Rookie Scouting Report: Tight End Irv Smith Jr.
Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
Weight: 242 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.63 seconds
Vertical: 32.5 inches
Broad Jump: 110 inches
Knowing Smith is widely considered as a great athlete and extremely versatile, his Combine performance was a bit disappointing. He measured in at just over 6-foot-2 and 242 pounds, which is a bit small, but the measurables are what really stood out as unimpressive. His 32.5-inch vertical leap was a full seven inches shorter than Noah Fant and five inches shorter than T.J. Hockenson, the two tight ends he’s competing with for the top spot in the draft. His 110-inch broad jump was actually the third-worst among the 16 tight ends who took part in the drill. Should this change our opinion on him?
While at Alabama, it’s often tough for pass-catchers to make a big impact, as they’re known as a run-heavy offense with a hard-hitting defense (though Tua Tagovailoa shifted that a bit). But with Smith, he showed his ability to perform in the tough situation, racking up 44 catches for 710 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018. That’s really the only sample size we have to go off, as he didn’t play much before then, totaling just 128 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. Does his tape show enough for him to be considered a first-round pick or is he being overvalued due to playing for Alabama?
Size/Versatility: 2.5 out of 5 stars
He’s small for a tight end at just 6-foot-2, but it doesn’t stop him from doing most things well, and it surely doesn’t hurt his versatility, as he can play the “move” tight end role that a lot of coordinators desire. He can play in-line, in the slot, out of the backfield, and on the perimeter if you’d like. He doesn’t offer the big catch radius that most tight ends in today’s game do, so he certainly gets docked in the size department. His lack of size is likely what makes him versatile, so it’s kind of a give-and-take situation.
Route Running/Ability to Separate: 3.0 out of 5 stars
He’s more of a smart route runner than one who possesses incredible route-running chops. He does a good job confusing his defender into what his assignment actually is, as I watched linebackers and safeties continually believe he was staying in to block, only for Smith to drop out into the flats and make a play in the open field. He also does a good job recognizing the soft spot in zone coverage and won’t cut his route short to get there. He’s not as dominant versus man coverage, especially when he’s matched with someone who’s just as athletic as he is. Considering how undersized he is for a tight end, that’s not great.
Speed: 3.0 out of 5 stars
This is the part of his game that leaves us wanting a bit more, as you’d expect him to have a second gear with his smaller stature, but he really doesn’t. He doesn’t take very long to build up his speed, but from there, it’s maintaining. If matched up with a safety who’s not particularly fast, he can get behind a defense, but in the NFL, it’s going to be hard to find them. The good news is that he should be staying in to block more than most, so he could get matched with linebackers, which would be a problem for a defense, as he has enough speed to beat them down the seam.
Hands/High-Pointing: 2.5 out of 5 stars
He had an ugly drop in the SEC Championship game versus Georgia on a deep ball where no one was around him, yet he did this slight jump and let the ball come into his body. Knowing that he doesn’t separate well from cornerbacks or athletic safeties, you’d hope he could out-physical them, though he’s not that type of player. He won’t be skying over a defender any time soon. He’s not a hands-catcher, but rather one who lets the ball come into his body more than he should. He does track the ball very well and understands how his body should be used to shield the defender, but I’d like to see him extend his arms a bit more.
After the Catch: 2.0 out of 5 stars
He’s a natural athlete with some juke to his game in the open field, but he’s not someone who’ll be dragging defenders down the field or be breaking many tackles. He’s more of a “catch the ball, secure it, and brace for contact” type of player. He’s also not someone who’s fast enough to play the angle-game in the open field. Yards after the catch is another area of his game where I don’t see him being known for in the NFL.
Blocking: 3.5 out of 5 stars
He’s not the biggest tight end, but he does know how to leverage his weight very well. He also knows how to manipulate the defender and get him to bite on his outside shoulder in order to create a gap inside for his running back. He’s not someone who’s going to hold a block for very long in pass-protection considering his size limitations, but his run-blocking is solid and that will get him on the field right away in the NFL.
Potential Landing Spot
There are many offenses that could use a player like Smith, as he offers teams a startable player right away due to his blocking ability in the run-game. Knowing that the Patriots just lost Rob Gronkowski and run a lot of 2TE sets, it would make a ton of sense for him to go there at the end of the first round, as I don’t think he’d last until their first second-round pick (No. 56 overall). Another team that’d make tons of sense is the Jaguars, who now have John DeFilippo calling plays for their offense, who comes from the school of Doug Pederson. Other teams who could take a shot on him in that range (early second-round) include the Cardinals, Raiders, and Lions.
While watching Smith, it’s hard not to think of someone like Trey Burton. He’s not a yards after the catch monster but does possess enough speed to beat linebackers with ease and can be moved all over the formation. While I think Burton has better hands, Smith is likely the better blocker. Burton was also someone who didn’t test very well at the Combine, running a 4.62-second 40-yard dash with just a 30-inch vertical and 112-inch broad jump. They’re both undersized, but that allows them to be used in a way that many tight ends can’t.