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Jets 2019 UDFA Jeff Smith WR Boston College

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A gadget player with speed to burn

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Boston College Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Smith 6’ 0” 191 lbs WR Boston College #6

Jeff Smith came to Boston College as a strong armed QB with visions of being the next Matt Ryan. The plan was for him to sit behind starter Darius Wade until ready, but that all changed when Wade broke his ankle early in the year. Smith was asked to take the reigns of the BC offense starting three games and playing in 9 total, but it didn’t go well. Actually it was dreadful as Smith completed just 27 of 82 attempts (32.9%) for only 253 yards with two TDs and 3 INTs. He did show his playmaking ability by rushing for 454 yards and 6 TDs including a highlight reel 80 yard TD against #4 Notre Dame at Fenway Park.

The next season saw the additions of QBs Anthony Brown, the transfer to BC of Patrick Towles, and the return to health of Darius Wade. Smith could see the writing on the wall and made the switch to WR. He played in 13 games as a sophomore, starting 6. He was learning his new trade while playing it and did quite well. As a fourth option in the passing game Smith had 27 receptions for 395 yards and 3 TDs.

Smith continued his transformation over the next two years and developed into BC’s most dynamic player by a wide margin. He was a jack of all trades as a receiver, runner and occasional gadget QB. In fact he was far more successful as a passer as a WR than he was as a QB in limited attempts. Over the last three years he was 7 for 11 passing for 151 yards with 4 TDs and no INTs.

Smith was not invited to the Combine but had a very nice pro day with a 4.34/40, 36.5” vert, 127” broad jump, 4.06 short shuttle and a 6.87 3-cone drill. To put those numbers into perspective the 40, short shuttle and 3-cone would all have been the best #’s for the RB group. Among wide receivers his short shuttle was 3rd best, 3-cone was tied for 4th best, and his 40 was 5th best. Plus he did 15 reps on the bench so he is not some tiny weak player, and at 6’ 0” 191 lbs he will travel anywhere on the field to make a catch.

This is a type of player the Jets currently don’t have on their roster, a player who can beat you three ways and can stretch a defense vertically and horizontally. This play is just a jet sweep (the Jets should be the best a the jet sweep). See how it makes the defense cover sideline to sideline.

Even a team who control the edges well will still have to spread their defense a little wider because with the speed of Smit. He can simply run around any 5 tech or DE holding the edge. When you space the defense out even slightly it opens up running and passing lanes for your more featured players.

He is not just a speed guy who is looking to take everything wide and jump out of bounds at the first sign of a tackler. He is a football player who has excellent short area quickness and elusiveness in the open field. You can see here what I mean.

These types of plays help keep the defense honest so you can run the same action later but fake the handoff to Smith. This should get the safeties moving to their right. Then you hand the ball off to Bell. He will have a little more room to work with. As it is you can see, Smith could have gone out of bounds at the 48 but cut back and gained an additional 15 yards down to the 33.

Keep working that same action (4 or 5 times a game), and if you break a tackle you pick up 30 yards instead of 10. It is something the opposing defense has to work on during the week prior to the game. Everything extra a defense has to work on gives them less time to prepare for the plays that are a staple of you offense.

I show you these three clip of the same type play for a couple of reasons. First to show you how effective a play like this can be. Utilizing the speed of a dynamic player to threaten the edges a few times a game is a good strategy, better than running 5 bubble screens. Second it opens up big plays.

Here is the same action on the play. This time the ball is snapped after Smith runs by the QB so the defense is relieved and pays no attention to him. You could do this numerous times on a simple handoff through the middle, but on occasion you don’t.

This is just a simple wheel route that would be a hard cover from the defense being played. Unless you have some cushion, Smith is going to run right by you and be open down the sideline. This pass is woefully underthrown, or this would have been a walk in TD. You can see the speed once he gets going.

The one problem that Smith has is drops. He has some awful hands. He has been credited with 14 drops over the last two years. He has the ability to catch the ball, and I would have him working on catching the ball every day if I was the coach. You can see here he makes a really nice catch against the sideline.

If you can make this catch then you have the ability to be a reliable receiver. I detest receivers who drop balls. This is one of my first check points when I scout a receiver. I usually wouldn’t even look at a receiver with Smith’s drop record, but he is a multidimensional threat so I gave him a chance. He did some good things on this play. He ran a nice route and gave his QB space to make a throw away from the sideline. The ball is high and towards the sideline so Smith must use his entire reach above his head, keep a foot in bounds, and hold onto the ball when he hits the ground.

What else does Smith bring to the Jets to make a defense worry to go along with speed, receiving, and running the ball? He has a very good arm as a former QB and the Jets can use that. Here he is taking a pitch in a reverse action play.

You can see the arm strength that Smith has. He is fading away from the defender but still throws a rope, on target to an uncovered QB who makes an easy catch for a TD. This is a play that a resourceful OC can use 5 or 6 times a year to steal a TD. The Jets need all the help they can get to catch their archrivals in the division.

