AnalysisSmith played a lot of football in Columbus, playing in 54 games and starting in 34 of those contests. He finished his career with 121 receptions for 2,503 yards and scored 30 touchdowns. This former track star averaged 20.69 yards per reception. Smith is one of the better ‘deep’ receivers in this draft and seems to have another gear on the long routes. He tracks the ball well and knows how to use his body. Smith has had to prove this off-season that he was more than a one trick pony for the Buckeyes and shows scouts that he could run all the routes in the short and intermediate department. But make no mistake about it, Smith is a big play artist. Think about this – he scored on 30 of his 120 career receptions (25% of the time). That’s one of the best percentages in college football history.
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
Instant Analysis from Scout's Jamie Newberg:
The Jets have hit it out of the park with their first two selections in Leonard Williams in the first and now wide receiver Devin Smith. He played a lot of football in Columbus, playing in 54 games and starting in 34 of those contests. He finished his career with 121 receptions for 2,503 yards and scored 30 touchdowns. This former track star averaged 20.69 yards per reception. Smith is one of the better ‘deep’ receivers in this draft and seems to have another gear on the long routes. He tracks the ball well and knows how to use his body. Smith has had to prove this off-season that he was more than a one trick pony for the Buckeyes and shows scouts that he could run all the routes in the short and intermediate department. But make no mistake about it; Smith is a big play artist. I am honestly surprised he was taken sooner.
Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:
Devin Smith is an exceptional “home run threat” who led the major college ranks with an average gain of 28.21 yards per reception in 2014, more than 3.5 yards per grab more than the second-place finisher. With four different players tossing passes to him since he arrived for 2014 fall drills, he’s made the most of limited passes targeted to him, hauling in 33-of-43 targeted tosses (77.74%), as just six players in the country had more than his 12 touchdown grabs.
His percentage of receptions for touchdowns (30-of-120) is 25.00%, the highest rate for an FBS player since Kevin Williams of Southern California set the major college standard of 35.29% (24 touchdowns on 68 receptions; 1977-80). He also holds the Big Ten all-time mark with a career average gain of 19.76 yards per catch.
Smith is just the second player in school history to average at least 20 yards per reception three times in a career – averaging 21.0 yards with four scores on 14 snatches as a fresh-an, followed by a 20.6-yard mark on 30 grabs that included six touchdowns in 2012. Eight of his 44 receptions produced touchdowns in 2013 and his 12 scoring catches in 2014 ranks third-best on the school season-record chart.
Smith has outstanding size and speed for his position. He has the explosive second gear to threaten the deep areas of the secondary, but with his ability to shield the ball from defenders, he has been very effective turning the intermediate tosses into big gains. He uses his hands well to defeat the jam at the line of scrimmage and has the loose hips and crisp cutting ability to make the initial tackler miss and gain separation after the catch.
The Buckeye is very good at settling underneath, showing the balance and body control to make the shoestring grabs or extend to catch outside his frame. He is very flexible in his route progression, showing the stop and go action to instantly redirect. He has the valid burst to get on top of the defense and shows nice body control adjusting to the deep ball in flight. He has the hip flexibility to drop his weight and the balance to change his stride without having to throttle down.
Smith has very good speed, enough to rank with the elite in this draft class. He has good suddenness in his initial step and shows that explosive burst needed to outrun defenders coming out of his breaks. When he reaches top speed, he is capable of maintaining it. He consistently separates and uses his body well to extend for the long throw.
For a player who has had to block more often that catch the ball, he makes the most out of limited opportunities as a receiver, but has managed to put up an outstanding numbers in two categories – in games where he has caught a touchdown, OSU has compiled a 22-0 record. Smith could be a likely early second round target due to his big play abilities.
Smith has the ideal body frame you look for in a receiver, as he has a nicely developed upper body with very low body fat (4.4%), well-defined mid-section, very long arms, good bubble and tapered thighs and calves. His frame could carry at least another ten pounds of bulk without it affecting his impressive timed speed and acceleration.
Smith is an instinctive route runner who does a good job of taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. With quarterbacks prone to run at the first sight of pocket pressure, he has had to become highly alert to his quarterback’s issues, as he often has to break off his route and work his way back to help the passer out.
The thing you notice mostly on film is his exceptional acceleration to get up field once he creates the lane. Unlike most speedsters, he does not dance too much at the line and that allows him to show outstanding quickness in his release, with the shiftiness and avoidance ability at the line of scrimmage to defeat the press. Even though he is still developing and maturing body-wise, he has the functional strength to do a good job of pushing off the defender and quickly elude his man with his swim move.
His exceptional speed is more evident on deep patterns, where he consistently gets behind the defender. He has good leaping ability and if a defender hesitates, Smith can change gears and beat his man. He is quick to uncover and even quicker to separate on short patterns. He shows exceptional ability to get open deep, displaying that superb speed needed to take the ball to the house.
The Buckeye can avoid defenders on the move, create lanes and get up field in an instant once he gets a clean release. It is rare to see him get “too busy” with the press corners at the line of scrimmage and he quickly gains advantage on the defender due to his speed. He has a good feel for knowing when to gear down in order to prevent from out-running the ball. Smith releases off the line with good explosion, taking short steps to set up the defender before putting on the second gear.
As a route runner, the senior “Z” receiver shows good set up and body control and knows how to use his hands to prevent the defender from attacking him and trying to reroute him with a strong push. What is evident with Smith is that he has excellent precision and crispness in and out of his breaks when he makes a conscious effort not to drift. He might be a valid deep threat, but he can also excel at taking slants and crossers for big yardage rather than lining out wide.
Along with having long arms, Smith has proven to be an effective target in all three phases of the passing game. He not only has quick feet, uncommon for a big receiver, but he also knows how to lull a defender to sleep before executing a sneaky second gear to track the deep ball down the sideline and pull away on a straight-line. He demonstrates a good surge off the ball and runs hard on all routes.
Smith is also quick to change direction and he uses his size well in attempts to gain position vs. tight coverage and the savvy to gauge zone defense and settle into soft spots. He has developed excellent timing on the jump ball, as he can easily elevate and position himself to make plays in contested match-ups down field. He uses his natural hands to pluck and tuck quickly and has proven to be effective hauling balls in while in traffic.
Most of his success on deep patterns is Smith’s superb feel for operating in the zone, making him also a viable candidate to play in the slot. Some scouts think that he is still a bit green as a short and intermediate route runner, but when he catches the ball he shows deceptive quickness and top end speed.
Devin Smith Scouting Combine measurables
6-0/196 (4.42 forty)
31-inch arm length
39-inch vertical jump
122-inch broad jump
4.15 20 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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