Every so often, there's a player late in the NFL Draft that has great measurements and looks like someone a team can do a lot with. Usually, the person does not have much of a track record and could end up as an undrafted free agent.
Even those players are deserving of a look, as you never know where there will be a diamond in the rough. Could Florida State wide receiver Rodney Smith be that player?
Let's take a look through his scouting report to see what type of player he can be at the next level.
At 6'5", Smith is among the tallest wide receivers in this year's draft class; only two others are 6'5" and neither are likely to be selected. Despite his height, he has speed, running a 4.51 40-yard dash at the combine. He has long arms and a good vertical leap, and that athleticism rolled into one player is naturally going to appeal to scouts.
While Smith has the measurables to be successful, he lacks the weight at 225 pounds to be sufficiently formidable. In other words, he does not always outmuscle the cornerback when catching a pass, which should not happen with a receiver like him. His height also raises the question of how well he can catch underthrown balls, and he failed to pass the 600-yard or 40-reception mark in any season at Florida State.
Smith's stature and physical traits are his primary strength. His height at 6'5" and his long legs make him someone who can leap for passes. A quarterback who isn't the most accurate would like having him as a target.
He can run a 40-yard dash in just over 4.5 seconds and has a 10-foot broad jump and a 34.5-inch vertical leap. Neither number stands out compared to other wide receivers in this draft class, but his 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle times (4.07 and 11.84 seconds) rank in the top 10 for wide receivers.
There have been no character issues brought up about Smith nor has he been in any trouble. He originally wanted to be a safety, so he has an aggressiveness on the field that not many other wide receivers do.
Smith has drawn scouting comparisons to Greg Carr, a 6'6" Florida State wide receiver with similar traits who put up similar numbers from 2005 to 2008. He went undrafted and plays in the CFL. There are scouts that will look at the similar traits and wonder why they should take a chance on Smith, unfair as it may be.
No Florida State wide receiver has had 800 receiving yards since 2003, and those who put up 700 yards are few and far between; none were during the E.J. Manuel era. In short, Smith was not going to get more than 106 receptions and 1,540 yards in his collegiate career in an offense that spread the responsibility out to many players.
Smith has a solid first step and is able to get where he needs to go. He does not get off the line especially fast, but his long strides allow him to get past slower players up the middle and not be outrun by cornerbacks when the deep ball is thrown.
Smith is not a leaper despite his frame, but he is able to get into position quickly enough where that is generally not an issue.
At Florida State, Smith was used in a variety of routes, ranging from comeback routes to posts. He has little difficulty following routes, and he is able to move inside the hashmarks fluidly. He will not wow anyone with his moves, but he won't disappoint anyone either.
He is much more successful getting defenders to miss in shorter routes than in deep ones; generally, in post routes the defense has no trouble keeping up with him. Within 10 yards, he is able to find an opening to catch the ball and make something happen.
Smith has good hands, partially as a product of his height. He generally catches balls thrown to him at the waist level near his body rather than stretching his hands to grab the ball. In fact, he seems to avoid the latter, which is a good sign as it is one less thing for coaches to work on.
To go along with good hands, Smith has solid body control. He knows where the line is and does a good job of keeping himself in bounds as long as he can when making a catch deep. He does not leap for the ball but i able to perceive where it ends up well enough.
As for holding on to the ball when he catches it, Smith does a fairly good job of keeping it in check with one arm while keeping the other free to throw a stiff arm if needed.
Run After Catch
The routes that Smith runs don't allow for a lot of movement beyond a few yards after the catch, but he does show a few good skills. He has a high step to shake off defenders from behind, and he has nice enough footwork to make some defenders miss.
When running down the sidelines, he does shift his head to try and get defenders to push him out before he actually makes it to them. It's the little things like that that make him a project that can be worked on and possibly turned into a nice pro.
Blocking is one of Smith's best abilities. He is aggressive enough to be able to run down opposing defenders and make plays, and his attitude on the field is a big plus, as he's not afraid to make tough plays.
Even though he may not have the body mass to make those same plays in the NFL, he added some mass while in college and could certainly do so again, especially since he was able to contribute well as a downfield blocker at Florida State.
Smith's future role in the NFL could very well be as a tight end. He has the height and receiving ability and can block well on top of that. If he were to gain another 20-25 pounds in the weight room, then he would have an ideal form for the position. In short, he fits the position of "joker" tight end perfectly, not unlike Aaron Hernandez's role with the Patriots.
If he were to remain a wide receiver, then he's the type that would be a flat route-runner, someone to catch passes between the hash marks, as well as someone who can help to block downfield for a running back.
At this time, Smith is not an NFL-ready receiver. He needs a year of work with a solid wide receivers coach and needs to hit the weight room and bulk up as well.
He's projected as a sixth-round pick around number 200, but I see him as an early seventh-rounder. He's an experiment for a team to give a shot to due to his raw athleticism, and if it doesn't work then the team only used a pick at the end of the draft anyway.