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NFL Draft Sleeper Watch: South Alabama WR Courtney Smith

South Alabama WR Courtney Smith is a guy that I've been paying attention to for a while, starting a few weeks before the Senior Bowl, and could be a potential sleeper pick in the 6th-7th rounds as a developmental project.

Smith has prototypical size for a number one receiver - 6'4, 225lbs and apparently the most physically impressive specimen at the Senior Bowl week.  I don't take much stock in how cut a guy is, but I remember hearing people rave about it so I guess it bears mentioning. He's got decently big hands at 9.5" and ridiculously long arms, measuring 33.75". This is worth mentioning too because his arms are longer than those of Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Braylon Edwards or Marques Colston - and gives him a definite advantage over smaller corners.

He's raw and has struggled with drops, especially at the Senior Bowl - not the greatest attribute - but he's got through-the-roof physical potential so he could be worth a flyer pick. Smith was originally projected to run a 4.3 or 4.4 by people in the know but the ran a more down-to-earth 4.62 at the Alabama pro day. Afterwords, according to this article from the National Football Post, scouts approached him after running and mentioned that with a decent start, Smith would have ran a 4.5.

His slower time surprised people, including himself, and the usual "I play faster" excuse was thrown out there. I am actually a believer to some extent in this concept - in the way that some people don't test well, some guys don't run standardized tests like the 40 all that well but have ridiculous speed in games. You can't ignore the 40 times, but they're not the end-all and be-all for football speed.

He said:

I ran 4.6, but I'm not a 40-yard runner, I play football. I play the game fast. Every time, it's always my start that hurts me, but I've got speed. I run past people.

Smith mentioned that he looks up to Anquan Boldin and pointed out that Boldin originally ran a 4.7 40 too but as we all know is a very good NFL receiver. 

Chad Rueter of CBS Sports put together a profile of Smith, take a look:

Strengths: Tall, big-bodied receiver who dominated at a lower level of competition. Gets separation with upper-body strength and quick feet on comeback routes. Strides past corners after the catch, especially after double move. Uses height and vertical to high-point passes over smaller defenders. Stiff-arms oncoming tacklers. Runs all of the routes on the tree. Has some wiggle after the catch to make first man miss. Extends long arms to snatch high and wide throws. Engulfs small corners as a runner or downfield blocker.

Weaknesses: Lacks elite straight-line speed and elusiveness after the catch. Will body-catch some passes when facing the quarterback and his hands are not wholly reliable bringing in the ball while going to the sideline. Needs to tighten up his cuts. Must adjust to playing veteran corners at the next level and prove he is willing to work hard as a blocker against more physical defenders. Bounced around a bit during his collegiate career, some off-field concerns.

Courtney Smith will be catching passes from QB Greg McElroy on April 5th so keep an eye on that.