Irv Smith
The Irv Smith breakout season. I feel more confident than ever about previously calling him the best tight end in the 2019 NFL Draft. If you’re smart, you will join my side. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Before the 2019 NFL Draft, I proclaimed Irv Smith as the best tight end in the draft. This was an opinion that literally NOBODY had. In fact, people from Iowa got quite upset at me.

If you go through that Hawkeye report, there were numerous people that couldn’t believe the words I uttered. As I sit here one year later, I feel more confident than ever that Smith will emerge as the best tight end from that class. If you’re smart, you will hop on this bandwagon now too. For the record, TJ Hockenson stinks too so I hope all of you are happy after watching a miserable rookie season (outside of one game).

Let’s first start by stating the obvious. Tight ends take a LONG time to develop. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Darren Waller was in the league for 3 years before he become a star. His first 3 years were miserable. I totally gave up on Zach Ertz. It took Ertz about 4 years to go from average to great. The point is, it’s almost impossible to find a rookie tight end that showed out in his first season.

Quietly, Irv Smith was really good as a rookie. You just weren’t paying attention. The former Alabama product was the highest graded rookie tight end in 2019. Take it as a grain of salt because it’s PFF, but the point is Smith performed up to par as a rookie in a position that’s tough to contribute right away.

When you dive a little deeper, you start to see that Smith could really become special. Right now we’re in the early phases of the stock market. It’s time to buy, buy, buy. Irv Smith had the 6th best catch rate 78.3% at the tight end position. That’s all tight ends, not just rookies. We’re talking about a guy who really showed flashes.

The talent isn’t hard to spot. You can see the athleticism on display watching him move around. I promise I didn’t purposely pick a game where he was just picking on the Raiders. Anyway, Smith has plus speed (4.63) for the position, ripped out 19 bench press reps at the combine, and can hold his own blocking. More so than anything, Smith is a fantastic route runner and is just so smooth tracking the ball.

Smith, 21, still has plenty of room to grow. 36 receptions for 311 yards, and 2 touchdowns may not sound like a sexy stat line. However, when you consider the position he plays, it means something. Only 5 tight ends in the history of the NFL have recorded 30 receptions and 300 yards during their age 21 season. That list includes Jason Witten, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Tony Gonzalez, and David Njoku. All of whom are outstanding players. Njoku is just stuck in Cleveland. Witten, Gronk, and Gonzalez are likely Hall of Famers.

The scary part is Irv Smith is in a committee. He performed well despite having Kyle Rudolph on the same team. Just like Dallas Goedert, Smith is flying under the radar because a established vet is around. The breakout season is coming. Whether it be this year or next year, it’s time to buy the Smith stock.