“Decent” being is the keyword.

Walked logged 41 receptions for 699 yards (17.0 avg.) and seven touchdowns in 2023 for the Tarheels. In two seasons prior at Kent State (2021-2022), he caught a combined 63 passes for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns during the span of 16 games.

Bottom line: Walker didn’t scorch the field at either school, but here we are.

About that NFL.com grade

The grade is curious to me. An abbreviated statement without any evidence. Don’t get me wrong, Walker looked decent in 34 of the 41 catches he made this season that I evaluated (plus the missed targets).

His deep ball-tracking skills stood out the most (sometimes).

Outside of that, Walker struggled to create separation in the short-to-intermediate route levels and was nothing special in terms of yardage after the catch.

Not to mention ⎯

Walker plays at two different speeds.

What do I mean?

Walker dogs it.

Said another way ⎯he gets lazy most of the time.

The game film doesn’t lie (links provided below).

I approach these evaluations like I’m an attorney in a courtroom.

Walker did turn it on sometimes (and even then he was only able to create a step or two of separation deep against college-level competition). Yes, he made one nice deep catch against Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins (2022 first-round graded game film), but Wiggins turned around and handled him the rest of the game.

Overall, Walker’s releases off the line of scrimmage, rounded route breakpoints, and one-gear speed didn’t impress me. He flashed a burst of speed, but it’s more him running a little slower and then turning it on to give the impression of a “short area burst.”

I liked Walker’s deep game at North Carolina, but the rest of it looked average.

It didn’t spell “elite.”

The concerning part

You would think that some dude (who most people haven’t heard of) who got his big chance going from playing at Kent State to the North Carolina Tarheels would have run every route like it was his last trying to make that lasting impression.

But that’s not what I saw.

I saw a receiver on cruise control.

I saw a receiver whose routes did not look crisp or well-defined.

Walker’s catch rate?

2021 (Kent State): 5 receptions on 9 targets (55%)

2022 (Kent State): 58 receptions on 99 targets (59%)

2023 (North Carolina): 41 receptions on 72 targets (57%) with QB Drake Maye

NOT SO HOT CATCH RATE

#9 Devontez Walker 6-foot-3, 200 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s 2024 NFL Draft Grade: Third-Round (I wouldn’t select him)

Projected by 7.1% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of January 31, 2024 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

2023 game film reviewed: Clemson, Miami, Virginia, Duke, and Syracuse (click to view games watched to form this evaluation)

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Nice-sized frame, long arms, and soft natural hands with inconsistent production at all three levels. Lines up mostly out wide. Releases tended to look average and routes often appeared methodical. Inconsistent effort running routes messes with timing. Labors at breakpoints. Excels at inside short slants and intermediate dagger routes shadowing out corners with his body. Physical corners knock him off course. Finds soft spots in zone. Best deep game film against Miami and Duke. Good speed, but didn’t blow the doors off college secondaries. Takes out his frustration blocking.

Final words

This is a deep receiving class ⎯too deep to be fooling around with a prospect who didn’t give it his all before his NFL payday.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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