The Dallas Cowboys have a hole in their offense after losing Randall Cobb to the Houston Texans in free agency. While Dallas may address this wide receiver need in the upcoming NFL Draft, could another solution already be on the roster? Perhaps veteran Devin Smith can step into a larger role in 2020, much like Laurent Robinson did for the Cowboys in 2011.
Smith joined the Cowboys last year as a reclamation project after multiple knee injuries early in his career. Devin had been a high 2nd-round pick in 2015 by the Jets but was released during the 2018 offseason, then spent a year away the NFL.
Things were looking up for Smith last year after a standout preseason, then a 51-yard touchdown catch in Week 2 against Washington. But after two quiet games in the following weeks, Devin’s lack of special teams value caused him to be a healthy scratch for most of the year. Then he picked up a knee injury in December.
Sure, relying on Devin Smith in 2020 would seem foolish given his history. But there was just as much doubt when the Cowboys handed the WR3 job to Laurent Robinson nine years ago.
Like Smith, Robinson faced high expectations as a 2007 3rd-round pick but his career was fizzling by the time he reached Dallas. He failed to make final cuts with the Chargers and Dallas scooped him, having their own WR depth issues that year with only Dez Bryant and Miles Austin has reliable players.
Robinson had a big year with 54 catches for 858 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns. With Austin missing six games due to injury, Laurent was not only the third receiver but ended up filling in even larger gaps in the offense at times.
That big season netted Robinson a multi-year contract with Jacksonville but he never had the same production. History now views his one year in Dallas as a credit to Tony Romo’s greatness; an anomaly thanks to Romo’s talent over Laurent’s actual ability.
Devin Smith was a more highly regarded WR prospect in his draft class than Laurent Robinson was. That doesn’t always mean much, but it isn’t meaningless.
“If he can stay healthy” is certainly a frustrating comment but it applies here. Has Devin’s true potential been restrained by his injuries, or have his mostly quiet games revealed that he’s more of a bust than just unlucky?
Also, Dak Prescott is the quarterback now. Is he at a point now, especially with coaching changes on offense, to maximize and elevate his receivers or is he still dependent on WR talent to produce?
By the time that Tony Romo got his hands on Laurent Robinson in 2011 he’d been playing in the same system for five years. Prescott just went through the major change at Offensive Coordinator last season and now has Mike McCarthy coming in at head coach for further adjustments.
If Devin Smith does have something left to unleash in the NFL then his QB could be the deciding factor. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are there to occupy the defense, plus the concerns of Ezekiel Elliott and/or Tony Pollard coming out of the backfield. It’s a great environment for WR3 to excel, much like Randall Cobb enjoyed last year.
But in the end, the true x-factor here is Devin Smith himself. Is he someone whose body had betrayed him, or is he one of many 2nd-round picks who just didn’t have what it takes to make it in the NFL?
If the Cowboys don’t come away with a new WR from the 2020 Draft, Smith just might get a chance to find out.