Before the NFL offseason hits its full swing, NESN.com will be highlighting hidden Patriots: players on New England’s roster who have fallen under the radar for one reason or another. Next up: wide receiver Devin Smith.
New England Patriots wide receiver Devin Smith has one of the most ridiculous YouTube college highlights reels you’ll see.
Seemingly every pass Smith caught at Ohio State went for a 50-yard touchdown after the speedy wideout blew past defenders with his speed or used his 6-foot-1, 205-foot frame and leaping ability to haul in 50-50 balls. Unfortunately, his NFL career never really got off the ground.
Smith was selected in the second round (37th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New York Jets after running a 4.42-second 40-yard dash with a 1.56-second 10-yard split, 4.15-second short shuttle, 6.83-second 3-cone drill, 39-inch vertical leap and 10-feet, 2-inch broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day that winter. Smith caught nine passes for 115 yards with a touchdown as a rookie but tore his ACL late in the season.
Smith caught just one pass for 20 yards after spending the first half of his second season on the PUP list. He tore the same ACL again before the 2017 season and missed the entire year. Smith was out of football in 2018 but caught on with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and had a slight career resurgence with five catches for 113 yards with a touchdown.
He proved that season that he still has the speed and tracking ability to haul in the long ball.
Smith spent seven weeks on the Houston Texans’ practice squad during the 2020 season before being released Nov. 10. The Patriots added him to their practice squad Dec. 9 then signed him to a future contract on Jan. 4. He’s one of eight wide receivers currently signed for New England’s 2021 season alongside Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Marqise Lee, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski and fellow future signees Kristian Wilkerson and Isaiah Zuber.
Could Smith actually make an impact for the Patriots in 2021? It’s extremely unlikely, but his second-round pedigree and big-play ability make him a potential player to watch this spring and summer during organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and the preseason.
The Patriots will bring in more top-level competition at the position which could even bump Smith off of the roster before the summer. But it’s a good sign that the Patriots liked enough of what they saw from Smith in the final month of the season to bring him back for another go.
Future signings have paid off for the Patriots in the past. New England scooped up running back Dion Lewis after the 2014 season when the running back had missed the 2013 season with an injury and was out of football for much of 2014. The year off did Lewis’ body some good. He looked fully recharged in New England and had 1,413 rushing yards, 696 yards through the air and 14 total touchdowns in three seasons with the Patriots before leaving for the Tennessee Titans.
It’s a total longshot (that’s what these pieces are all about, after all), but Smith potentially could see a similar revival in New England. The 28-year-old Patriots wide receiver was one of the most explosive players in college football six years ago. He led the NCAA in yards per catch (28.2) in 2014. He’s 15th all-time in the NCAA and fourth all-time in the Big Ten in career yards per catch (20.7). Every time Smith was on the field for the Buckeyes, he was a threat for a touchdown with 121 career catches for 2,503 yards with 30 touchdowns in four seasons. But that was a very, very long time ago and well before becoming a massive draft bust for the Jets. Smith now has to prove he has that same big-play ability in practices this offseason, assuming he even gets a chance.