Our NFL rookie profile series continues with this analysis of 2019 NFL Draft Prospect Irv Smith Jr, TE of Alabama. You can also check out all of our NFL Draft Prospect articles here. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analysis right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league!
The 2019 tight end draft class is shaping up to be one of the most impressive classes that we have seen in a long time. Combining the NFL’s excessive need for quality tight ends with the actual talent of this class quantifies into what could be the best year to draft a TE in all of dynasty history.
While Noah Fant is one of the more physically impressive tight end prospects to enter the NFL Draft, Irv Smith Jr is set to break out at the NFL level and I am predicting he will surpass both Fant and TJ Hockenson when all is said and done.
At 6’2”, 242 pounds, Smith Jr certainly does not gather many rants and rave because of his physical frame. More so, it is his speed and all around balance at the position that makes him NFL ready and capable of being a top-20 tight end in 2019.
Smith Jr has a great ceiling which should take two or three years for him to fully grow and expand into. The intangibles and his willingness to develop is what makes him such a great prospect that any NFL franchise will be happy to work with over several years.
Andy Singleton has done a great job breaking down Irv Smith Jr as a prospect and where dynasty owners should be taking him in comparison to the other top tight end targets who are going to be available. Make sure to get the full coverage by watching his video analysis.
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Statistics from sports-reference.com.
What most fantasy owners have failed to recognize is that Smith Jr is just 20 years old. He will turn 21 this year, but for a tight end of his caliber, this is great news for dynasty owners who are always looking for someone at the position who won’t need replacing for at least five years. Smith Jr could easily be that guy.
He had a limited role as a sophomore in 2017, starting four games for the Tide en route to their National Championship. During that campaign, he scored three touchdowns on just 14 receptions while averaging 9.1 yards per catch. One thing I loved to watch was that he was always catching the ball downfield near the first down marker. His speed gave him big-play potential and not only warranted big yardage but a lot of touchdown targets.
In 2018, Smith Jr appeared in all 15 of Alabama’s contests and increased his receptions by four times the amount he had in 2017. With 44 receptions for 710 yards (16.1 average) and seven touchdowns, Smith Jr proved to be a huge receiving threat who had to be acknowledged.
In just the first three highlights alone, you already begin to realize that this is not just your ordinary tight end prospect. Smith Jr has some elite potential and really does not carry the typical tight end frame that you might expect.
There are a few things I pulled from the film that I will highlight if you are not already convinced. Two key components I look for in a receiver is their ability to catch contested passes in and away from their body, and: do they have the strength to go up and make those catches in the air? The answer to both of those questions for Smith Jr is an absolute yes.
Not only does he show an ability to catch in traffic in the middle of the field, but his speed allows him to break his routes to the outside of the field and still create enough separation to make catches on the sideline. This will translate to the NFL very well, allowing coordinators to move him all over the field and push his routes downfield.
His limitations currently lie within his role as a blocker and his ability to make plays after the catch. As a blocker, he will have to continue to add muscle and mass in order to take on the added size of defenders at the professional level. His quickness to his blocking targets must also improve.
From a yards-after-catch (YAC) point of view, I would like to see Smith Jr really work on his footwork and quickness, allowing him to shake one or two defenders and increase how lethal he is down the field.
His size certainly will not be his weapon, but his speed is the one thing that kills. Smith Jr ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, which put him up in the 83rd percentile in NFL history. His 20-yard shuttle was also up near the 55th percentile which really encourages the idea of him getting downfield often.
If you look at some of the current and past NFL comparisons who his numbers correlate to, Smith Jr. has some excellent names next to him. Mark Andrews, Garrett Graham, and Trey Burton are all incredible talents at the tight end position who have a knack for either getting down the field or finding the end zone on a high level.
I really love the two Iowa prospects, but I would much rather grab Smith Jr later in the rookie draft and allow him to develop over the next two years.
Irv Smith Jr is a great talent with a very high ceiling. Currently, I would label him as an investment piece who should yield great dividends over the next five to six years. He may take a year or two to fully develop into his role, but I would not be surprised to see him as a regular top-15 tight end throughout the span of his career.
His ADP suggests the same, as he began with an ADP of 165 in February, but has since seen his draft stock rise as he now holds a 134.5 ranking in April. In terms of rookie drafts, he is being selected as a very late second to early third round pick and if you can grab him with a third round pick, I would not hesitate.
With the tight end position being in such high demand, Smith Jr will find a favorable landing spot in 2019 and should have no trouble immediately being a fantasy relevant player as a rookie.