New York Jets: Expectations for Devin Smith in 2015
In the 2nd round of this year’s draft, the New York Jets selected wide receiver Devin Smith out of Ohio State. This makes him the first receiver New York has taken in the first 3 rounds since Stephen Hill in 2012. With that being said, there is a lot of pressure on Smith to not hit rock bottom like Hill did. Hill was cut by Gang Green after just two seasons filled with drops, fumbles and injuries. In those two seasons, he played only 23 games catching 45 passes for 594 yards and a mere 4 touchdowns. The last thing Jets fans want is for Smith to go down that path. Fortunately, that route is very unlikely because of how he was brought along throughout his college career.
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Hill came out of the famous flex-bone offense at Georgia Tech, which is why he caught just 49 passes in his three years as a Yellow Jacket. Smith on the other hand reeled in 121 passes for 2,503 yards and 30 touchdowns in his 4-year Buckeye career.
In his senior season, he averaged 28.2 yards per catch, making him a true weapon for the 2014-15 national champs. To conclude the regular season, he caught 4 passes for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns to help beat Wisconsin and get OSU into the 4-team playoff. In the postseason, he caught 3 balls for 132 yards and one touchdown. Let’s not forget, he put up these numbers under quarterbacks who were on and off the field with injuries, so it is pretty amazing that he managed to put up these numbers regardless.
At the combine, he ran a 4.42 to go along with a 39-inch vertical leap. Those are two things new general manager Mike Maccagnan must have loved when trying to find the right deep threat for Gang Green in 2015 and beyond. His speed allows him to track down the ball while his vertical jump helps him go up and get it. He also has tremendous hands, so drops are not an issue when airing it out deep to Smith.
Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes receiver Devin Smith (9) holds the College Football Playoff trophy after the game against Oregon Ducks in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Another promising stat is his great health. He did not miss a single game at Ohio State due to an injury. Jets fans will be keeping their fingers crossed in hope that he can keep himself healthy at the next level as well. If there is one thing he needs to work on, it’d be his ability to work out of the slot on shorter passes. As a Buckeye, Smith’s routes were predominately deep passes up the sideline. In order for him to make a name for himself in the NFL, he’ll have to develop a game on the inside of the field.
Smith joins a receiving core in New York that currently consists of Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Chris Owusu, Saalim Hakim, DeVier Posey, and T.J. Graham as the realistic competitors for roster spots. Given the fact that Marshall, Decker, and Kerley are locks to make the team, this leaves Smith as probably the No. 4 wide receiver on the depth chart. In Chan Gailey’s spread offense, he may be on the field quite a bit in his rookie campaign, but the role for him this season should be nothing more than a deep threat.
May 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Devin Smith (84) catches a pass during organized team activities at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
As stated previously, he has to show he can play in the slot, not only on the outside. Kerley, Jace Amaro, and Jeff Cumberland will be utilized a lot when the Jets are looking to throw the ball over the middle, so Smith must compete with those guys in order to play in the slot this season.
For now, he should be looked at as an option on 3rd down as well as a guy who can take the safety down field. This would open up the middle of the field for the other receivers and create a lot more one on one opportunities. Smith can contribute in year one for the Jets, without question.
Overall, the Jets have something in Smith that they haven’t had in a long time. As a receiver that can take the top off the defense, he is looked at as a threat to any secondary and he can deliver the offense by making just one catch in a game. The man was part of a championship team last season, maybe he can be part of another one in the near future.
Next: New York Jets: Jeff Cumberland must step up in 2015