Irv Smith
Forget the Iowa tight ends, Irv Smith is the best tight end in the 2019 NFL Draft (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

A lot of buzz has built around the Iowa tight ends in regards to the 2019 NFL Draft. TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant have been tagged as game-changing tight ends. Hockenson has drawn comps to George Kittle and Fant to Evan Engram. Well, I hate to ruin their parade but neither tight end is the best player at his position in this draft class. That belongs to Irv Smith Jr of Alabama who for whatever reason is being totally overlooked. Irv Smith is the best tight end in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Let’s start with the Iowa guys. The Hockenson – Kittle comps are not accurate. The problem with that comparison is that Kittle is way more dynamic than Hockenson is. Kittle ran a 4.52 – 40 time. Hockenson’s time came in at 4.7. That’s not close. I’m being totally honest, I never even heard of Hockenson until after the season and saw his name in the top 10 of mock drafts. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. From what I saw at the combine, it looks like he can high point a ball and can block. How is that a top 10 talent?

Fant has one deadly flaw. He can’t catch. Fant has 13 drops during his college career and is only converting 59 percent of his targets into catches. Hockenson is at 76 percent. While Fant is way more athletic, he’s not nearly as polished. Being really athletic only takes you so far if you can’t catch. Fant also isn’t a special blocker either.

Here’s the thing people should be telling you. Irv Smith Jr. is the complete tight end and is a combination of both Hockenson and Fant. Smith Jr ranks 1st in the draft class with 2.56 yards per route run. Hockenson ranks 3rd while Fant is 4th. Caleb Wilson is actually 2nd who had some really good moments last year.

Smith is way more dynamic than Hockenson is. In 276 routes run, Smith totaled 710 yards. 360 yards after the catch, 177 yards after contact, and 16 receptions of 15-plus yards. Compare that to Hockenson who had just 34 more yards on 337 routes run. Sure, you could say that Smith had Tua Tagovailoa throwing to him. Sure, you could say that Hockenson split time with Fant. However, Smith sat out a number of 2nd halfs because Bama constantly had the lead in games. It more than evens out.

Smith isn’t quite as dynamic as Fant but does the things that Fant doesn’t. He actually catches the ball. He’s a good blocker. Smith is the better route runner. He’s just more polished. Fant is a shiny toy that needs developing.

So why are NFL Draft experts missing on Smith? One reason is people seem to think Smith is an H-Back? Not sure where that came from? Maybe it’s because Smith is shorter than the Iowa guys. Who cares? Smith has better college production than OJ Howard did in college and has more than proved he wins routes. He’s also playing against SEC competition. You know what I saw Irv Smith do? I saw him take Grant Delpit to school and Delpit is a top 5 pick when he comes out in the draft. Show me the tape where Hockenson or Fant beats up a top 10 pick caliber safety? I’ll wait.

I just don’t get this one. If you take a tight end in the first round, he better be Gronk level good. Nobody has a shot to come close except for Irv Smith Jr. Oh, it probably helps to have a dad who was also a first round tight end. Keep bragging up the Iowa guys. Irv Smith is better anyway.