One of the most interesting aspects of the modern NFL is how quickly positions can evolve and swing in and out of fashion.
Few have changed more in the last few years than the tight end position. A decade ago, tight ends were largely blockers, smaller offensive tackles who could be moved around, be safety blankest for quarterbacks, and occasionally use their size in the endzone.
Fast forward a few years and the position has been revolutionized. Players who were too small to be tight ends used to be “positionless tweeners” are now “hybrids,” and their blend of size and athleticism has made them some of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. At the same time, the fullback position has faded from NFL rosters, only to re-emerge on some as an “H-Back,” which blends the tight end and fullback into a single, versatile player.
Not every team has one, either, or both of these players, but with teams constantly searching for a competitive advantage, some teams could look to add a hybrid tight end or H-Back to their roster. In that case, Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. becomes particularly interesting. He emerged as a high-upside tight end and brings with him Alabama’s pedigree, but also has the frame and versatility to play multiple roles in an offense.
- Versatile player. Lined up at tight end, fullback, slot receiver, and wide receiver depending on the playcall.
- Good route running and reliable hands as a receiver.
- Capable blocker in both the run and pass games.
- Enough speed to attack the seam.
- Solid short-area quickness and some yards after catch ability.
- Good awareness and football IQ.
- Not built as a “traditional” tight end.
- Good, but not an explosive athlete.
- Only one year of starting experience.
What They’re Saying
Smith is still green in terms of overall experience, which shows up in run-blocking and route-running, but he has plenty of talent and is likely to get much better in both areas. He has combination tight end talent but really flashes as a move blocker at fullback or wingback spots. His buildup speed sets him apart as a big, field-stretching option and once he gets rolling after the catch. O.J. Howard was bigger, and a better athlete, but like Howard, Smith offers Pro Bowl potential as a well-rounded tight end prospect.
- Lance Zierlein (NFL.com - Scouting Report)
Does He Fit The Giants?
If the Giants find themselves with an opening at tight end, Smith would be a solid addition. He doesn’t have the “power forward” build of a lot of modern tight ends, but instead is much more of an “H-Back.” But that works for the Giants’ offense, which moves players around, shuffling them in and out of the backfield. Paired with Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, and Eli Penny, the Giants could use Smith to present a formidable “heavy” formation, but still have a variety of dangerous pass catchers on the field. It is the same offensive philosophy which both the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams used to great effectiveness -- that is, presenting a look with personnel and formation, then attacking how the defense responds to that look.
Smith is a solid blocker, both at the line of scrimmage as a tight end, in the backfield as a lead blocker, and in space on screen plays. His hands are reliable and he has enough speed to be a vertical threat to attack Cover 2 and Cover 3 defenses.