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Scouting the Draft: Rodney Smith, Joker TE

Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

I've been saying for a while now that the Seahawks won't draft Zach Ertz. Yes, the Stanford product is a dynamic receiving threat, and Seattle would love to have that. But he's shit as a blocker, and dynamic Joker TEs can easily be found in the later rounds.

Today, I'm going to back up that claim with a scouting report: Rodney Smith is a WR out of Florida State who's projected to go as early as the 6th round, but (if what I've seen is accurate) is more likely to become a UDFA. I think he'd be terrific in the Joker/Big Wide role that we've attempted to fill with Evan Moore and BMW the last two years with little success.

Measurables:

I'm going to give you two sets of numbers for each measurement.

The first belongs to Smith. The second belongs to Patriots' TE Aaron Hernandez.

Height: 6'4" (6'2")
Arm Length: 34.75 (34.25)
Hand Size: 10.375 (9.75)
40 time: 4.51 (4.64)
Vert: 34.5 (33.0)
3 Cone: 7.03 (6.83)

From a physical standpoint, Rodney Smith compares favorably to Aaron Hernadez. Hernandez is a bit heavier, a bit stronger, and is a little more fluid in space. But Smith is bigger and faster, with longer arms and better leaping ability. He's also only 22, and very thin for his frame. I suspect that a year or two with a dietician and an NFL strength program will put 20-30 lbs of muscle on him.

Film:

I couldn't find any convenient Rodney Smith cutups. Seems the guys over on youtube don't focus on potential UDFAs! Jerks. Instead, I'm giving you EJ Manuel clips, and you'll have to locate Smith yourself. He's # 84.

EJ Manuel vs Wake Forest 2012 (via JmpasqDraftjedi)

EJ Manuel vs Clemson (2012) (via Eric Stoner)

EJ Manuel vs USF (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)

Route Running:

The best way to describe Smith in the pattern would be "efficient". He rarely wastes motion getting into or out of his breaks. I was most impressed with how Smith sinks his hips (a rare skill for guys that big) allowing him to make more violent cuts than his size suggests he should be able to, particularly when running at top speed.

However Smith lacks burst when coming out of his cuts, and rarely generates huge separation. He also isn't much of a threat on the double move, because he lacks the speed to blow the top off a defense.

Catching:

Smith is a big man with very long arms. He does a good job using his body to shield defenders away from the ball, and using his size/reach to snatch contested catches before the DB can get a hand on them. He owns FSU's record for consecutive games with a reception (39). This accomplishment is particularly impressive when you consider it started with Christian Ponder throwing the football.

Smith also has good body control when bringing in balls along the sideline, doing a good job of making sure his foot lands in-bounds.

One area of particular concern is that Rodney seems to be at his most inconsistent when attempting to go elevate and high-point a ball over the defender's head. He's fearless about taking contact over the middle, so I think this is more likely a concentration issue than a desire to avoid the big hit. He will need to correct this in order to be successful in the pros, as the back-corner fade to the 6'4" guy is a red zone staple in the NFL passing game.

Blocking:

On the perimiter, Smith does a very good job of using his length and strength to engage and control DBs before they can get their hands on him. He also does a suprisingly good job of keeping his hands and pads low, using leverage more than brute strength to take his assigned defender out of the play. I'm particularly fond of the play at 5:28 against Wake Forest where he blocks the OLB Zachary Allen out of the play, despite surrendering nearly 20 pounds.

Because Smith played WR in college, I can't tell you if he's a serious asset in pass protection the way Miller and McCoy are, although Joker TEs are rarely asked to stay at home on a passing play anyways.

Athleticism

Smith is athletically gifted enough to represent a coverage mismatch against most LBs. His 4.51 40 time won't threaten many CBs, but Zavier Gooden (4.47) was the only LB at the Combine to run faster.

I only saw Smith getting pressed once or twice at the line (something he'll likely see a lot of if he transitions to NFL TE), however it never worked well for the defender. Those long arms and good strength make him effective at getting past the defender and into the route.

In the open field, smith isn't a naturally gifted athlete or a big YAC threat. He's not elusive enough with his cuts to make defenders miss completely (very few guys that big are), but he also doesn't often run through tackles. This is going to cost him quite a bit on draft day.

Final Thoughts:

For a guy who's projected to go in the 7th round (if at all) I see tremendous upside in drafting Rodney Smith as a Joker TE. Smith is athletic enough to be a coverage mismatch when up against LBs, and powerful enough to handle DBs in the running game.

He never really put it all together in college, and it's possible that he never manages in the pros either. But a 6th or 7th round draft pick isn't a huge price to pay for a guy with potential Aaron Hernandez type upside.

Previous Scouting the Drafts
OLB/LEO Chase Thomas
WR Terrance Williams

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