Position: Wide receiver
School: Ohio State
Weight: 196 pounds
Devin Smith is the best deep ball wide receiver in the 2015 NFL Draft class and he proved it last season in Columbus, averaging an astounding 28.2 yards per reception and catching 12 touchdown passes. Smith, a former Ohio State track star, was clocked at 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash and jumped 39 inches in the vertical jump at the NFL Combine.
He was a home-run threat throughout his career but he was even more of a weapon when Cardale Jones was inserted into the quarterback position after a season-ending injury to the starter. Jones arguably has the strongest arm in the country and he was the perfect match for Smith’s attributes. In Jones’ three starts (Big Ten Championship, Sugar Bowl and The CFP National Championship Game), Smith averaged 41 yards per reception and had four touchdowns on seven receptions. The former Buckeye is a legit touchdown threat from anywhere on the field.
Smith has track speed; he is a fast-twitch athlete who gets to his top speed very quickly and excels at getting downfield. In my opinion, his best attribute is his ability to track the football in the air and use his body to separate from the defensive back to make the catch. The way he tracks the deep ball over his shoulder to corral the football is a special trait and it is not an attribute that every wide receiver possesses. Prior to the 2014 season, Smith was strictly a vertical receiver without much route development. He has not mastered the route tree but he did a better job this year of selling the defensive back deep with his speed, then working back to the football or running other patterns with the defender expecting him to go deep. He has the natural athleticism and work ethic to become a better route runner at the next level. Smith will bring tenacity and loves to talk to the defensive back after scorching him for a big gain. Also, the speedster was the best gunner in the country.
Although he torched opposing cornerbacks deep throughout his career, he needs to become a more consistent route runner in the NFL. He never missed a game during his Ohio State career but he has a skinny, track athlete frame that could cause problems for him versus more physical defenses. Smith also possesses inconsistent hands on intermediate routes, where he sometimes hears footsteps or lacks focus and does not look the ball all the way into his hands. Ohio State runs a power, run-first, spread offense where the receiver needs to be physical in the run game. Smith was taken out on key run downs for more physical receivers, which limits his ability as an every-down receiver. If I were to make a current NFL comparison, I would compare his game to Mike Wallace or Torrey Smith.
Where would he fit in New Orleans?
With the Saints shipping Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins, the offense is now lacking a downfield threat to take the top off of the opposing defense. Smith would fill that role perfectly and he would give Drew Brees a true deep threat. Smith’s downfield speed would open up space for Brandin Cooks on underneath routes and the newly acquired CJ Spiller out of the backfield.
Where could the Saints draft him?
I personally do not think that Smith is a certain first-round talent, but with the sudden departures of Jimmy Graham and Stills, it would be justifiable for the Saints to select the former Buckeye at pick number 31 of the first round. If not, he could be there in the second.