In a draft loaded with talented wide receivers, the New York Jets selected Devin Smith out of Ohio State with the 37th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. While many Jets fans clamored for a more complete receiver like Amari Cooper or Kevin White in the first round, Smith brings a legitimate deep threat and scoring option on any given play for the Jets.
Devin Smith brings one badly needed wrinkle to the Jets offense: speed. While Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are more talented overall receivers, they lack the blazing speed that Smith brings to the offense.
On any given play, Smith could get open deep for a huge-game changing play. Smith clocked in at a very respectable 4.42 40-yard dash, and may have even more in-game speed. Simply put, putting Smith on the outside demands the defense respect his speed and ability to take the top of a defense.
With Marshall and Smith on the outsides in three-receiver sets, Decker could shift into a slot receiver role. Decker had a great first year in New York despite quarterback woes: totaling 73 catches, 962 yards and 5 touchdowns. However, these numbers represent significant drop-offs from his previous two seasons with the Denver Broncos.
Obviously, there is expected to be less production when going from Pro-Bowl signal-caller Peyton Manning to a tandem of Geno Smith and an aging Michael Vick. But another important attribute to the lowered production is that Decker had to assume the number one receiver role in New York. This brings about more defensive attention and the best cornerback from the opposing team.
Decker flourished in a Denver offense that included a speedy and complete receiver in Demaryius Thomas. In New York, this could be replicated by pairing Marshall, who is more polished, and Smith, who has necessary speed, on the outsides. With Decker moving to the slot or at least having a legitimate receiving threat to complement him, his options on offense will open up.
He still may not return to his 1,000 yard season form, with Jets quarterbacks spreading the ball a little more, but Decker will be open often and will be a huge asset to the Jets offense.
Smith will need to work on his route running and routine catches in the short passing game, but his big play ability will translate to the NFL from day one.
In his senior season at Ohio State, Smith caught only 33 passes, but he turned them into 931 yards and 12 touchdowns. That translates to an incredible 28.2 yards per catch and a touchdown reception on over a third of his catches. So while Smith may not catch a lot of passes with the Jets, he will make the most of each and every one with his speed and after the catch ability.
Smith has also showcased his ability to make incredible catches in the past. In fact, one catch in 2012 looked very similar to New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s signature touchdown catch.
The final thing Smith has shown potential to do is completely take over a game. In Ohio State’s 59-0 win over the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2014 Big Ten Championship, Smith caught four passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. He turned a mere four catches into well over 100 yards and failed to reach the end zone only once.
Take a good look at each of Smith’s three touchdown catches. While he uses his speed to get in position on each play, he is always contested by at least one Badger while making the catch. Smith has shown the ability to box out defenders and make catches in tight windows. This is extremely valuable and shows he isn’t just a speedster, he has incredible ball skills.
In fact, ESPN draft expert Todd McShay described Smith as “Torrey Smith with ball skills”
If this holds true, the Jets are truly in for a treat with second-round pick Devin Smith.