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First Round Prospects, Wide Receiver: Torrey Smith, Maryland

Some players carry a stigma into the Draft due to factors beyond their control. Larry Johnson in 2003 had to deal with comparisons to Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, and Curtis Enis, Penn State running backs who ended up busts. Aaron Rodgers in 2005 had to deal with comparisons to Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, and Kyle Boller, quarterbacks coached in college by Jeff Tedford who ended up busts. Likely the first thing people will think about a speedy Maryland receiver like Torrey Smith is Darrius Heyward-Bey. In reality, Heyward-Bey was like Ted Ginn. Both guys were taken way too high and were projects given inadequate time to develop due to unrealistic expectations.

Torrey Smith is another speedy Maryland receiver. He is an excellent deep threat with great speed. Smith is also pretty good at timing his jumps and winning balls in the air at their highest point. This is no small skill. Jerricho Cotchery is obviously not very fast, but he is a better deep threat than some give him credit for being due to his ability to do so. He is also a dynamic runner in the open field. On the Jets, he could potentially fill Brad Smith's role as a kickoff returner and give Brian Schottenheimer an option to use on end arounds.

At this point, it seems like former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen did a very poor job of developing players because there are a lot of Terps with high round grades who are projects. Vernon Davis, DHB, and Bruce Campbell come to mind. Even a guy like Davis who eventually became a good player took some time to develop. Smith is also something of a project. He needs to improve his strength breaking jams at the line. His short and intermediate route running is also unrefined. This along with a lack of experience going over the middle would lead one to imagine Jerricho Cotchery starting on the outside sliding into the slot with Smith entering in three receiver sets. He rounds this off and runs sloppily too often. He also needs to work on his catching the ball. Too frequently he does not attack it with his hands and instead lets it hit his arms or body, a recipe for drops.

The pure physical talent is intriguing. If the Jets make a move for him, though, they should trade down. There will be no value at the end of the first round. I am a bit leery of the team taking a receiver whose game needs refinement anyway. It is one thing to take a defensive player or an offensive lineman as a project, areas where the team has strong coaching. The Jets have not developed a receiver since Cotchery. Smith has upside, but he needs work before he will be a major contributor. His current weaknesses, route running and catching, are the most important aspects of being a quality receiver.