Donovan Smith’s Draft Profile | Houston, QB Scouting Report

    With his scouting report, could Houston QB Donovan Smith be the first-round sleeper that was promised in the 2025 NFL Draft? Let's take a look.

    The door is all the way open for an under-the-radar quarterback prospect to emerge in the 2025 NFL Draft cycle, and with his scouting report, Houston’s Donovan Smith could be that player. What does Smith bring to the table, and how high can he rise with a good season?

    Donovan Smith’s Draft Profile and Measurements

    • Height: 6’5″
    • Weight: 235 pounds
    • Position: Quarterback
    • School: Houston
    • Current year: Redshirt senior

    The 2025 NFL Draft class doesn’t have the level of first-round certainty at QB that we had with Caleb Williams and Drake Maye heading into the 2024 NFL Draft cycle. However, there is potential energy for players to rise, and Smith is one of the top candidates.

    Smith was a three-star recruit in high school who grew up in Las Vegas and went to Bishop Gorman High School. As a senior, he transferred to Frenship High in Wolfforth, Texas, and played well enough to earn the attention of several Power Five programs, including Texas Tech.

    Smith joined up with the Red Raiders — where his father DeAndre was the running backs coach, before making the leap to the NFL — and after redshirting as a freshman due to a shoulder injury, he started four games in 2021, throwing for 1,182 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions.

    In 2022, Smith was Texas Tech’s top backup behind Tyler Shough, and when Shough got injured, Smith stepped in. But inconsistent play led the Red Raiders to trade off the starting job between Smith and Behren Morton, and in December of 2022, Smith entered the transfer portal, eventually winding up at Houston.

    Texas Tech helped introduce Smith to the Big 12, but the Houston Cougars gave him the fresh start he needed. As a full-time starter in 2023, he completed 64.5% of his attempts for 2,801 yards, 22 TDs, and 13 INTs, and he compiled 428 yards and six scores on the ground.

    The raw stats don’t always do justice to the growth that Smith showed in his first season as a full-time starter. For NFL evaluators looking for talent on the rise in the 2025 NFL Draft cycle, Smith’s play no doubt generates mass intrigue.

    Smith’s Scouting Report

    Strengths

    • Superlative size threat at QB with great functional athleticism, agility, and play strength.
    • Surprisingly fluid and sudden for his size, and remains a passing threat off-script.
    • Generates ample velocity in the short and intermediate ranges, and can drive throws.
    • Has the requisite arm elasticity to effectively layer pace and touch on deep passes.
    • Able to use sidearm and obtuse throwing angles to sustain velocity off-platform.
    • Has shown he can distribute in the quick game with efficient feet and level shoulders.
    • Flashes solid middle-field, short-range anticipation on crossing and mesh patterns.
    • Can freeze safeties with his eyes, then capitalize with precise situational vertical throws.
    • Can lead corner and out routes with pace and precision, throwing to WR leverage.
    • Routinely shows an understanding of situational precision and has the arm to adhere.
    • Has the ability to execute second window throws while off-platform under pressure.
    • Can progress and land on his checkdown, understanding how his eyes can create space.
    • Can slide and climb the pocket through narrow lanes while also keeping his eyes upfield.
    • Flashes good dropback footwork and depth discipline, anticipating breaks in rhythm.
    • Able to sense looping edge pressure, roll his hips, and flush out into the flats.

    Weaknesses

    • Arm strength, while very good, may fall short of the elite mark.
    • Tall frame brings modest hip stiffness, which impacts ability to torque hips rolling left.
    • Doesn’t quite have elite speed, burst, or short-area malleability as a creator.
    • Has room to become more autonomous at recognizing blitz threats pre-snap.
    • Middle-of-field anticipation can be inconsistent, inducing hesitation and costing time.
    • Needs to find more confidence testing tight and fleeting windows with his arm.
    • Stimulus when working from read-to-read on progressions can be quicker at times.
    • Sometimes zeroes in on initial reads and fails to recognize open backside concepts.
    • On occasion, fails to recognize linebackers hovering underneath in-breaking routes.
    • Can be late to detect interior pressure, and at times responds by fading back.
    • Frantic feet at the top of his drop can lead to imprecision on short RAC throws.
    • At times holds the ball too long when climbing, putting himself in dangerous situations.
    • Sometimes drifts backward on release, tipping his front shoulder and trajectory down.
    • Will turn 24 years old in October of his rookie season.

    Current Draft Projection and Summary

    Heading into the 2025 NFL Draft cycle, Smith grades out as a top-75 prospect and a worthy early-round candidate at the quarterback position. With more sustained growth in 2024, he can work his way into the first-round conversation.

    In fact, right now, if I had to bet on another QB to join Carson Beck in Round 1, that player would be Smith.

    Smith passes the eye test with his tools. He’s a great athlete at 6’5″, 235 pounds, with the necessary explosiveness, fluidity, and play strength to create off-script. He also has near-elite composite arm talent, with the strength and elasticity to test defenses all through reps.

    With his arm talent, Smith can hit quick lasers on anticipation plays, hit crossing WRs on the move with his off-platform skills, or beautifully layer pace and touch on vertical concepts — and he’s a danger from almost any platform with his angle freedom and natural feel.

    There’s still room for Smith to refine his game in a few areas. He’s not an adept intermediate passer yet, as hesitation can cause him to pass up opportunities. Additionally, he can be late to detect interior pressure, and he should cut down on unnecessary risks.

    Nevertheless, Smith is a high-end physical talent who also quietly has a number of strong operational traits. He’s a stellar pocket navigator and capable short-range distributor, is relatively mechanically sound and malleable as a passer, and his flashes of anticipation are inspiring.

    As it stands, Smith is a developmental starter QB prospect worthy of consideration in the early rounds. And if he can keep growing as a processor in 2024, he can break into the Round 1 ranks.

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