Devin Smith Can Take Flight as a Member of the New York Jets
In a deep draft class for receivers, it was easy for Devin Smith to be overlooked. After all, he wasn’t even the top target on the Ohio State Buckeyes during his final season in college. Still, Smith has skills that can make him an excellent receiver on the professional level. Smith not only could be the best deep threat from this class, he could become a great all-around receiver.
Smith spent his final college season making big plays from two different quarterbacks. He only had 33 receptions in 2014, but he totaled 931 yards for a 28.2 yards per reception average. That led all of college football among wide receivers.
On TV broadcasts during the draft, Smith was compared to Mike Wallace, but that sells his ability short. While the speed is similar, Smith has a much better ability to locate and attack the football. Smith would have been a great value at the end of the first round, so for the Jets to grab him at the top of the second after selecting Leonard Williams, they had a great 1-2 start to the draft.
The Jets will now roll out of receiving corps of Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley and Smith. That’s decidedly better than what they’ve rolled out the past few seasons. Last year, the Jets did not fare well by Net Expected Points (NEP), as they ranked 23rd in Adjusted Passing NEP. The trade for Marshall certainly helped the passing offense, and the addition of Smith will be another weapon for new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey to use.
It’s yet to be decided who be be the quarterback for the Jets in 2015, and it may impact the amount of big plays the Jets can convert to Smith. Newly acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick ranked fourth among quarterbacks in air yards per attempt during 2014 -- the average Fitzpatrick pass in Houston traveled 4.3 yards through the air. Meanwhile, incumbent Geno Smith ranked 30th among 40 qualified quarterbacks with 3.4 air yards per attempt. While there's a big difference in how these quarterbacks fared last season, Smith is capable of placing the deep ball when needed, it just wasn’t called often.
With the wide array of talent at receiver, the Jets have multiple ways they can line up on offense. Each receiver has at least some experience in the slot, which could create matchup nightmares for a defense on any given play.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Smith become the number-three option in the passing game relatively early in the season. Though, even if it takes more time for him to see significant playing time on the field, this is a great value for the Jets that can show positive returns almost immediately.