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Breaking Down Irv Smith Jr.

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings selected 20 year-old tight-end Irv Smith Jr. out of Alabama with their 2nd round, 50th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. They had the opportunity to trade down with this pick, per Rick Spielman, but decided Smith was worth making their pick then and there.

So let’s take a look at what Smith brings to the Vikings’ table.

Versatile Tight-End With Complete Skill Set

Irv Smith brings a full complement of desired skills at the tight end position to the Vikings. He’s a legitimate receiving threat with good speed for a tight end, with after the catch ability as well. He’s also a good blocker, both run and pass. But where he differs some from the prototypical tight end is his build. He’s a smaller tight-end, going about 242 lbs., and is only about 6’2 3/8”. He lined up in 11 different spots at Alabama, and is more of an H-back in this way - and a good compliment to the other tight ends on the Vikings roster.

Overall, apart from his 40 time, Smith didn’t test all that well in agility drills. But the surprising thing is you don’t see that show up on tape very much at all. He may not always have tremendous burst to begin his routes, but he’s not the lumbering type of tight-end you often see - his routes are crisp, speedy, and he seems very fluid and with good balance.

As a receiver, Smith’s production efficiency at Alabama compares favorably to both Iowa tight ends Fant and Hockenson. His catch rate percentage, yards per route run, and average yards per target were all better, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). In fact, Smith’s yards per route run was tied for best in this year’s tight end class. And last season, Smith was money when targeted. His passer rating when targeted was a whopping 157.7 - best in this year’s TE draft class.

Also, for a move or receiving tight-end, Smith grades pretty well. He's down the list overall among tight ends in this draft class, but this includes all the blocking tight ends as well. He has the skill set and promise to improve in this area as well - both pass and run blocking - and most scouting reports commend his blocking ability.

Tremendous Scheme Fit

As it stands now, Smith is very effective as a move or lead blocker from the fullback or wingback position - which is a little unusual in a receiving tight end. Alabama didn’t run a lot of outside zone plays, but you can see in the game films at the end of this piece that Smith is very effective as a blocker in a variety of situations, but particularly as a run blocker, whether a lead blocker or just handling his assignment in-line or from a wingback spot.

A versatile tight-end like Irv Smith is an asset in any scheme, but his ability to lead block from the backfield while also being a legitimate receiving threat present real difficulties for a defense in Gary Kubiak’s scheme with Vikings personnel.

It would not be a surprise to see the Vikings run a lot of double TE sets with Rudolph in-line and Irv Smith lined up as wing-back just off the line of scrimmage, with Dalvin Cook at tailback and Diggs and Thielen outside. With Smith equally adept as a blocker and receiver, the Vikings can run or pass, take advantage of match-up issues, audible, and keep defenses off-balance by effectively disguising the play.

At Alabama, Smith lined up in 11 different spots on offense, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Vikings use him in a similar way.

Scouting Reports

Here are some summaries of scouting reports on Smith:

Smith had an outstanding final season at Alabama, offering major contributions as both a blocker and a receiver. A versatile weapon, Smith is capable of filling any role asked from a tight end. Whether he’s lined up in-line, flexed or out of the backfield, Smith has outstanding blocking ability with potent receiving upside. While he doesn’t offer top end play speed, his quickness and technical refinement make him a difficult matchup for opposing defenses. Smith has the ceiling of a high quality starter in the NFL that can lineup anywhere in the formation and make an impact. - Joe Marino, TDN

Not many tight ends in college football can hold a candle to what Irv Smith did this season for Alabama. 710 yards, seven touchdowns and an average of 16.3 yards per catch are all eye-popping numbers which led to Smith wisely bolting for the NFL following the National Championship Game. There his athleticism, smooth routes and strong blocking skills should translate quickly into a versatile starting tight end.

While Smith may lack elite explosiveness, he still has the speed to win vertically as a flexed receiver while being one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft. The risk of drafting him is minimal, especially if he tests as well as expected. Smith may never be a top 2-3 tight end in the NFL, but he’s fully capable of being among the best in the next tier. - John Ledyard, TDN

Irv Smith projects favorably as a modern day tight end. Smith has consistent flashes in the receiving game and will enter the league with blocking chops as well. There’s not a lot of cons to Smith’s profile, he’s a very well rounded player who should be able to transition quickly to the pros. Smith’s ceiling is as a Pro Bowl caliber Tight End, his well rounded skills will enable him high snap percentages and his versatility as a receiver will allow him to excel in nearly any offense. - Kyle Crabbs, TDN

Scouting Film

After Smith’s highlight reel showing off his receiving ability, there are several game tapes of Smith to give you a better idea of his complete skill set, along with how he was used at Alabama. Overall, I didn’t notice many miscues from Smith, apart from one drop and maybe a couple not so great - but not horrible - blocks. On the other hand, you see him make many key blocks consistently throughout the game films, and generally do very well after the catch.


What level will Irv Smith Jr. rise to in the NFL ?

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