On Thursday, March 29th, the NFL world parked itself down in South Florida for Miami’s Pro Day. All 32 NFL teams had some sort of representation there to watch the likes of David Njoku, Stacy Coley, Brad Kaaya and Corn Elder show their stuff under their home Florida sun.
Those players all performed well, and when their day was done, they improved their stocks in the eyes of most, if not all, teams.
However, though scouts were leaving Miami’s campus, their day was not done. Instead of going back to their hotel or to the airport, most of them hopped in their cars and headed down the road for another Pro Day to see a prospect that many people seem to be sleeping on.
The Pro Day I’m referencing is Florida International University, and they player I’m talking about is tight end Jonnu Smith.
At 6-foot-3, 248 pounds – and just 21 years of age – Smith might just be the best tight end prospect no one seems to be talking about. As a freshman, Smith started all 12 games, led all FIU players with 39 receptions for 388 yards and earned All-Conference USA honorable mention. After that, he continued to be an offensive focal point for the Panthers with over 2,000 career yards and 18 career touchdown.
Smith has a strange story attached to him. The final season of his collegiate career ended abruptly back in November because his girlfriend, who was five months pregnant at the time, poured boiling hot water on his head leaving him with severe burns to his head, neck, shoulder and back. She was charged with aggravated battery. According to reports, the action was due to Smith “not paying enough attention to her”. There were scares that Smith’s career was in jeopardy due to the injuries, but those have been dismissed.
After being at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine, teams have started to show interest and meet with Smith, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
At the Combine, Smith ran a 4.62 40-yard dash, jumped 38 inches in the vertical, 10-feet, 5-inches in the broad and had a 4.18 short shuttle – all of which were above the 80th percentile for tight ends.
At his Pro Day, Smith did participate in the 3-cone, running a 7.21, but it drill was unexpected to him at the FIU staff. He wasn’t planning on doing anything other than on-field drills until some scouts said that his 3-cone from the Combine wasn’t recorded. So, without complaint, he obliged and participated.
On the field, Smith looked powerful and explosive – even more explosive than Njoku in some ways from the morning earlier. He dropped a pass in the end zone, which doesn’t look good with no defenders on the field, but if there’s any saving grace, it was on a route that had him cut and move three different times to get to the spot. He was explosive out of his cuts, but obviously has to make that catch – drops are one of his big worries since he’s also more of a body catcher. Other than that, the in, out and post routes looked clean.
Here’s what NFL.com’s Lance Zuerlin said about Smith’s pro outlook a while back.
Athletic tight end with four years of pass-catching production and experience as an in-line blocker. Smith is electric after the catch and has the speed to attack all three levels of the field, but his inconsistent hands could hold him back. Smith’s lack of size will likely push him into a “move tight end” role, but he’s a more effective blocker in the zone game than many who have been asked to do it on the pro level.
Overall, the athleticism, the attitude and the production relative to the offense he was in is encouraging. He’s obviously an incredible athlete for the kid you’d be looking at out of a small school, and his weight trainer, Chris Smith – who has trained with some of the best tight ends in the NFL while down in the Miami area – spoke the world of Jonnu and said he has the potential to be as athletic as every single one of them. He praised Smith’s work ethic to get his body in the best shape it could be during his four years and it showed in how explosive he’s become (side note: Smith is a former weightlifter from high school).
Right now Smith is slotted anywhere from a third to a fifth round pick. He’s the kind of player who can be both a blocker and a pass catcher, but still needs polishing as a receiver with how he catches (though he does run precise routes).
For a guy who could end up being a Day 2 pick, I’ve barely heard anything about him from the media. He’s a player some fans may end up watching in the NFL and think, “where did he come from?”
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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