Dynasty Draft Profile: Devin Smith April 9, 2015  |  Rich Hribar


 

Measurables

 

FY AgeHeightWeightArmHand
22.872196319

40YDVertBroad20YSS3Cone
4.42391224.156.97

Career Production

YearAgeGmRecReYdsReTDMSYD%
201119.81314294418%
201220.81230618628%
201321.81444660823%
201422.815339311227%

*MSYD = % of Team Receiving Yardage

 

Devin Smith is one of the more intriguing prospects of this draft class at the receiver position and has been surging upwards in terms of draft buzz since Ohio State’s late season run. He helped justify that upward trend with a strong combine performance in which he bested average marks for receivers under 200 pounds entering the league since 1999 in every measurable drill except the three cone (average is 6.90 seconds). His vertical jump ranked in 85th percentile of the same group as he removed any concern over him as a measurable athlete.

Under most circumstances, his short arm length and smaller hand size in unison would be an area to express caution, but when it comes to on field ability, neither are pressing issues. That’s because Smith is the very best vertical game receiver in this class, combining his speed, dominant ball tracking ability and body control into a downfield juggernaut. He turns would-be errant throws in appearance to on target strikes and leverages defenders on the numbers better than anyone entering the league this season.

He runs routes like a center fielder and because he can track the ball so well, it allows him to stay patient in playing the football in flight without tipping off defensive backs until they’re already too late to defense the play. He’s also aggressive in attacking the football just to add icing on the vertical cake.

He can be pushed around a bit, but his downfield ability was constantly respected by the defense for good cause, so there aren’t a lot of instances where defenders really try to get in tight to him and defend him physically. His speed off of the line of scrimmage is so good that he can beat the press if you don’t get your hands into him and if that happens, you aren’t catching him.

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Just for good measure since it’s ridiculous, if you’re a fan of Odell Beckham-esque receptions, Smith has that on his Bat Belt as well.

When a prospect enters the league with a dominant trait such as the one Smith has, it’s natural to want to elevate the rest of his game, creating scenarios of why and how he can develop into an all-around receiver that will succeed on every level in the league. That question still remains with Smith because his usage changed dramatically in 2014, becoming more of package player than ever before. He was third on the team in targets (48) behind Michael Thomas (75) and Jalin Marshall (52) after being the first or second option in his previous three seasons. His target share fell to just 12.6 percent last season after a 21.8 percent mark in 2012 and a 21 percent one in 2013. He had just one game last season in which he had more than four receptions and closed his college career catching three or fewer passes in 38 of 49 games.

Those kind of low reception numbers are not only very rare for a prospect overall, but especially rare for one regarded as a potential first round selection. Since 2000, these are all of the receivers selected during the draft to have closed their careers averaging fewer than three receptions per game (Smith averaged 2.2) in their final season and the number of top 30 fantasy seasons they went on to produce.

 

PlayerSchoolYearDraftREC/GMTop30Yrs
Mark BradleyOklahoma2005391.80
Eddie RoyalVirginia Tech2008422.51
Stephen HillGeorgia Tech2012432.20
Limas SweedTexas2008532.70
Yamon FigursKansas State2007742.30
Marquise GoodwinTexas2013782.00
Travis WilsonOklahoma2006782.80
Brandon TateNorth Carolina2009832.70
Brandon JonesOklahoma2005962.10
Brian HartlineOhio State20091081.62
Louis MurphyFlorida20091242.70
Skyler GreenLouisiana State20061252.50
Greg ChildsArkansas20121341.90
David ClowneyVirginia Tech20071572.80
Triandos LukeAlabama20041712.50
Legedu NaaneeBoise State20071722.70
Latarence DunbarTCU20031962.80
Justin HarperVirginia Tech20082152.90
Terrence AustinUCLA20102192.80
Devin AromashoduAuburn20062332.20
Junior HemingwayMichigan20122382.60

 

This group of 21 receivers went to combine for just three useful fantasy campaigns with Brian Hartline posting two of them. Most of the list is filled with later round options, several round two and three players, but no one that was taken in the first round.  If Smith is indeed off the board that early, it will be unprecedented in terms of raw reception production. That overall paltry production combined with his measurable athleticism generates this objective physical and final season comparison list.

 

PlayerSchoolYearDraftFY AgeHtWt40YDVertBroad20YS3CREC/GMYDS/GMTD/GM
Tavarres KingGeorgia201316122.5731894.4736.51234.336.913.067.90.6
Anthony GonzalezOhio State20073222.3721934.4638.01234.086.543.956.50.1
Andre DavisVirginia Tech20024722.5731944.4339.51234.106.773.556.60.6
Devin SmithOhio State2015TBD22.8721964.4239.01224.156.972.466.50.9

 

That low volume is worrisome, but efficiency signs point to the notion that Smith may have been more limited by opportunity than ability. His 19.4 yards per target was the highest in the country of all players with double digit targets and his 28.2 yards per reception was second of players with double digit receptions. Not only were those gaudy numbers, but his catch rate was an astounding 68.8 percent. With the types of targets he generates, that’s an incredibly high number and it was at 60.3 percent in 2013, still very high for a vertical target.

