Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #70 - Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State

http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2015/04/2015-nfl-draft-profile-devin-smith-wr-ohio-state.html/

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
Find all the profiles here.
Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State - 6'0, 196 - Senior - 4.42 40
 Devin Smith #9 of the Ohio State Buckeyes catches a 47 yard touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Devin Smith #9 of the Ohio State Buckeyes catches a 47 yard touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
There are certainly players who have one particular skill that keeps them easily employed for many years in the National Football League.  The recommendation would easily be that if you could only have one particular trick, why not make it the one that puts points on the board?
The NFL deep threat is the name of the game.  If you have a guy who is simply too good at running by whoever you place on top of him, then suddenly you present the defense with a very easy choice.  Either place a safety over the top to assist the corner or be destroyed.  But, there is an easy catch that affected the Cowboys season in 2014 quite clearly - if you elect to put a safety on top of Dez Bryant play after play, then you are out-numbered in the box and will likely not have the personnel necessary to stop the run.   When that happens, you place the defense in a bind that they have no solution for except to hope for the best.
That is why a guy like Devin Smith will be picked rather quickly in this year's draft.  The weapon is not in the results he puts up, but rather in the results he threatens to put up if you don't go 2 over 1.  When speed is that terrifying, then there is almost no choice.  It worked for Ohio State and now he hopes to bring that similar home run ability to the NFL. We spent some time on many Ohio State games, with Michigan State, Illinois, and Wisconsin being the featured games for the video.
Smith wears #9
What I liked:  He is a tremendous burner who has really impressive ball skills when there is a ball to be won in the air.  He may not have fantastic size, but he does have a grade of athleticism that is pretty scary with 4.42 speed combined with a 39" vertical leap.  These two things make him very difficult to match when the ball is in the air.  Ohio State would put him in the slot and run him on the 9 route against whoever the matchup would be and it was generally a major opportunity for the Buckeyes to win big.  They literally ran the same play for touchdowns against Wisconsin twice in the 1st Quarter of their 59-0 win.  He is too fast and too capable to get the ball for there to be any other result.  He also has a real impressive knack with the over the shoulder catch.  His combo of go routes combined with simple stops and curls make him a either/or route guy who is very solid in that department.
What I did not like:   He only runs 2 routes!  Well, in fairness, I did see a dig route once and a few slants, but there is almost nothing but straight line stuff from him so the corner is pretty clear on what is happening.  If you put a safety over the top, then the corner sits short and Smith is neutralized.  He had only 33 catches in 15 games in 2014, so there is a major issue of production when the opponent sits on him, yet he scored 12 touchdowns on those 33 catches.  That is pretty crazy.  Also, he averaged 28.2 yards per catch which not only led the nation, but led the nation by a large margin.  He is limited in size and it is disconcerting that a senior who has been in that program for a while has such a limited route tree.  Is that all he is?  It is still valuable, but when he faces NFL corners, will the upside shine through as often?  If he only has 2 catches a game in the Big 10, there is a chance that he will be further minimized on Sundays, and there isn't much room for minimizing.

Summary:  He may be the #1 deep threat in this draft, but unlike the others (Green-Beckham, Kevin White), he doesn't have any other tricks and he doesn't have their superior size traits that say he can be taught to do other things well.  Now, he is solid on special teams as a cover guy, but there will be a real cost-benefit discussion about how far up you should take a player like this.  He might sneak into a Top 50 discussion, but I think any of these 1st round projections are a bit too rich for my blood.  A very nice player with very key skills, but just not enough versatility to invest too heavily.
You can view plenty of his tape here at Draftbreakdown.com.
And, if you don't mind, please check out the Bob and Dan (BaD) Radio show in Dallas-Fort Worth, from 12p-3p, Monday-Friday, on Sportsradio 1310 and 96.7fm, The Ticket.  www.theticket.com 

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