Irv Smith Jr.: Fantasy Scouting Report
While many are busy talking about the two Iowa tight ends, Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. may actually be the best tight end in this draft class. A 6’2, 242 lbs. tight end with a complete game Smith could surprise and be the first at his position called on draft day.
- School: Alabama
- Height: 6-foot-2
- Weight: 242 pounds
- D.O.B: 08/09/1998 (age 20)
One of the most talented tight ends in the draft Irv Smith Jr. had a rock solid junior season. With seven touchdowns and 710 yards on just 44 receptions, Smith is oozing upside. His 16.14 yards per reception placed him top five in the nation among tight ends. Only Jace Sternberger (17.33) posted a higher mark among tight ends with at least 40 receptions.
Irv Smith Jr. is a talented tight end with good route running skills. Based on film alone Smith may present the best combination of upside as a receiver and blocker in the class. Combine testing three weeks from now will determine whether or not Smith vaults past Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson on big boards across the NFL.
As mentioned above Irv Smith Jr. displayed good route running skills and should be a matchup nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. He runs his routes like a large receiver and has the hands to match. Smith has strong hands and can dominate in the red zone against the inevitable mismatches.
Smith had an outstanding 157.7 passer rating when targeted and sported a wide receiver like 2.56 yards per route run. He functioned as a weapon everywhere on the field and even saw snaps out wide. Smith is one of the rare tight ends who is a big play waiting to happen.
In the clip above Smith shows off his big-play ability via his yards after the catch skills as well as his ability to make defenders miss in the open field. Plays like this should get one very excited about Smith’s upside as a receiver at the next level. Smith also shows off his good game speed. Smith could and should test as one of the quicker tight ends in this draft class. The combine is going to go a long way as far as cementing his draft stock.
One prospect I have become increasingly high on is Irv Smith Jr. of Alabama. He may just offer the best combination of receiving skills and blocking prowess, and plays like this exemplify why.#NFLDraft #DraftTwitter pic.twitter.com/MWpQbVlu1f
— Raju Byfield (@FantasyContext) February 11, 2019
In this clip, Smith shows off both his ability as a downfield receiver and as a red zone weapon. He scored plenty of short end zone touchdowns this past season but this was one of the most impressive downfield red zone type of receptions. His ability to function as a true downfield receiver is sure to keep him high on draft boards.
Smith has proven to have good blocking skills in both the pass and running games. He shows a terrific effort level as a run blocker and has even served as a lead blocker or full back for the Crimson Tides three-headed monster backfield of Harris, Harris, and Jacobs. Smith’s receiving skills trump his pass blocking skills, so there is not as much concern here as there is with an elite blocking prospect like T.J. Hockenson. Smith will be drafted for his receiving skills first and foremost.
This was one of my favorite Irv Smith Jr., blocks of the season. While it is not a solo block he helps seal the edge against a likely first-round pick in Clelin Ferrell. He teamed up with Jonah Williams and stymied a player that was generating pressure all game. All tight ends should know how to run block. Being able to help on the better edge rushers in the NFL increases his value and snaps per game.
As is often the case, finding an accurate pro comparison for a prospect ahead of the combine is often a difficult task. Looking at his game tape Smith looks similar to O.J. Howard. While calling someone a poor man’s version of a particular player does not always sound the most flattering, in this case, it is meant to be. O.J. Howard is bigger and stronger and has better blocking skills, as well as receiving skills. With that said Howard is a top three talent in the NFL, so mentioning Smith in the same breath should help to accentuate his upside. As Crimson Tide brethren this comparison becomes a little easier.
Irv Smith Jr. – 44 receptions, 710 yards and 7 touchdowns, 16.1 yards per reception
O.J. Howard – 45 receptions, 595 yards, 3 touchdowns, 13.2 yards per reception
Irv Smith grades out as the better receiver in all categories. This is largely due to the fact that Smith had a future first-round pick at quarterback. Smith also had a few monster plays, leading all tight ends with four 40 yard receptions. With that said O.J. Howard accounted for 18.86 percent of his teams passing yards and 11.53 percent of his team’s touchdowns while Smith accounted for 14.63 and 13.47 respectively.
If someone were to accuse me of copping out by choosing an Alabama tight end with a much higher talent level than Smith, then Jordan Reed would be the next name that came to mind. Much like he did to Howard’s college stats, Smith has Reed beat in all categories over their best seasons. Both are good route runners who will be able to shine given a large enough role in their offense. Both have good game speed and are threats with the ball in their hands. Much like Reed, Smith can win downfield as well as in the red zone. Just so there is not any confusion, the comparison here is to the healthy version of Jordan Reed.
Irv Smith Jr. should test well at the combine. You can see his athleticism on film and while we likely won’t see a Vernon Davis type of athlete, we could see one in the vein of Eric Ebron. Irv Smith Jr. has late first round talent but a second-round grade. In a draft class as deep as this one, day one picks are at a premium and I do not expect any tight ends to be selected until the top of the second round. Smith is all but assured to land on a tight end needy team, and could be one of the rare exceptions that are able to produce immediately.
His dynasty value will be tied to the type of offense he lands in. As of this minute, I have Smith as a low-end TE1. He is more talented than any of last years rookies and is arguably already a top-12 talent. Smith has the perfect combination of tools to flourish in the NFL and could force his way into the second tier of tight ends by the end of his rookie season. As far as dynasty rookie drafts are concerned Smith looks like a late second, early third round pick.
League size and settings will play a factor as to where he goes. Those in TE premium or 16+ team leagues may see him come off the board earlier. Smith is the name you want to target if you are not willing to spend the draft capital needed for the buzz TEs in Fant and Hockenson. And when it’s all said and done, he may just turn out to be the best pro.