FanPost

Ihmir Smith Marsette draft scouting report

Trainwreck

I'm not surprised that the Rams have shown interest in Iowa WR, Ihmir Smith Marsette, because just three years ago, the Rams were interested in a very similar WR, who is my NFL comp for ISM.

I don't know how high the Rams are considering targeting Smith Marsette, but if they are looking at him as a potential 2nd round pick, I think this would be a big mistake. I don't like ISM and I don't grade him as an early round prospect.

My comp for him is Dante Pettis, who the Rams met with in March of 2018. That month, Sammy Watkins signed with the Chiefs in free agency. Pettis had an ankle injury and wasn't able to do testing drills prior to the draft, but he said that when healthy he could run a 4.37 second 40 time. In early April, the Rams traded with the Patriots for Brandin Cooks, filling the roster need for a speedy WR. With Cooks gone, the Rams now lack speed on the outside. If the Rams had actually drafted Pettis, he would not have been able to fill the shoes of Cooks for the Rams.

The Niners traded up in the 2nd round to draft Pettis 44th overall. He had 27 catches for 467 yards and 5 TDs as a rookie. Things progressively went downhill after that. By 2020, he was out of the rotation and didn't have a single reception for the Niners. The final straw was when he fumbled on a KR. In the middle of the 2020 season, after not being able to get any trade offers for him, the Niners waived Pettis and he was claimed off of waivers by the NYG. Due to the trade up, Pettis effectively busted 2 draft picks for SF.

Background

6 foot 1/2 inch tall, 181 pounds. Pettis was exactly the same height and 186 pounds.

4.43 sec (40 time), 37'' vert, 10'4'' broad, 4.2 sec (shuttle), 7.00 sec (3 cone). Reportedly either 1.44 or 1.47 sec 10 yard split.

Turns 22 years old in August. True Senior. From Newark, NJ. 3 star recruit as a cornerback. Switched positions to WR. Ran hurdles in track in HS.

2020 (7 games): 25 catches, 345 yards, 4 TDs

2019 (13 games): 44 catches, 722 yards, 5 TDs

2018 (12 games): 23 catches, 361 yards, 3 TDs

34 career rushing attempts for 274 yards and 4 TDs.

57 career KR for 1,520 yards and 2 TDs. Average of 26.7 yards per kick return.

High (left) ankle sprain in December of 2020 against Wisconsin when he did front flip into end zone on TD catch. Missed bowl game in 2017 due to soft tissue injury.

ESPN 79th overall, 13th WR (3rd round)

CBSSports 104th overall (late 3rd to 4th round)

PFF 297th overall (UDFA)

PFN (Tony Pauline) 89th overall, 13th WR (3rd round) (The Rams have the 88th draft slot.)

Sports Illustrated, 14th slot WR (7th round)

The Draft Network, 127th overall, 21st WR (4th round)

Drafttek 124th overall, 15th outside WR (4th round)

Lance Zierlein 5.85 draft grade (backup and special teams player). LZ says ISM is a potential 5th WR and kick returner. You could just read his profile to save time, because about everything I have to say both good and bad about ISM is consistent with what LZ has to say.

There were multiple WRs with similar grades from LZ who went undrafted last year. Two examples of drafted WRs with comparable grades were Quez Watkins (5.95) who was a 6th round pick and Darnell Mooney (5.80) who was a 5th round pick.

NFL Draft Diamonds suggests that he's a draft steal who is worth a 2nd round pick. PFN Mock draft 4th round (pick 125). CBSSports, Chris Trapasso, mock draft 4th round (pick 110).

Normally when I do these profiles, I read up on the player prior to watching his games. I did the opposite with Smith Marsette, watching his games before I watched his interviews and reading articles about him. I got a strong impression from his tape that he was a difficult personality (you can tell from how he plays the game), and what I read later about his football character didn't in any way surprise me. It was consistent with what I was expecting.

Over the course of his college career at Iowa, there have been questions about his maturity, focus, work ethic and leadership. In the spring of 2018, Kirk Ferentz tongue in cheek said that ISM needed to put down his phone, focus on football and be more serious about his preparation.

In 2019, for the 2nd straight year, Ferentz said the team had problems with ISM's level of preparation in the offseason, but said that his work ethic had improved by the fall camp. He described the situation as follows:

"I'm not using the word 'dog-house', but I think we all felt there were some things he could improve upon coming out of last season.... I don't want to call him a trainwreck in January, but there were a lot of loose edges and details. Really trivial stuff, but it's important.... I think we are seeing a different guy right now. He's really being mindful and paying attention to details."

Kelton Copeland, Iowa's WR coach, said at the time, "Ihmir is an outstanding young man.... Sometimes you have to dial it down a little bit in certain cases and sometimes he would let his outspokeness get the better of him or let his personality get a little bit out of hand instead of just being a good teammate, be accountable and do your job. Sometimes he had a little hiccups with that."

Smith Marsette was not one of the 21 players named to Iowa's leadership council in 2020. In November of 2020, he was arrested for DUI. Was driving 74 mph in a 30 mph zone. He was suspended for a game.

Strengths

Speed causes problems for defense, can stretch the defense wide on jet sweeps and crossing routes and also vertically on deep routes. Good acceleration with ball in his hands.

Mostly played outside WR, but sometimes in the slot.

Gets open on double moves by smoking CBs with head fakes at top of route. Says he likes running post corner routes.