He’s also proven to have a penchant for scoring touchdowns every season on opportunities awarded to him. Actually, he’s in rarefied air in that regard as he has the highest touchdown rate of all Division 1 receivers with 25 or more career touchdowns over the past 15 seasons.

 

PlayerSchoolRecTDTDR%
Devin SmithOhio State1213024.79%
Jason HillWashington State1483221.62%
Larry FitzgeraldPittsburgh1613421.12%
Lyle LeongTexas Tech1523221.05%
Kris AdamsTexas-El Paso1443020.83%
Jarett DillardRice2926020.55%
Tyler ShoemakerBoise State1222520.49%
Charles RogersMichigan State1352720.00%
Dez BryantOklahoma State1472919.73%
Mario ManninghamMichigan1372719.71%
Darius HillBall State1583119.62%
Greg CarrFlorida State1482919.59%
Marcus MonkArkansas1382719.57%
Jabar GaffneyFlorida1382719.57%
Stedman BaileyWest Virginia2104119.52%
Trae JohnsonTulsa1422719.01%
Ashley LelieHawaii1583018.99%
Dwayne JarrettSouthern California2164118.98%
James HardyIndiana1913618.85%
Devante ParkerLouisville1332518.80%
Santonio HolmesOhio State1402517.86%
Michael CrabtreeTexas Tech2314117.75%
Titus DavisCentral Michigan1983517.68%
Todd BlytheIowa State1763117.61%
Darius WattsMarshall2724717.28%
Mike WilliamsSouthern California1763017.05%
Austin PettisBoise State2293917.03%
Dwayne BoweLouisiana State1542616.88%
Johnnie Lee Higgins Jr.Texas-El Paso1903216.84%
Aldrick RobinsonSouthern Methodist1813016.57%
Golden TateNotre Dame1572616.56%
Marvin McNuttIowa1702816.47%
Greg JenningsWestern Michigan2383916.39%
Ernie WheelwrightMinnesota1592616.35%
Davante AdamsFresno State2333816.31%
Roydell WilliamsTulane2153516.28%
Alex NeutzBuffalo1853016.22%
Adarius BowmanOklahoma State1552516.13%
Jermaine KearseWashington1802916.11%
Michael LarkinMiami (OH)2003216.00%
Roddy WhiteAlabama-Birmingham1632615.95%
Justin BlackmonOklahoma State2524015.87%
Calvin JohnsonGeorgia Tech1782815.73%
Braylon EdwardsMichigan2523915.48%
Juron CrinerArizona2093215.31%
Jeff MoturiTexas-El Paso1702615.29%
Phillip PayneNevada-Las Vegas1712615.20%
Ryan Grice-MullenHawaii2373615.19%
Jarrett HicksTexas Tech1983015.15%
Jeff SamardzijaNotre Dame1792715.08%
Charles ClayTulsa1872814.97%
Roy WilliamsTexas2413614.94%
Patrick EdwardsHouston2894314.88%
Lee EvansWisconsin1692514.79%
Charles SharonBowling Green State2323414.66%
Jeff FullerTexas A&M2333414.59%
Rashaun WoodsOklahoma State2934214.33%
Brandon LafellLouisiana State1752514.29%
Dezmon BriscoeKansas2193114.16%
Mark ClaytonOklahoma2203114.09%
Davone BessHawaii2934113.99%
Austin CollieBrigham Young2153013.95%
Michael FloydNotre Dame2713713.65%
Terrance WilliamsBaylor2012713.43%
Eric ThomasTroy1942613.40%
Amari CooperAlabama2253013.33%
Jordan ShipleyTexas2483313.31%
Keenan BurtonKentucky1892513.23%
Deandre HopkinsClemson2062713.11%
Chris WilliamsNew Mexico State2453213.06%
Ryan BroylesOklahoma3494512.89%
Jalen SaundersOklahoma2032612.81%
Robert WoodsSouthern California2503212.80%
Cody HoffmanBrigham Young2583312.79%
Martin NanceMiami (OH)2082612.50%
Eric WardTexas Tech2523112.30%
Titus YoungBoise State2042512.25%
Josh HarperFresno State2212712.22%
Chase CoffmanMissouri2473012.15%
Chad OwensHawaii2392912.13%
Jason RiversHawaii2923511.99%
Emmanuel SandersSouthern Methodist2853411.93%
Matt MillerBoise State2392811.72%
Chandler JonesSan Jose State2392811.72%
Marqise LeeSouthern California2482911.69%
Tyler LockettKansas State2492911.65%
Jovon BouknightWyoming2502911.60%
B.J. CunninghamMichigan State2182511.47%
Sammy WatkinsClemson2302611.30%
Lance MooreToledo2222511.26%
Eric DeslauriersEastern Michigan2482710.89%
John StandefordPurdue2492710.84%
Rashad GreeneFlorida State2662810.53%
Derek HaganArizona State2582710.47%
Jordan WhiteWestern Michigan3063210.46%
Naaman RooseveltBuffalo2682810.45%
Tavon AustinWest Virginia2882910.07%
Freddie BarnesBowling Green State2983010.07%
Kendall WrightBaylor302309.93%
Bryan AndersonCentral Michigan290289.66%
Vincent MarshallHouston272269.56%
Greg SalasHawaii285269.12%
Justin HardyEast Carolina387359.04%
Eric PageToledo306258.17%

