The Minnesota Vikings have selected Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft (No. 157 overall). He is the first receiver the Vikings have added in this year's draft and their fifth offensive player out of nine picks so far.
Smith-Marsette is a sleeper of a receiver prospect who posted nearly 1,900 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns during his four-year career with the Hawkeyes. He has excellent speed, having run a 4.47 at Iowa's pro day, which allows him to stack defensive backs as a deep threat. Smith-Marsette also has good size at 6'1".
The numbers that really stand out in his athletic profile are the ten-yard split on his 40 — which indicates great acceleration off the line of scrimmage — and his explosiveness in the vertical and broad jumps. He has the juice to get up and make plays at the catch point.
Smith-Marsette will compete with Chad Beebe and Bisi Johnson for the Vikings' third receiver job in 2021. He needs to refine his game as a route-runner, but there are some intriguing tools here.
Perhaps just as importantly, Smith-Marsette gives the Vikings another player who can compete for their kick returner job. They drafted Iowa State RB and KR Kene Nwangwu in the fourth round, but Smith-Marsette actually has a better career average on kick returns (28.7 vs. 26.8) and more touchdowns (2 vs. 1).
If either one can emerge as a difference-maker in the return game — they'll also have to beat out Ameer Abdullah and K.J. Osborn — that would be a big boost for the Vikings' special teams.
The Smith-Marsette pick will make the crossover of people who are Hawkeyes and Vikings fans happy, and he has the potential to become a solid receiver in the NFL. However, it's worth noting that Minnesota's Day 3 receiver history under Rick Spielman, outside of Stefon Diggs, has been pretty ugly.
Here's Dane Brugler's scouting report on the Vikings' new receiver:
A four-year starter at Iowa, Smith-Marsette was the Z receiver in offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s pro-style scheme, lining up inside and outside. He led the Hawkeyes in receiving the last two seasons and scored 20 touchdowns in his career three different ways (14 receiving, four rushing, two kick return). Though he is mostly a linear route runner, Smith-Marsette has outstanding straight-line wheels that the defense must account for every time he takes a snap. His ball skills have room for improvement, especially when he is asked to work into traffic or out-muscle defenders. Overall, Smith-Marsette needs to develop better consistency as a finisher and separator, but he has dynamic speed with or without the ball. He projects as a back-end-of-the-roster receiver with home run ability and kick return value.
NFL analyst Brett Kollmann is a fan of the pick.
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