As the NFL slowly continues to modernize, versatile threats like Texas A&M WR and 2022 NFL Draft prospect Ainias Smith are becoming increasingly valuable. How does Smith project to the NFL, and will his scouting report help him earn an early-round slot in this year’s NFL Draft?
Ainias Smith NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide receiver
- School: Texas A&M
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 190 pounds
Ainias Smith Scouting Report
Wide receivers don’t come in one set mold. There are many different styles at the position. Some players overlap between different styles, while others contrast their counterparts drastically. This can make ranking wide receivers a difficult exercise each draft cycle, but focusing on how much each player can create for an offense helps cultivate a common ground.
When talking about the 2022 receivers with the most creative capacity, Texas A&M’s Smith simply has to be brought up. His stats don’t necessarily pop off the screen, but his traits do. The Aggies’ weapon has an enticing skill set, and it could end up helping him climb up the boards when draft season rolls around.
Ainias Smith’s athletic profile
There’s a lot to like with Smith’s game, and much of it stems from his athletic profile. Although Smith only stands at around 5’10”, 190 pounds, he makes up for his lacking size with elite athleticism. He’s an outstanding lateral athlete who can levy quick cuts in rapid succession. Additionally, Smith has elite change-of-direction ability. He’s an amped-up player who’s constantly bursting with potential energy.
Expanding on Smith’s athleticism, the Texas A&M WR has field-stretching speed and explosiveness in open space. He also brings high-end explosiveness with his cuts, and he can get low while maintaining his balance as a runner. To that end, Smith also has solid contact balance for his frame and can withstand hits at times. Going further, the Texas A&M product possesses quick twitch and jitter as a runner, and his loose hips enable him to manipulate angles.
With his high-level elusiveness and agility, Smith is a great run-after-catch threat. But his athletic traits also translate further into the receiving process. As a route runner, he can seamlessly transition and divert course with his change-of-direction prowess. And at the catch point, he can use his vertical athleticism to rise and high point passes.
To summate what’s already been said, few players at the collegiate level are as dynamic as Smith. He has a supremely energetic playstyle, mixing explosiveness, agility, and twitch into a dangerous concoction.
Execution beyond the physical traits
The biggest selling point with Smith is no doubt his elite athleticism and RAC upside. However, he brings some appeal beyond that as well. As a route runner, Smith’s brand of athleticism translates extremely well. His feet can move incredibly quickly into breaks. He can hold defenders at the stem and explode in an instant, gaining separation with ease.
Going further, Smith can employ deception with his eyes and his effervescent twitch. The Texas A&M WR knows how to use his eyes to bait defenders into playing the ball ahead of breaks. And once he has the ball, he has impressive field vision and awareness in space.
Route running is Smith’s strongest executional trait, but the Aggies’ product also shows upside elsewhere. He flashes solid body control and focus at the catch point, using that control to corral slightly inaccurate passes. He’s shown he can be proactive in adjusting to passes and working to the ball, although his wingspan isn’t as large as other receivers. To that end, Smith does well tracking the ball downfield, and he actively guides it in with his hands.
Among other things, Smith is incredibly versatile. As a former running back, Smith can line up in the backfield, in the slot, or out wide. He’s also dangerous as a motion man. Moreover, Smith brings an active, combative disposition as a blocker — further compounding his appeal.
Areas for improvement
As exciting as Smith is, he isn’t perfect. Most notably, Smith is on the smaller side, and his frame isn’t incredibly dense. He also has a shorter wingspan, which doesn’t do him any favors when he needs to extend for passes.
On a related note, Smith’s size also inhibits his ability to secure passes through contact at the catch point. Smith’s style dictates that he doesn’t see many contested targets. But when he does, he’s less consistent.
Moving onward, Smith doesn’t always run through his routes at full capacity — although he doesn’t always need to. He could use a bit more physicality in measured quantities at his route stems, and he can also leverage his routes better at times down the field. There are times when Smith can adjust his stride lengths to gain speed more quickly. Furthermore, he runs with his pads a bit too upright at times.
Rounding out Smith’s areas for improvement, the Texas A&M WR isn’t always able to brush off arm tackles sweeping the legs. His size can also impact his ability to sustain blocks and hold off blitzers when lined up in the backfield. As a catcher, Smith is occasionally prone to focus drops. And as a runner, his vision in the backfield isn’t as strong as his full-field vision in space.
Ainias Smith’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Because there’s some role ambiguity that comes with Smith, the media may be higher on him than the NFL, at least until athletic testing numbers come in. But with the NFL on the path to modernization, the golden age for a player like Smith is approaching.
Smith is a hyper-versatile offensive weapon with rare explosiveness, twitch, and lateral agility. He may be listed as a WR, but it doesn’t matter where he lines up. Just get him the ball in space, and watch him thrive.
Smith may not be a complete three-level threat because of his size. However, he’s shown that he can at least convert at the catch point with solid body control. And his sharp route running, combined with his high-level RAC ability, already makes him a force to be reckoned with.
Smith is a high-upside Day 2 player. His production might rule out a Round 1 slot, but it’s not impossible — especially if he tests as expected.
Ainias Smith’s Player Profile
Smith already projects as one of the most versatile players in the 2022 NFL Draft. So it won’t surprise you that this man did literally everything as a high school football player. At Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, Smith played WR, CB, FS, and ran the ball as well.
Over his three-year varsity career, Smith ran the ball 161 times for 1,232 yards and 5 touchdowns. Additionally, in his senior season, he caught 55 passes for 717 yards and 10 TDs while also amassing 3 interceptions and 15 pass deflections on the defensive side of the ball.
In spite of his production and his athletic testing — which included a 4.51 40-yard dash time and a 36.4-inch vertical — Smith was only a three-star recruit in the 2019 class.
Ranked as the 76th-best athlete in the nation, Smith earned offers from Georgia, SMU, and Utah, among others. Yet, he ultimately decided to join the Texas A&M Aggies.
Smith’s career at Texas A&M
Smith hit the field early in his Texas A&M career. In fact, he earned snaps at wide receiver as a true freshman. In his first season, Smith gained valuable experience, earning 248 yards and 3 touchdowns on 22 receptions. He also provided value as the team’s primary returner, posting a strong 11.9-yard average on punt returns.
Coming back as a true sophomore in 2020, Smith made the switch from wide receiver to running back, supplementing a backfield that already included Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane. Smith’s usage in both the passing and running phases increased that year. Overall, he logged 43 catches for 564 yards and 6 touchdowns, as well as 49 carries for 293 yards and 4 additional scores.
Thus far in 2021, Smith has been utilized more as a receiver again. In truth, however, one positional designation doesn’t fit him. He moves all around the field and can impact a defense from just about anywhere. Through nine games, Smith has 35 catches for 391 yards and 6 touchdowns, already tying his career-high in the latter department. He also has a punt return score, further strengthening his draft résumé.
Ainias Smith’s 2022 NFL Draft ascension
As mentioned earlier, Smith’s production doesn’t stand out among his counterparts. Analytically, he may leave some boxes unchecked. But film is especially important for the evaluation of a player like Smith because it elucidates his upside. Smith moves at a different pace than most defenders, and his combination of burst, speed, agility, and twitch is truly uncommon.
Lacking elite size, Smith is never going to be a full-time X-receiver — but that’s not his style. Smith’s style not only requires versatility but encourages it. The Texas A&M WR is incredibly dangerous in space — no matter how he gets there. And as a route runner, he’s proactive in creating separation for himself.
Smith is one of those players you don’t overthink and ask, “Where does he play?” He’s a chess piece, meant to keep the defense on its toes and leave them grasping for air whenever he gets the ball.