 

Having a lofty success rate doesn’t necessarily predict a great NFL career, but the names on the bottom all carried having a hard time of finding the end zone over into the league. Any conversion rate below 15 percent is red flag for an incoming prospect and Smith didn’t have any outlier season to anchor his production, he was steady in finding the end zone.

Smith is a receiver that still requires a step of faith in developing into more than a vertical option.  While their are traits in his game that suggest he can be a fully functional receiver on every level, it definitely feels like the black cloud of his low production and usage is being overlooked by real football teams and the cart is starting to pull ahead of the horse a bit, assuming there’s real fire to all of the smoke that he could be a mid-first round pick in the draft. That’s baking a lot of his ceiling into his cost. Inherently you want treat every prospect individually, but a broad scope of probability still exists and would be disregarded at that juncture. As mentioned in the Phillip Dorsett profile, strictly vertical guys have shown to be overvalued recently with many failing to have developed as their draft cost would have suggested. The last really strict vertical player I can recall changing his stripes and becoming a completely nuanced receiver is Roddy White, and he still had a high usage final college season to lean on and it still took his third season in the NFL to fully develop.

For fantasy purposes, Smith is still being grouped in a tier with other leap of faith options such as Sammie Coates, Dorsett and Chris Conley in the middle of the second round and beyond. That’s a fair price point if it holds and has yet to meet the real buzz surrounding him. Of that group, I do like Conley the most given his overall physical profile, but he’s also very likely going to be the last of that group selected in the real draft and in turn may be the cheapest in fantasy drafts. I prefer Smith to each of the others because then I am buying on the consistent touchdown ability he’s shown, regardless if he ever truly develops an all-around game. But if his fantasy stock ends up meeting his with his real football investment and he costs more than a middle second rounder, I will almost assuredly be priced out.

 

Landing Spot

Smith was the seventh receiver selected in the draft at 37 overall to the Jets, confirming there was indeed fire to all of the draft stock smoke coming in. Like Tyler Lockett in Seattle, I like this move more from a real football sense immediately than a fantasy one. The Jets needed a lid lifting receiver on their roster and with Chan Gailey now calling plays, New York will likely be incorporated multiple receiver sets frequently. At first, he may be used just a clear out option for those big targets, playing into the strength of his attributes right away.  He should find enough vertical targets to have a few splash play weeks, but I’d anticipate uneven production as a rookie.

It remains to be seen just how many real targets exist after Decker and Marshall since Gailey has never had a receiving unit this deeply talented. He’s never even had a WR2 reach 100 targets or a WR3 reach 60, and that’s not factoring in Jace Amaro into the equation. I don’t see looking into Gailey’s prior target distribution that helpful for projecting the Jets looks this season. In any event, under most circumstances I expect Smith to be in on three receiver sets with Marshall playing inside.

The other lurking issue is just who the Jets will have under center this season.  With the Jets selecting Bryce Petty in the fourth round to add onto Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who knows what kind of carousel we will see in season, especially if the team struggles with whomever gets the initial crack. While Fitzpatrick was improved downfield a season ago, he has been average to subpar in every other year of his career and during his first stint in this offense. That very could well be personnel related as when he had a target like DeAndre Hopkins, he showed improvement. That said, I don’t think anyone thinks of Fitzpatrick’s vertical game as a calling card and it would seem that Geno would benefit Devin more. The situation is cloudy for his rookie season, but with the invested draft capital the Jets used on Smith, he’s not just going to strictly be a decoy long term and will eventually be given opportunity to showcase he can be more. In the end, he landed in a spot that can use his best ability right away and has the door open to develop into more down the line, leaving his initial mid to second round price tag unscathed in rookie drafts for those who want to pursue his ceiling.

Early 2015 Projection: 76.4 TGT/42.0 REC/592.3 YDS/3.4 TD

 

 

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