Let’s see a variation of that play. Remember, Smith isn’t some receiver who played QB in HS. He was recruited as a QB to BC and has a strong arm. If you have a player like that you should use his talents to your best advantage.

You can see how nice and easily that Smith throws the ball right on target. It gets there fast and seems to be a very catchable ball. Not too many teams have a QB screen pass in their arsenal, and I wouldn’t have it either. But I could see the same play run to Herndon or even our new secret weapon in Wesco.

Here is another version of the same play. Remember all those jet sweeps and the reverse plays we were seeing? Now you use the same action, but you have a throwback pass to a RB after the play fake. This is a long throw from one side of the field to the other.

A normal WR or RB cannot make this throw. Actually Smith used poor form on the throw throwing off his back foot, or he could have hit his man in stride. This is the other dimension that few players and no Jets currently have.

So how does Smith do as a receiver? I mentioned the problem he had with drops. That will have to be worked on incredibly hard for him to become competent, but he can do it. He is no Jerry Rice in route running, but he does fine for a guy who never ran a route until he was a sophomore in college. He is in the slot on this play and fakes like he is going to the flat. Then he doubles back for a slant.

It’s a nice route design (maybe we can steal it) as the other two receivers in the bunch clear out the middle of the defense Smith before he doubles back. The ball is slightly behind him, but he makes a nice grab and easily gets into the end zone.

This next play he is just playing as an outside receiver going against a zone defense that has the lead and is trying to prevent chunk plays. Letting Smith have a free release allows him to gain top speed quickly and results in a 35 yard reception. (Yes, it was ruled a catch.)

This is the next progression in Smith’s evolution from QB to receiver. He had only 72 receptions in 3 years but progressed from from bubble screen gadget guy to a route running receiver. The learning continues. He only had 20 receptions as a senior, but those receptions went for almost a 20 yard average and 6 TDs.

Oh did I mention bubble screens? Those are a Adam Gase specialty and can be run with confidence using Smith. All he needs to do is get a couple blocks and break a tackle, and he is off to the races.

Like I said, this is not some skinny little receiver. Smith can go anywhere and is not afraid of taking a hit. He lacks great vision when he is in the secondary. This is probably why he was never used on the punt or kickoff squads. He is decisive, though. He gets upfield in a hurry to take what he can get.

This last GIF is of Smith on the outside. He uses a double move on the defender. The effort is there, but the execution was mediocre on the double move. It is still effective and garners the required result.

You can see why he has trouble being consistent in catching a football. He kind of half-hands half-body catches the ball which shows a lack of confidence in his hands. He needs to catch that ball in his hands away from his body. Extend your arms, and put your thumbs together with your index fingers two inches apart. Then let the football come through the hole it creates. Do that a couple thousand times during practice, and you will be golden.

Summary

I think Jeff Smith brings a unique skill set to the Jets that they didn’t have before. He is kind of a triple threat player who can spread the field for an offense when he is in the game. An inventive play caller can find different ways to use him, getting him in the open field and using his game breaking speed. I know that many teams were interested in signing Smith. He spent two days with the Saints three weeks before the Draft, and the Packers openly courted him after his pro day.

Many offenses will carry 6 or 7 wide receivers, and I can think of no better use for a 6th or 7th receiver than a very speedy gadget player like Smith. The Jets have three front line receivers in Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Jamison Crowder, but after that there are nothing but question marks.

Josh Bellamy was given guaranteed money to sign with the Jets by Macc (I have no idea why) a player who is turns 30 on the 18th of May and has 76 receptions in 7 years. His high water mark for receptions in a single year was 24 for an injury depleted Chicago Bears team. They dumped him as soon as they had healthy bodies.

Charone Peake has 28 receiving yards in his last 16 games but played 241 snaps on special teams. Even with the injuries last year he was not a factor in the passing game.

Xavier Obosi is 6’ 3” but only had 48 receptions in 20 games playing against teams like Rice, Savannah State, and Coastal Carolina.

Quadree Henderson is a tiny return man and will probably battle Greg Dortch for a roster spot, although hey both could make the team as punt and kickoff returners and slot players.

Deontay Burnett has some chemistry with Darnold, and is what keeps him on the team. He is the same size as Jeff Smith but runs the 40 in 4.70 sec so it is tough for him to gain separation in the NFL.

Tim White and JJ Jones seem to be camp bodies unless they surprise someone.

Now the Jets could make a trade or sign an additional receiver, but as it stands now I can see Smith making the opening day roster if he continues to improve his hands. These under the radar guys like Smith can really add to an offense like a Wayne Chrebet. Now I am not insinuating that Smith is in that type of rarified air, but I would like to see what he can do if given the chance. I believe he has more upside than many receivers on the roster.

What do you think?