Welcome to Volume VII of “The Draft Spies”! In this latest edition, we will spy on standout sleeper Ihmir Smith-Marsette. We will discuss the player in detail and discover why he is a great fit for the Bills. The team has met with the player, thus there is some level of interest. There are certain aspects of this player’s repertoire that make him an ideal prospect for the Buffalo Bills.
SPY 1: WHO is the prospect?
Ihmir Smith-Marsette was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He was a letterman in two sports at Weequahic High School, football and track. Smith-Marsette was very productive his senior year (2016), recording 38 receptions, 773 yards, and 13 touchdowns as well as 43 tackles, six pass breakups, and three interceptions as a Wide Receiver/Cornerback. According to 247 Sports, he was a three-star recruit and received offers from Boston College, Iowa, Minnesota, Rutgers, and Temple. He ultimately committed to Coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes.
SPY 2: WHERE did he come from?
Smith-Marsette converted to WR full-time at Iowa, contributing both on offense and special teams. In 43 games as a Hawkeye, Smith-Marsette recorded 110 receptions, 1,615 yards, and 14 receiving touchdowns as well as 34 carries, 274 yards, and four rushing touchdowns. He also made an impact as a kick returner, racking up 1,520 yards and two scores on 53 attempts. While his stats may seem underwhelming, they do not do justice to his impact on the field. Smith-Marsette was well-decorated during his time in the Big Ten:
- 2017: Honorable Mention Big Ten All-Freshman honors
- 2018: Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year, First-Team All-Conference Return Specialist (media), Second-Team All-Conference (coaches), Honorable Mention All-Conference Wide Receiver, Second-Team All-Conference All-Purpose
- 2019: Honorable Mention All-Big Ten
- 2020: Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Wide Receiver and Return Specialist
However, his time in Iowa was not all positive as he was arrested for driving while intoxicated in November 2020, resulting in a one-game suspension. According to Coach Ferentz, “he [Ihmir] was apologetic and disappointed in himself” (per Zach Koons of The Spun). All indications are that this was a one-time incident.
SPY 3: WHAT are his attributes?
The name of the game with Smith-Marsette is speed. He is an exceptional downfield runner who can run laps around defenders up and down the field. (Which, given his track background, is unsurprising.) With that said, Smith-Marsette (6’1”, 175 lbs) is on the lean side and, therefore, struggles to get off press coverage consistently. (This also limits his effectiveness as a run blocker.) Despite his physical limitations, Smith-Marsette can be an effective playmaker in the right offensive system. According to Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network, “[he] should find success in a vertical passing offense at the next level”. (Sound familiar?)
Pursuit Failure Caused Rate (PFCR)
The PFCR is a statistical metric that determines how good a player is at causing over-pursuit, creating broken tackles/stiff-arms, and accruing yards after contact. PFCR is based on a formulaic approach including all components mentioned above. It is scored on a 0-100 scale and is given a “U” if it is trending up and a “D” if it is trending down.
Smith-Marsette PFCR Score: 79 U
Whether on offense or special teams, Smith-Marsette is hard to catch in open space. Give him an inch and he’ll take a yard. Give him more than a yard and that’s the defender’s funeral. This is what makes him so effective on short (i.e. receiver screens/jet sweeps) and long-yardage plays (i.e. go routes).
SPY 4: WHEN should he be drafted?
Though Smith-Marsette is, without a doubt a sleeper, Pro Football Network placed a third-round grade on him (89th overall ranked prospect) in their latest prospect big board. Buffalo Fanatics places a 4th round grade on Smith-Marsette due to the depth of the strong 2021 WR class and some of the weak points of Smith-Marsette’s game. His lack of production in 2020 shows some minor concern but this may partially be attributed to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Inconsistency has been a major factor that will have to address. For competitive teams in winning windows, Smith-Marsette may be a short-term risk but long-term development goldmine.
SPY 5: WHY Smith-Marsette is a fit for Buffalo’s offense?
Smith Marsette is an explosive Wide Receiver that can use raw speed and quick acceleration to burn his way down the field. His best fit is in a vertical, pass-heavy offense. That is the exact system Brain Daboll employed in Buffalo last year. He can be the burner threat from the slot, boundary, or even on special teams as a return man. Given his usage at Iowa (i.e. deep-threat, gadget player, and return man), Smith-Marsette could easily replace John Brown, Isaiah McKenzie, and Andre Roberts. As we all know, getting three roles for the price of one mid-round pick is a bargain that’s hard to ignore. Maturation will be key for Smith-Marsette if drafted by the Buffalo Bills. As it happens, the Bills have, arguably, the best receiving core in the league and are in a prime position to take a flier and develop a project wideout like Smith-Marsette.
DARKHORSE BONUS POINT: Prospect Fun Fact
- Believe it or not, neither football nor track was Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s first sport. According to Jeff Johnson of The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), Smith-Marsette played water polo in eighth and ninth grade at St. Benedict’s Prep before transferring to Weequahic High School. His former coach noted that, if he stuck with it, Smith-Marsette could have been an All-American in the sport. However, Weequahic didn’t have a pool so he decided to try football. He credits his swimming days for improving his lung capacity which, in turn, enhanced his running abilities on the track and field.
In closing, please follow The Buffalo Fanatics on all platforms, trust the process and go Bills.
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