With the regular season underway, we’re going to be looking at the players the Jets have added since cutdown day, continuing today with Vyncint Smith.
Smith is a 23-year old wide receiver who was undrafted last year out of Limestone College. He made the Texans’ roster out of training camp and caught five passes for 91 yards and a touchdown as a rookie. However, he ended up on the practice squad this year and the Jets poached him recently.
Smith, who was born in Germany, was briefly recruited to South Carolina, but eventually ended up attending Division II Limestone College. After catching 28 passes as a true freshman, Smith almost transferred to South Carolina, but ended up staying at Limestone for four years.
His numbers continued to climb each season and he posted career highs of 49 receptions and 849 yards in his senior year. He ended his career with 153 catches for over 2,300 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Despite not being invited to the combine, Smith turned heads at South Carolina’s pro day and was regarded as a potential late-round pick. However, he went unselected and the Texans outbid a few other teams to sign him as an undrafted free agent.
In preseason, Smith showed some big play potential with four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown and ended up not only making the roster but starting on opening day. He caught his first pass in week three but then wasn’t targeted again until week 16.
After making four more catches in the last two games, Smith saw plenty of playing time in the wild card game but didn’t catch a pass.
In preseason this year, Smith had a touchdown catch but otherwise only caught one other pass. Having poached him from the Texans’ practice squad, the Jets are now obliged, by rule, to retain him on their active roster for at least three weeks.
Now let’s take a look at what Smith brings to the table, divided into categories.
Smith has an excellent combination of size and athleticism at 6’3” and 202 pounds. While his wingspan and hand size are only average, he ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day and also posted an impressive 39.5” vertical and 130” broad jump. His agility numbers were good for his size too, but he may need to keep working to add some strength.
Smith profiles as an outside receiver but did line up in the slot from time to time with the Texans. His first NFL catch was a 28-yard gain as he lined up in the slot and ran down the seam.
Smith has already proven capable of making big plays down the field at the NFL level, as he’s had four plays of at least 30 yards on downfield throws in regular season or preseason action.
His game speed lives up to his 40-time as he’s shown the ability to streak downfield and catch deep passes.
The film shows he can run past coverage even when the defender is playing off and will look back for the ball early so he can track it and make a play on it.
Pre-draft scouting reports suggest that Smith is raw as a route runner, but he’s showed some developing skills in this area. He had a couple of catches on out-breaking routes with the Texans, including this one.
In college, Smith was particularly effective on slant routes, but hasn’t shown that yet at the NFL level.
As shown on the diving catch above, Smith has the ability to make some spectacular catches. However, he’s not a natural hands catcher and hasn’t shown an ability to exploit his height by bringing down contested catches on high throws.
The main concern with Smith is that, despite showing so many positive flashes in preseason action, his catch rate was really low. He only caught six of 21 targets over the two preseason campaigns, although this was skewed somewhat by the fact he was 1-for-9 on deep balls in 2019.
Despite the low preseason catch rate, Smith didn’t have any drops. However, in regular and postseason action, where his catch rate was 50 percent, Smith dropped two passes including this one.
Smith shows some good ball skills on this play as he makes the sliding catch catch but ensures he is down inbounds by getting his knee down.
That gave the Texans a one-point lead with two minutes left, only for the Eagles to drive down for the winning field goal.
With his size, you might expect Smith to be a potential red zone threat, but he hasn’t shown that so far. He also never had more than four touchdowns in a season while at Limestone.
Yards after the catch
Smith showed a knack for breaking tackles and making extra yardage in college but hasn’t had many opportunities to do that with the Texans so far. However, he showed a flash of those abilities on this play.
Smith does a solid job as a blocker, as he uses his natural size advantage, does a good job of moving his feet and seems to have a good understanding of angles. He gives a good effort too.
On this play, Smith makes a key block, on which he does a good job of avoiding a potential penalty for either blocking in the back or holding.
He did have one holding penalty on offense in preseason action - and another on special teams.
For Smith to ascend to the next level, he needs to be stronger on his routes and at the catch point. He seems to have the kind of frame where he could potentially bulk up and add some strength without sacrificing too much speed.
Here’s an example of him getting out-muscled on his route, surrendering the inside leverage to the cornerback, which ultimately leads to an interception.
Smith is a player who will break down lots of film in an effort to improve. This is a habit he first picked up while still at college.
Playing with Deshaun Watson will have given Smith some experience of having to find open areas when the play gets extended but that didn’t lead directly to any production.
Smith has had some experience of playing at the gunner position and was in on a few tackles in preseason action with the Texans.
They also gave him some opportunities to return some kickoffs in preseason, although he averaged less than 20 yards per return on three attempts.
Coaches from Smith’s college and high school teams have called him dedicated, unselfish and a good mentor. His strong work ethic, which extends to the weight room and film study, probably comes from the fact he grew up in a military background.
Smith played in every game over the last three seasons at Limestone and doesn’t seem to have had any injury issues so far, other than missing the bench press at his pro day due to a pectoral injury.
The Jets are a man down in their receiving corps after Quincy Enunwa’s replacement - Demaryius Thomas - immediately got injured himself. This caused the Jets to use a couple of special teamers - Josh Bellamy in week two and then Braxton Berrios in week three.
Smith’s skill-set is somewhat similar to that of Robby Anderson so if Thomas, Anderson and Jamison Crowder are all healthy, he might just end up backing up Anderson. If he can make a good impression, though, the Jets may see him as a potential replacement if Anderson leaves at the end of the season (or even at the trade deadline). He could also be a candidate to contribute on special teams if Trenton Cannon doesn’t return immediately after the bye.
Smith was a teammate of Thomas (and Ryan Griffin) last season and Thomas might be able to continue to mentor him. Perhaps he even had a say in the Jets bringing him aboard.
Smith has made some really impressive plays at the NFL level, but his consistency hasn’t been as good as you’d like to see so far. Nevertheless, he has tantalizing upside and is the sort of player that the Jets can try to develop into a low-cost contributor if they continue to fall out of contention.
This is the type of player the Jets should be trying to add, as opposed to the potential downside of the Thomas addition where you are giving up a pick for a player that may be washed up and will only end up taking away reps from younger players because you don’t want the pick to go to waste.
Ironically, Smith might end up being one of the players who gets buried behind Thomas, but hopefully he shows enough potential that he’ll establish himself as a candidate to earn a role next season.