By Glenn Naughton
Mike Maccagnan may or may not believe in lucky charms, but it appears the rookie GM is hoping that speedy wide receiver Devin Smith from “the horse shoe” at Ohio State will become the long-term threat to defenses the Jets have lacked for decades.
With so much emphasis placed on the Jets’ poor track record at the quarterback position, their multiple failed attempts at drafting a game-changing receiver is often overlooked.
Over the course of the past 25 seasons, Jets receivers have posted 1,000 yards with double-digit touchdowns on just two occasions. In 1998 when Keyshawn Johnson put up 1,131 yards and 10 scores, and the other being Santana Moss who posted 1,105 yards and 10 TD’s of his own in 2003.
Smith is coming off of a senior campaign in which he caught just 33 passes, yet still put up 931 yards and 12 touchdowns. His staggering 28.2 yards per catch led the nation, and even more impressive is a note in Smith’s NFL.com draft profile that suggests he could have been even more lethal with better quarterback play.
Smith isn’t just combine-fast, he’s game-fast and he would have had more than 12 touchdown catches during the 2014 season if he didn’t have to slow down and wait on throws so often.
Smith’s arrival comes with more reason for optimism than past Jets receivers such as Stephen Hill who had undeniable athletic ability but lacked college production and never panned out.
Last year’s crop of rookie receivers consisted of Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans and Quincy Enunwa but their inaugural season’s could not have been more disastrous.
Saunders was released just a few weeks in to the season, Evans reportedly struggled in training camp before landing on IR with a shoulder injury, and despite a strong camp finish that initially landed him on the 53-man roster, Enunwa spent the majority of the year on the practice squad battling legal issues. He would eventually be cleared of any wrongdoing by both law enforcement officials, and the NFL.
While some fans remain hopeful in regards to Evans and Enunwa, neither comes with the expectations that will be placed on Smith as he brings a skill set New York was lacking with his game-breaking speed and collegiate production.
Veteran receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker will be on the outside with Jeremy Kerley expected to occupy the slot. All three are great what they do, but none will stretch the field and command deep safety help the way Smith should.
Most scouting reports point to Smith’s need to polish his route running as he made a living with “go” routes in college, but even that should be enough to get him on the field to contribute while he refines the rest of his game.
Whether or not the Jets were lucky to land Smith in the second round remains to be seen, but his electric on-field ability is one more reason for Jets fans to get excited about 2015.