The 2018 Orange Bowl, one of the two College Football playoffs, sees the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide locking horns with the No. 4 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. With a plethora of talent on display for both teams, it may be easier to pinpoint players that you should not pay attention to. But one player worthy of special attention is Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. Smith is only a junior, and it is not certain as to whether he will declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. But that’s no excuse for ignorance as to the youngster’s talent.
Smith boasts a noticeable NFL pedigree. His dad, Irv Sr., was a TE drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints back in 1993 and enjoyed a seven-year NFL career with the Saints, San Francisco 49ers, and Cleveland Browns. His uncle, Ed Smith, also played in the league but started only two games in four seasons.
The College Years
Smith Jr. had a largely uneventful freshman campaign in 2016, appearing in eight games but not recording any stats. He played in nine games in 2017 but caught 14 passes for 128 yards with three touchdowns. Smith really began to make a name for himself in 2018, with 38 receptions for 648 yards and seven TDs. The seven scores are a school record for a TE. Smith averaged an impressive 17.1 yards per reception in 2018, with 26 of his catches resulting in either a first down or a score.
His TD rate is a healthy one and will certainly help when Smith makes the step up to the NFL. There are not many examples of end zone allergic TEs making a huge impact in the pro game of recent years.
Jon Ledyard noted back in September that Smith has “great size, speed, and athleticism for the TE position.” The Crimson Tide list Smith at 6-foot-4 and 241lbs. DraftScout.com has Smith rated as their No. 6 TE for 2020, but it will be interesting to see where he ranks among this year’s crop if he decides to come out this year.
As with all TE prospects, I find myself turning to the combine measurables tree for TEs from Kevin Cole’s seminal look at the NFL Combine Drills that Matter.
DraftScout.com estimates a 4.7 40-yard dash time for Smith, which would see him past the first node. Then it would come down to the bench and vertical drills. Todd McShay also believes that Smith has “good speed and athleticism,” traits that could see him deal with these obstacles.
A big postseason for the Crimson Tide could help propel Smith into the nation’s consciousness, much the same as it did for O.J. Howard a few seasons back. Howard ended the 2016 season with 10 receptions for 191 yards and a TD in his final three games, with a 4/106/1 line in the National Championship against Clemson. With the TE spot its usual dumpster fire in 2018 – thanks at least in small part to an underwhelming crop of rookies – Smith could find himself one of the first names called at his spot in May.