Can sink hips and make small radius turns. Flashes potential to run complex, NFL type routes.

Able to catch ball away from body and snatch it in air, then hold on after hit. Had acrobatic catch while falling backwards.

Played in pro style offense. Didn't have great QB talent. Could have had more yards, but QBs missed him with some throws. Played in conservative, TE and run oriented offense that doesn't inflate WR stats.

Weaknesses

Lacks play strength. Thin build. Overmatched physically even at college level. Jet sweep, can't break tackle, stiff arm too weak and not enough strength as runner, brought down easily. Struggles to hold up as blocker.

Terrible against jams. Both press at LOS or from catch man technique, he seems to always at least get delayed and sometimes gets completely smothered. Poor hand usage, unable to defeat the jam quickly and get clean releases. With game on the line, on both 3rd and 4th down, unable to get open, hindered by contact.

Doesn't create enough separation. Gets blanketed on straight go routes, not able to create space for the throw. Unable to separate in red zone to get open in end zone.

Shaky hands. Some ugly dropped passes. Unable to adjust to off target throws, struggles to come up with balls wide, low or high of the target. Late reacting and getting his hands up some plays. Lacks feel for proper angle to attack ball and get to catch point. Nearly dropped pass right in his bread basket. Double catches easy pass on crossing route.

Details lacking in route running. Lethargic coming off the line. Poor whip routes, doesn't sell the inside route before breaking back outside. Doesn't sell fake before screens, helping the CB to read and drive on it early. Not precise, rounding off some breaks. Doesn't work back to the QB at precise angle. Slow getting into route, excessive movements and lack of urgency to maintain proper timing. On short 3rd down, didn't run a spot route past the first down marker. Wasted time trying to juke zone defender on dig route, against a CB who was never going to follow him anyway. Fakes at top of the route are transparent and not overly deceptive.

Poor effort and tempo when the play is not designed for him. Seems to care only about the plays where he's one of the primary reads. His release on runs or passes away from him are different compared to releases when he's more involved. From RB position, lazy carrying out the play fake from the QB.

Lazy, deficient effort on many run or screen blocks. Just jogs sometimes, instead of hustling to his block. Too small and underpowered as blocker. Slot WR, RB bounces run from middle to his direction, pathetic effort by WR allows the safety to be completely unblocked and tackle the RB. Doesn't battle to sustain as downfield blocker. Didn't find the proper blocking angle on run, then gave zero effort to cut off the CB in run support. Gets hand outside the frame of CB on block.

Below average ball security. As KR, swings the ball away from his body, then tries to tuck it late when he anticipates contact, but then swings it loosely again if he thinks he's by the defender. Not consistent with which arm he puts the ball in, sometimes carrying it with his outside arm and other times carrying it with his inside arm. Fumbled the ball when he swung it loosely and hit it off of a blocker's helmet. Swung ball away from body and had it punched out by LB after catch.

More of a dodger and weaver style as KR instead of attacking and pressing the hole with speed. Not elusive or strong enough to beat the first defender on some returns. Weak stiff arm and dumped at 15. Doesn't shake tackle and dumped at 14. Needs blocking, because he's not truly elite creating on his own.

Makes poor decisions and reads as KR. Sun was in eyes and lets ball bounce inside the 10, as the ball is about to go into the EZ, instead of letting it go, he scoops it up at the 1 yard line as he's going backwards. He dodges the first defender at the 3 yard line. Misjudged multiple other kicks, fielding the ball backing up instead of being able to run forward immediately on the catch.

Going up the sideline on KR, if he cuts it inside, it very likely is a TD. He tries to hurdle a defender instead. Should cut inside on different KR, but tries to go outside the block near the sideline instead.

Almost had a TD pass on trick play, but overthrew wide open receiver and didn't have any touch on pass.

Questionable football character. Pouts and complains after plays. Poor body language. Showed up his QB, not happy when pass was off target. Flipping into the end zone and getting injured was selfish and immature. Another score, he slowed down before stepping into the end zone to showboat taunt a defender for no reason on a play where he didn't do anything special.

Pro Comparison and Grade

Dante Pettis (2nd round 2018, Niners, Washington.) Late round grade.

Teams can find similar WRs to ISM in the late rounds or as UDFAs. One example would be Walt Powell, who was a 6th round pick in 2014. He was 5'11'' tall, 189 pounds, ran 4.44 sec in the 40 at his pro day.

I don't get why some experts love Smith Marsette and why the Rams are interested in this player. He doesn't run routes well to create separation. He can't even get off the LOS sometimes, because he gets jammed up. He doesn't catch the ball well. I think he's even overrated purely as a kick returner. What does he do well? Nothing. He's not even that fast. Cooks ran 4.33 sec at the Combine. Between the camp of evaluators that has ISM as a potential sleeper in the 3rd round and the camp that has him as a late round or UDFA player, I'm siding with the latter.

Even if a team is speculating on his upside potential if he's coached properly, the prospect comes with questionable work ethic and football character issues. Is Smith Marsette really any better than the WRs the Rams brought in last year as UDFAs? There's nothing special about ISM. Every draft there are WRs like this available late. Will Pettis even make the roster for the NYG this season? If the Rams wanted Pettis, they might be able to get him off waivers or try to trade for him using that 2023 seventh round pick they got for Brockers.

If Les Snead does what the Niners did with Pettis and trades up in the 2nd round to draft Smith Marsette, I'm going to go bonkers. In my view, it would be a trainwreck.