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NFL Draft

Ainias Smith Could Be NFL’s Next Versatile Offensive Weapon

  • The Draft Network
  • August 9, 2021
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Versatility is key.

Perhaps a statement that is more true now than ever before, the ability to play multiple positions has become a crucial necessity at the NFL level. The more places you can line up, the better chance at success you’ll have, particularly at skill positions.

One 2022 NFL Draft prospect that just happens to embody this is Texas A&M do-it-all playmaker Ainias Smith. A true junior who burst onto the scene as a sophomore a year ago, Smith is a blazing and quick speedster who has done a bit of everything during his time with the Aggies thus far.

After playing mostly slot receiver and dabbling in punt and kick returns during his freshman season, Smith was a monster as a sophomore, handling ball-carrying duties (143 snaps in the backfield), lining up outside (60 snaps), dominating inside (323 snaps), and even blocking in-line on certain reps. Fun Fact: He also played cornerback in high school and had three interceptions his senior year.

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Racking up 43 catches, 564 yards, and six touchdowns through the air, on top of an extra 293 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, Smith proved to be the key ingredient in the Aggies’ near CFB playoff run in 2020.

Sure, potential 2022 RB1 Isaiah Spiller was a major force (and the reason Smith didn’t earn more carries), and potential 2022 TE1 Josh Wydermeyer opened things up for him in the passing game, but it was Smith that was the glue for Texas A&M’s offense.

Perhaps the best way I can describe his capabilities is to someone like Nyheim Hines or Curtis Samuel. Although both were primarily running backs during their time in college (Samuel converted to wide receiver once he hit the next level), each used their quickness, change-of-direction skills, and understanding of leverage to dominate opponents. Smith is no different.

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And although Smith has less ground experience than both, he has certainly proved he can handle running responsibilities. Breaking 18 tackles on 55 carries over the past two years (on top of 21 broken tackles on 65 catches), his slippery nature and underrated contact balance have shown he can succeed as a change-of-pace facilitator at the running back position, on top of the slot skills that have made him such a dangerous collegiate weapon. He’s no Alvin Kamara in this regard, but the skills to make a shift to running back (if need be) are there.

In fact, his best role at the next level is probably as a third-down-type back who dabbles as a returner and exploits slower linebackers when lining up out wide (again, think Hines). Able to dominate on whip routes, angle routes, and quick-hitting check-downs, he is the definition of a “quarterback’s best friend”. Always open, always looking for work, and always trying to find open holes.

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Add to this the fact that he’s willing and energetic as a blocker (which is all that you can ask of an undersized 5-foot-10, 190-pound playmaker), and Smith is exactly what you want out of a change-of-pace, gadget player. After all, he has a good understanding of shielding and angles on the perimeter, will engage on every rep, and understands how to vary his speed on certain routes to confuse defenders.

I know the “gadget” tag has a bit of stigma around it, but all it really means is Smith can do whatever is asked of him. Yes, it’s up to his future coaches to ask the right questions and put him in a proper situation—and that makes his landing spot a bit more integral to his professional success—but we’re seeing more of these “gadget” types than ever before.

If there was ever a time for a player like Smith, it’s now.

Conclusion

Able to separate? Check.

Quick, fast, physical, and nuanced? Check.

Versatile with the ability to play multiple positions (including special teams)? Check.

He might not be a first-round pick, but if you draft Smith on day two and get him on the right team that will use his do-everything ability to their advantage, watch out. The embodiment of what today’s NFL is all about, Smith has a very successful NFL future ahead of him.

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