Year in and year out Alabama comes loaded with NFL caliber talent. The 2019 NFL Draft will prove that 2018 was no exception for the Crimson Tide as they will see several of their players taken throughout draft weekend. In fact, even in a deep tight end class brimming with potential, Alabama will be highly represented even though they had a tight end go in the first round in the draft as recently as last year.
Last year the Dallas Cowboys missed out on O.J. Howard from Bama but this year the Crimson Tide has produced yet another top-level prospect at the position in Irv Smith Jr.
NAME: Irv Smith
POSITION: Tight End
WT: 243 lbs
This past season was the lone highly productive season for Smith who sat behind Howard last season but became the big target over the middle of the field for a top-tier offense. Smith hauled in 44 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns.
Through two seasons, the junior tight end produced a touchdown in every 5.8 receptions. That is the level of production at the position that the Cowboys sorely need to take their offense to new heights.
Immediately what stands out about Irv Smith Jr. is his hands. There’s not a lot of film of him making big time catches in traffic because he was able to get open with ease at Alabama, but he showed promise in that area. He can catch the ball from many different angles, including passes that are high or low which gives the quarterback a huge window to get him the ball.
Smith has the potential of having a big catching radius to go along with his big frame. He had limited opportunities to show it, as he was featured for only one season, but there is promise. Irv Smith Jr. can make contested catches and track the ball over his shoulders which means he can be a receiving threat at the next level.
Smith is one of the better route runners in the draft. He will create separation with his crisp routes which means safeties and linebackers will have a hard time keeping up with him.
Smith will also put pressure on defenses down the field. He gives a quarterback chances to make big plays up the seam which was truly an area of weakness for the Cowboys in 2018. Not only does Irv Smith Jr. cause problems with his route running, but he is equally as dangerous after the catch is made. He does this whether he is lined up as an in-line tight end or out in the slot.
Smith Jr. had several catch-and-run TDs of over 30+ yards during his time at Alabama. He’s not a guy whose only use comes from camping out at the first down marker, though he can provide in the role of chain mover as well.
If you are a receiver or a tight end at the University of Alabama, you better be able to block for the run. Smith is definitely a player that fits this mold which means he fits in Dallas, as well. Smith is an elite level talent at blocking which allowed him to get on the field and block for the multitude of backs that the Crimson Tide deployed over the last two seasons.
Smith isn’t the best at taking on bigger edge defenders but does more than enough to get the job done. He shows tenacity when blocking and doesn’t let up until the whistle has stopped the play. Having played for Nick Saban, Smith understands pro blocking schemes, so his skills will translate to the next level.
In summary, Irv Smith Jr. will likely be one of the top three tight ends taken in the NFL Draft come April. If so, this means he will likely be off the board before the Dallas Cowboys get an opportunity to select him. However, in the draft, anything is possible and good players can slide and/or teams can move up to take a player they think can be special. If that is indeed the case for Dallas, Smith could be well worth moving up to secure his rights.
Overall, Irv Smith Jr. has the makings of an elite talent in the NFL for years to come at a position that is currently a big question mark in Dallas.
Do you think that the Cowboys should look to possibly move up in the draft if it means taking a tight end that they really like? Share your thoughts with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.