With the retirement of future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski, it is time for the New England Patriots to start looking for his replacement, and they may have already found it in the former Alabama standout Irv Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. emerged as one of Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite targets this past season under Nick Saban’s offense, catching 44 passes for 710 yards and seven touchdowns.
But does he fit well in a Tom Brady style offense? The answer is a resounding yes.
He is the most dangerous receiving tight end in this draft — a smooth route runner who tracks the ball well and can fight for yards after the catch. His athletic 6-foot-2 frame gives him the ability to make leaping grabs and find soft spots in zone coverage.
He has good hands and, more importantly, is a red zone weapon that can adjust to any ball that is thrown to him. Brady has always been accustomed to the tight end that can create space and make spectacular catches — Smith Jr. can fill that role.
Despite being a weapon in the passing game, Smith Jr. is not as a great blocker as he should be. His short frame and limited strength strain him from being a dominant blocking tight end, but his upside as a defensive mismatch and yards after carry machine is too great to ignore.
Smith Jr. can fit in great with the New England offense as an h-back or wide receiver type role, similar to former tight end Aaron Hernandez or current Redskin’s tight end Jordan Reed.
Although expected to go on the second day of the NFL Draft, there is a strong chance that the Patriots roll the dice and select him with the 32nd overall pick.
The Patriot’s took a chance on Rob Gronkowski nine years ago, and you can say it worked out pretty well. It’s time to take another one, and Irv Smith Jr. is the right guy for the job.