NFL training camps are starting across the country, and there are a lot of rookies looking to make an early impact on their new teams and find a spot among crowded rosters. When breaking down some of the most intriguing rookies to watch, Devin Smith is often one listed. An interesting comparison has come to light between Smith and former Buckeye star Ted Ginn Jr., though not exactly a flattering one.
"Obviously defensive end Leonard Williams will draw most of the spotlight. And anything left over will likely get directed toward quarterback project Bryce Petty. But I'm most interested in seeing what in the world the Jets will do with Smith, who has a lot of deep speed to stretch secondaries. There's a big question about how well-rounded Smith can become, and one personnel guy dubbed him "another Ted Ginn" - and meant it in a bad way. A middling, one-trick receiver is certainly not what the Jets hope for, and you have to wonder if they've got the quarterback to even utilize that speed. We'll see. Looks like a big boom-or-bust pick."
So how do Smith and Ginn actually compare? Let's look at their college careers and how Ginn has performed in the pros.
|Season high TDs
|Kick return TDs
|Ted Ginn Jr.
From these stats alone, one can surmise that while they were both incredibly fast weapons for Ohio State, one was more as a receiver (Smith) and one was effective not just as a pass catcher but as a kick/punt returner (Ginn). Making an early comparison of their NFL potential seems preemptive when their roles in college (and their games) differed. Smith, even though he had one more collegiate year than Ginn, turned 14 fewer receptions into 560 more yards and double the number of offensive touchdowns.
In 2014, Smith's senior season with the Buckeyes, he recorded a career-high 12 touchdowns, not only a personal best for the receiver but one that landed him first place in the Big Ten for receiving touchdowns and seventh among the entire NCAA. Ginn was an electric homerun threat every time he touched the football, but what he brought to the field was more predicated on the electricity he brought with his high end speed and less his completeness as a wide receiver.
|Season high TDs
|Punt/Kick Return Yards
|Punt/Kick Return TDs
|Ted Ginn Jr.
|*First year with the Carolina Panthers, and was utilized in the offense more than with any other team
Ginn's utilization in the NFL is very similar to how he was used in college. Clearly a well-accomplished return man, he's had a difficult time making his way onto a team's offense as a factor receiver. He did find renewed energy at wideout when he was on the other side of a Cam Newton pass, but after only one season with the Panthers, Ginn was gone and off to Arizona, where he was once again primarily pigeon-holed to primarily punt and kick returns. He's back with Newton and the Panthers again this season, and assuming he makes the final roster, could once again find himself fighting to going long for touchdown catches and not merely special team opportunities.
Smith's propensity to get far downfield, zip past defenders and fly into the endzone is something the Jets staff has been collecting this offseason, with the addition of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. While the coaching staff has eluded to the fact that Smith will be a return man as well as a downfield target, he is still too much of an unknown at the next level to be limited to one position or the other. He will get a lot of opportunities early in the season to show the Jets coaching staff that he has more than just big-play abilities. And that doesn't even begin to get into the differences between the two as route runners.
While it's true that if Devin Smith doesn't broaden his repetoire, he could be looking at the long-side of a bench, this can be said of any receiver in the game. And that's to say nothing of the broken ribs and reported punctured lung he's going to have to bounce back from before he even gets the chance to.
To compare the two, especially before Smith's rookie season even begins, is a little premature, and hopefully one that ends up being wildly incorrect.