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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: WR Brandon Smith

  • The Draft Network
  • February 7, 2021
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Iowa wide receiver Brandon Smith will have a reasonable chance of developing into a more productive pro receiver than college target as he leaves behind the Iowa Hawkeyes program. Smith, who profiles favorably as a stereotypical possession receiver (X) at the next level, was open more often than he was targeted at Iowa due to some poor process and quarterback play from his passers with the Hawkeyes. But that does not put Smith above reproach, as he has more work to do in order to defeat press coverage at the line of scrimmage and he must develop further as a route-runner to ensure he maximizes his separation opportunities at the pro level. As is, Smith is a contested-catch target who shows some good body control for late adjustments to the football on high-point and back-shoulder throws. Smith is not a blazer and his lack of short-area burst will cause more fluid defenders to sit on his route stems, which makes his development early in routes and his continued effectiveness at the catch point critical for his long-term outlook as a receiver. 

Ideal Role: Developmental X-receiver.

Scheme Fit: Vertical passing offense.


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Penn State (2019), Purdue (2019), Michigan State (2020), Nebraska (2020)

Best Game Studied: Penn State (2019)

Worst Game Studied: Nebraska (2020)

Route Running: There are flashes of crisp body control and awareness to work right down the route stem on hard comeback routes. His ability to play at hard angles is only modest and routes breaking either to the sideline or across the field aren’t overly sharp and he doesn’t carry a great deal of speed through the break. His work came on the perimeter in a vast majority of reps. 

Hands: On the instances in which his catch radius was tested by a bad ball, he didn’t always show consistency to bring in the throw. He had a few double catches on his film as well—although his catch-point work in contested situations shows some really nice concentration and hand strength. 

Separation: You won’t often find him all by himself unless he’s curling routes around a hook/curl defender in zone coverage. He used physicality on occasion to stack vertically with hand fighting, but his separation is largely going to come from shielding with his body at the catch point. 

Release Package: His vertical push and aggression off the line look the same in both run and pass concepts, which helps keep defenders honest. But his overall twitch to sell vertical on quick game is modest and won’t force false steps. He does show awareness of the value of working angles off the line of scrimmage versus shaded press coverage, but he was hit or miss getting off clean through the contact window with his hands. 

Run After Catch: Fairly unimaginative after the catch. Smith does not have great long speed or effective wiggle to create added yardage unless he’s pulling out of a bad angle or sloppy tackle at the catch point. 

Ball Skills: He shines here. His high point adjustments and acrobatic leaps to contort his body around defenders create quite the highlight reel and give him a vertical component he wouldn’t otherwise have to sell teams on. 

Football IQ: Smith is not the most nuanced of receivers but he shows a good sense of navigating the field both in deep areas and working the sideline. Smith does not, however, boast a vast array of releases or developed routes. 

Versatility: Smith does not project favorably to a role in the slot and his skill set won’t play well in some offenses that put more focus on the quick passing game—so he’s a perimeter target for a vertical offense despite coming from a traditional I-formation offense not known for taking shots down the field. 

Competitive Toughness: Smith brings the energy as a blocker. It is easy to appreciate his effort and enthusiasm to step down into the box and pick off linebackers and safeties. He’s big, physical, and does well to bully smaller corners to find valuable real estate at the catch point. He makes a lot of plays happen with physicality. 

Big-Play Ability: His downfield attack on the ball can help create some energizing plays for his offense. But the consistency and translation of those targets at the NFL level is certainly up for debate, and top-shelf corners won’t be so willing to give up a posterizing reception like some of the college competition he faced.

Prospect Comparison: Javon Wims (2018 NFL Draft, Chicago Bears)


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Kyle Crabbs: 69/100

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