When I evaluate receivers with an eye for the next level, one thing I look for first is production; and National Championship-winning UCF receiver Tre’Quan Smith has plenty of that.
When looking at his production in the past three seasons at UCF—where he has started 34 of 34 career games played for the Knights—Smith hauled in 168 passes for 2,748 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Knights, including a Biletnikoff-worthy junior campaign where he was the deadliest weapon on UCF’s offense with 59 catches for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Following his freshman season he was voted as the AAC’s Rookie of the Year and was the first player in UCF history to lead the team in receptions and yards as a freshman. It’s promising to see that Smith saw an increase in production and development as a player during his three years at UCF, and to see the accolades, both on and off the field, he accumulated in that time.
While some may have concerns with the fact that Smith mostly played against other “Group of Five” schools while in college, when you look at Smith’s production against Power 5 schools, he does not see too substantial of a dip. Looking at his games against bigger schools during his time at UCF:
- 2 catches for 41 yards and a touchdown at Stanford in 2015
- 5 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown at South Carolina in 2015
- 0 catches on 4 targets at Michigan in 2016
- 8 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown vs. Maryland in 2016
- 4 catches for 29 yards and a touchdown at Maryland in 2017
- 5 catches for 89 yards (no touchdown) vs Auburn in 2017
Taking a look at that, that’s 24 catches for 355 yards (14.8 YPC) and 4 touchdowns against Power 5 competition during his time at UCF. To take note of Smith’s lackluster performance at Michigan in 2016, NDT Scouting’s Benjamin Solak (who you should all follow on Twitter if you don’t already at @BenjaminSolak) summed up my thoughts pretty well on that game:
“Smith saw 4 targets and 0 receptions in that game, but, when we get into the tape, we see
that one target was a throwaway, one was deflected at the line of scrimmage, and the other two?
Smith beat current NYJ CB Jeremy Clark and practice squad CB Channing Stribling deep on both. His
QB (UCF was 6/22 passing on the day) missed him twice.”
When looking at the traits from an NFL Draft perspective, Smith doesn’t have many holes and has a well-rounded game.
As a route runner, my main concern with Smith is that I didn’t see him run a diverse, or full, route tree and much of his production came off of go routes and some crossing routes. Nonetheless, he is able to pull away from defenders while tracking the ball in the air and off of a limited sample size can create separation in and out of his breaks.
This is the main thing I want to see from Tre’Quan at the Reese’s Senior Bowl this week, and what I’m guessing scouts will want to watch out for as well: Can he run a full route tree and create separation in a variety of ways?
Another play where Smith creates separation quickly downfield and is able to break away from the defense for a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/ltojeQjsQf
— Riley Auman (@junioraumanac) January 22, 2018
I don’t know if I see a burner in Smith, who NFLDraftScout projects as a 4.56 forty-yard dash, but I do see a player who does a good job of accelerating as the ball is arriving, and has a level of burst for his size I saw on film that I didn’t expect. That said, we didn’t expect guys like Evan Engram or Chris Godwin to blow us out of the water at the NFL Combine in that regard last year and they each ran a 4.42. I’d also expect a freakish vertical jump from Smith based on the acrobatic leaps he pulls off on tape in pads. Using Chris Godwin as reference again, considering they are in a similar body frame, the latter jumped 36” last year.
Another play where Smith creates some yards after the catch. Makes the grab towards the sideline and makes the corner whiff on the tackle and then turns upfield and makes some more guys miss before being brought down. pic.twitter.com/rkwz1l72YE — Riley Auman (@junioraumanac) January 22, 2018
Another part of Smith’s game that will get overlooked is his willingness, and ability, to block downfield. Smith has a mean streak and isn’t afraid to bully or get physical with his matchup. He was a big part of Adrian Killins and Otis Anderson combining for 1,284 yards and 14 touchdowns (as well as quarterback McKenzie Milton going for 613 and 8 scores).
Probably the most wild play I saw from Smith on film on display here against Austin Peay. Times his jump, locates the ball, gets the foot down and maintains possession to the turf. pic.twitter.com/08yDPigKEO — Riley Auman (@junioraumanac) January 22, 2018
Smith’s strong-suit is at the catch point and in his ball skills. He is near-flawless when it comes to tracking the ball in the air, timing his jump to make a play, grabbing it around or from in front of the defensive back, maintaining possession in the air as the defensive back tries to get a hand in the way to break up the play, and keeping the ball to the ground. At 6’1” and 210 pounds, you wouldn’t necessarily expect him to be so strong in this regard, but it will likely be how he makes his money and gets his production early on at the next level. This is where the Chris Godwin comparison is strongest, as Godwin showed at Penn State, and with the Buccaneers in the NFL this year, his ability to play “above the rim” as a 50/50 ball target.
Another 50/50 ball to Tre’Quan Smith and it’s more like an 80/20 ball with him. Reaches around the corner’s head, keeps the ball in his hands despite the corner getting a hand in there and maintaining possession somehow. pic.twitter.com/MHCLHglORq
— Riley Auman (@junioraumanac) January 22, 2018