Route-Running - Excellent route runner with good attention to detail in his stems. Varies pace to separate, but has a little too much throttle down before his break. Needs to hit cuts at full speed. Excellent vertical push and ability to step on defender's toes before breaking off his pattern. Hip snap to quickly get his head around and find the football.
Ball Skills - Doesn't have a massive radius or a ton of outside-the-frame catches on tape that suggest ball skill dominance with the rock in the air. Not a consistent high-point, full extension catcher, but still flashes strong hands to grab the ball before it gets into his frame. Wish there were more examples of him having to make high degree of difficulty catches on tape.
Speed - Not a burner, but more than enough speed to stretch the field. Worked in a vertical passing attack that should translate right away to a role in the slot of an NFL offense. Not explosive off the line of scrimmage, but builds up speed and can win over the top of a defense. Can be a slow-starter from an in-line position, occasionally a beat late off the ball. 4.6s would be a good time for him. Versatile usage as a receiver due to his movement skills.
Run Blocking - Elite run-blocking tight end. Has tons of experience in a diverse rushing attack and understands pro-level blocking schemes. Frames his target beautifully and rarely falls off contact. Runs his feet up under blocks and doesn't settle for stalemates. Looks to finish consistently with hands inside and outstanding grip strength. Finds leverage points and controls blockers from snap-to-whistle. Understands runner's angles and will work to seal off rush lanes completely. A little small for an in-line tight end, which occasionally manifests itself when taking on bigger edge defenders.
Contested Catch - Simply almost never asked to make contested catches. Made one high-point contested grab against Ole Miss that was a thing of beauty. Will have some natural limitations here due to lack of elite size and length. Wins more like Jordan Reed and Evan Engram as a receiver than by excelling above the rim. Whenever it's been asked of him, he's done well, but his tools don't suggest this being a calling card.
YAC - Slippery and elusive post-catch. Doesn't have the burst to destroy pursuit angles, but runs hard and has enough long speed to pull off breakaway runs. Determination after the catch and balance to ward off contact and stay on his feet is outstanding.
Separation Quickness - Good, not great quickness out of his breaks. Not an overly explosive player, so burst to separate is often not enough to win by itself. Needs his recently improved attention to detail as a route runner to separate consistently, slows a little too much into his breaks. Good job swimming contact down the field and improving his hands to detach from stickier man coverage.
Pass Protection - Not asked to stay in for pass protection often, but when he does, frames rushers well and is patient with his strikes. May give a little ground in mismatch situations against power players, but re-anchors quickly and has the strength and hand placement to keep them at bay.
Competitive Toughness - Physical, tough and relentless in his style of play. Brings it as a blocker and after the catch. No concerns here.
Athleticism/Size - Good, not great size for a tight end, but play strength and build is outstanding. I don't think Smith is the ELITE athlete that many believe he is, but he's still definitely athletic compared to most tight ends. Stretching the field will be a strength.
BEST TRAIT – Route-Running/Blocking
WORST TRAIT – Contested Catches (more of a question mark)
RED FLAGS – None
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.
Round Grade: 2nd