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Another highly regarded receiver who came to Mobile for Senior Bowl week was Ohio State’s Devin Smith.  Despite the national championship hype surrounding him, the wide out had a relatively dsmithquiet week of practices and game.  I reviewed five of his games against Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Oregon, and Alabama to get a better idea of what he can bring to an NFL team.  This is what I saw:

WR Devin Smith, Ohio State 6’ 1” 200 lbs.

Cons: While a receiver doesn’t have to be Hines Ward-esque as a blocker, I saw a variety of efforts from him.  Sometimes Smith did a good job squaring up the defender and took them away from the play, and then other times he barely looked the defense’s direction when he didn’t have the ball.  Why wasn’t this playmaker used on the gridiron more?  He appeared in only about a third of the Buckeyes plays, so were there unreported conditioning issues?  I didn’t see him run any crossing or intermediate patterns.  Instead the receiver ran mostly nine routes, short screens, and wheel routes.  Once a defender got their hands on him, he usually went down easily without breaking many tackles.  Smith also does his fair share of body catching, instead of making the ball his own.

Pros: This wide out is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.  He uses his foot frequency to get off the line, and can create five yards of separation within the first ten yards.  Smith is highly effective on bubble screens, making the first man miss, using multiple spin moves, and streaking down the sidelines, then weaving around blockers.  The receiver starts and stops quickly, allowing defenders to fly right by him, with Smith changes directions effortlessly.  He tracks the ball well in the air on longer patterns, usually running underneath the deeper routes without breaking stride, making a bucket catch look easy.

His concentration along with balance makes him quite dangerous, along with his second and third gears, in the open field.  The wide out usually out-leaps his coverage to secure the ball and shield it away from the defenders.  Smith is effective turning quick slants near the end zone into touchdowns.  He is also a fantastic gunner on the punt and kickoff return teams.  Smith flies downfield in a hurry and contains the returner helping his team win the field position battle.

Overall thoughts:  Perhaps it’s me, but I get a Ted Ginn vibe from Devin Smith.  Part-time players need to rise to the occasion, and although the receiver had a lot of touchdowns, he did not make a lot of chain moving catches during his college career.  Then again he could surprise and become like the Ravens Torrey Smith, an early deep threat who improved his short game the more time he spent in the league.

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