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A Closer Look: WR Rodney Smith (Florida State)

Posted May 4, 2013

You don’t have to look hard to notice Rodney Smith on the field. The 6-4, 225-pound receiver possesses an imposing frame and an 84-inch wingspan, and he has the movement skills of a player far smaller in size. Essentially, he’s a big man with little man movement skills.

That combination of traits along with the fact that he was a teammate of current Vikings QB Christian Ponder at Florida State and is now participating in the Vikings rookie mini-camp makes him a great candidate for our “A Closer Look” series.

Smith was a coveted high school recruit despite playing receiver for a notoriously run-first program in the Miami, Florida area. He landed at Florida State and didn’t make much of an impact as a freshman, playing mostly on special teams and eventually working his way into the rotation at receiver. His sophomore season was a little better and he displayed versatility by starting at 3 different WR positions. Smith hit full stride as a junior when he led the Seminoles in receiving yards. He started as a senior, too, catching 38 passes for 524 yards and 3 TDs.

While his college production won’t blow you away, he did prove to be a reliable playmaker on some solid Florida State teams that featured plenty of NFL-caliber talent – there’s only one football to spread around to all those playmakers.

The debate about how much his production means set aside, Smith’s frame combined with his athleticism is what’s intriguing. You don’t often see a 6-4, 225-pound receiver run a 4.47 time in the 40-yard dash, and it’s also impressive to note that NFL.com categorized him as a “top performer” in the vertical leap (34.5 inches) and the 20-yard shuttle (4.07). Smith has the reputation as a willing and effective blocker in the run game, a valued trait by a Vikings team that features one of the best running games and the best RB in the NFL.

Through 3 practices this weekend, Smith has looked good-not-great. Catching passes from unfamiliar QBs while executing playcalls in a new offense does not make it easy for a receiver to look smooth, so it’s no indictment on Smith that he hasn’t blown anyone away so far. The point remains that he’s an intriguing name to watch because of his size/athleticism combo and his familiarity with Ponder and several other former Florida State players on the Vikings roster and participating in this mini-camp.

Here are Smith’s strengths and weaknesses from NFL.com’s scouting report on him…

Strengths: Tall vertical threat who is a surprisingly smooth runner in his routes. Displays excellent agility for his size. Can challenges defenses vertically from the slot or down the sideline. Good concentration to use his height and vertical on jump balls, also to track passes over his shoulder down the sideline. Uses his length, quickness, and attitude to attack blocking targets in the run game and clear the way for fellow receivers downfield.

Weaknesses: Relatively lean, and must prove he can fight veteran pro corners during the route and in jump ball situations. Height gives corners a big target to hit in press situations. Must show he can sink his hips to run tight routes and separate downfield. Does not get many opportunities to catch passes in Florida State’s offense, will need to show strong hands when regularly targeted. Adjusting to low throws might be an issue at his height.

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