In today’s edition of the TOJ FIlm Room, we are going to break down wide receiver Devin Smith who was taken 37th overall in the NFL Draft by the New York Jets. Previously, we have looked at first round pick Leonard Williams and third round pick Lorenzo Mauldin. Also on the Jets offense we have reviewed Smith’s soon to be running mates, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Let’s take a closer look at Smith’s game…
The Numbers: 6-0, 196 pounds, 4.42 forty yard dash, 39 inch vertical jump
- 2011: 14 receptions, 294 yards, 4 TDs, 21.0 yards per catch
- 2012: 30 receptions, 618 yards, 6 TDs, 20.6 yards per catch
- 2013: 44 receptions, 660 yards, 8 TDs, 15.0 yards per catch
- 2014: 33 receptions, 931 yards, 12 TDs, 28.2 yards per catch
Smith is a monster on vertical routes, tracking and attacking deep balls as well as any wide receiver prospect in recent years. He was a touchdown scoring, highlight reel filling, big play machine for the best team in college football last season. Smith plays above his already impressive measurables with an expansive catch radius, route speed and a consistent attacking of the football. He has a natural ability to get himself in position down the field and win against a defensive back when the ball is in the air, as shown below on this poorly thrown deep ball against Wisconsin.
More regularly, Smith shows an uncanny ability to stay on his route stem, particularly on nine routes and track the ball over his shoulder. At first glance, this catch might not jump off the screen as particularly impressive but at a closer look, it is borderline unbelievable.
Later in the same game, Smith is able to simply fly by coverage on an inside vertical concept. He did a good amount of his damage from the slot last season, where his foot speed gave him an immediate advantage over most of the people matched up with him inside as shown in the second GIF versus Illinois.
Smith was able to have some of his biggest games, most notably against Michigan State by setting up his home run shots by working effectively underneath early in the game. The common knocks on Smith are the limitations on his route tree but he showed an ability to run a disciplined dig route against both zone (showing patience, finding the hole and then working up field after the catch) and man coverage (walling off the defender and catching the ball with his hands extended). He has worked the spot and hitch route with relative frequency early in games to encourage defenders to creep closer to the line of scrimmage.
Smith attacks the football all over the field, not just on deep balls. This is a critical addition for a Jets offense that has employed some of the most passive receivers in the NFL over the past five years (Stephen Hill, post injury Santonio Holmes and Clyde Gates). Smith is not a track star. He is a football player, who brings needed aggression as a playmaker to the receiver position.
Where Smith Needs To Improve
Smith needs to develop his entire route tree at the next level and learn how to be more consistent finding windows against zone coverage and working around second level defenders who try to knock him off his path. He is not ready to be a regular contributor in the intermediate and short passing game, still needing to fine tune his option routes, comebacks and slant routes.
Smith generally catches the football well but can be prone to concentration drops when he is looking to turn up-field before securing the football to his body. He did not compile many yards after the catch at Ohio State. A needed addition to his game is more stability catching the football, securing it and then getting north and south with it.
He was also very hit and miss as a blocker. There were times he completed his assignment on crack blocks or receiver screens but he isn’t physical enough in these situations and it comes back to haunt him. The whiff below is not an outlier and will cost him reps in the NFL if he doesn’t improve his physicality and technique.
Where He Fits
As a rookie, Smith is likely to be a situational deep threat for the Jets who gradually sees his playing time increase as the season goes on. He is too talented and offers too much home run potential to be on the bench for long stretches of time. Initially, he will probably run mostly hitch routes and nine routes, along with be a slot target on four verticals. Smith is also likely to be a gunner on the punt team, which he excelled at in college. His reception total might not be overly impressive in 2015 but his yards per catch and his touchdowns could very well be. It would not be shocking if he demonstrated enough this year to make the Jets confident he could be a full time player for the 2016 season.
A very good value pick at #37 for a player who could develop into a DeSean Jackson type weapon for this offense. Smith brings a pure vertical/big play element that has been missing from the Jets since Santana Moss was in his prime (yes, it has been that long).