Is a bit inconsistent extending his arms into blocks when run at and at times seems content to simply drop his shoulder and drive his way toward the football. However, seems to really have good instincts when asked to find the football and is very violent with his arms when asked to shed blocks.
At times will allow defenders to gain leverage under him and can be initially driven off the ball. But, fights hard in order to disengage, uses his length and violent hands well to shed and possesses impressive closing range in pursuit.
Is also very sudden and fluid for his size and has the footwork/balance to cleanly side step defenders who are trying to get into his frame, keep himself clean and close quickly on the ball carrier. Breaks down well in space and uses his long pterodactyl-like arms to wrap on his man.
Is a gifted pass rusher who fires off the snap quickly and has a real savvy about his game getting after the quarterback. Plays from both a three- and four-point stance and does a great job quickly getting into the pad level of opposing linemen in the bull rush and initially driving them into the backfield.
Allows his pad level to rise, which negates some of his strength when trying to finish, but is long enough to shed. Does a nice job using his long arms and violent hands in order to keep himself clean, loves to work the club to the outside, slowly playing it off the snap before accelerating past the tackle.
He also has impressive lateral fluidity in balance working the inside arm over and club off his speed rush in order to cleanly side step blocks and accelerate toward the quarterback. Allows his pad level to get upright again once he gains a step and can be slowed through contact, but the motor seems to run well all the time.
Has the ability to drop his pad level when flattening out around the edge once he gains a step, but doesn't often simply work the speed rush to the corner, likes to change gears and directions in order to reach the QB.
Also, is a bear to block inside as a down defensive tackle, played some three-technique and has the first step to shoot gaps inside, but it's his lateral suddenness and length that allows him to consistently slip blocks inside and accelerate toward the quarterback.
Missed some time in 2010 with a fractured fibula in a non-weight bearing bone in his leg and will need to check out medically.
Impression: A downright dominant defensive lineman with an impressive physical skill set and great length. Showcases impress savvy, fluidity and violence as a pass rusher and should be able to further develop in the run game and mature into a potential Pro Bowl-caliber NFL defensive lineman."
Run Defense: Potentially strong edge run defender as 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker. Stays balanced out of his stance, extends his arms to keep distance, able to shed to get to the ball on either side of the block. Good backfield awareness. Willing to lower his shoulder and stand his ground against pulling guards and moving tight ends. Gets down the line while engaged to be involved on inside runs. Beats reach blocks to get into the backfield.
Explosion: Still more potential than practice as a pure outside pass rusher, but shows glimpses of explosive ability on the edge. Pops his man with big swipes to get past blockers. Brings a punch in his bull rush, sometimes knocking back even strong college tackles.
Strength: Plays stronger than his height/weight numbers indicate. Does not give up room when holding the line. Violent with his hands, able to push aside blockers when rushing the passer or shedding to chase ballcarriers. Still requires time in pro strength and conditioning to gain 15-20 pounds before becoming a three-down player as a 4-3 defensive end.
Tackling: Uses his long, strong arms to wrap up quarterbacks and ballcarriers in the backfield; can chop down hard to force fumbles. Speedy chase tackler who closes well for his size due to that length, hustle, and straight-line speed. Misses tackles when leaving his feet early or short-arming (ducking his head and not fully extending.)
Intangibles: Right fibula fractured against San Diego State in October 2010; fracture was high enough above ankle and below the knee so it could heal on its own without surgery. Returned just three weeks later and played hurt for the rest of the season. Only a redshirt sophomore, which is a positive given his upside, but some might view as negative given his relative lack of experience."
Pursuit: Is aggressive in pursuit, especially when going after quarterbacks. Maintains good balance when offensive linemen are knocking him around. Does have trouble shedding if quick blockers can get into his frame. Is an agile player who moves laterally pretty well. Closes with an explosive burst. Because he can move around pretty well, it's easy to see why some consider Smith a good 3-4 outside linebacker candidate.
Run defense: Has reportedly added a good amount of bulk since the season ended. That's good because at times Smith had trouble holding his ground against the run. Plays with decent leverage against the run, but should learn to drop down and gain better leverage. Doesn't have great lower leg drive to drive blockers back. Is much better on backside pursuit when he can change direction and make plays wide.
Strength: As mentioned above, Smith has been getting stronger since the season ended. That should be good for Smith as power is his biggest weak spot. Smith isn't built like a basketball player, but he has a lean, long frame. Doesn't have the strength at the point of attack to split double teams. Although he was used inside in some situations, Smith relied more on his initial burst than speed to shoot the A-gap.
Tackling: Is more of a drag down tackler than a fundamental wrap-up and drive through tackler. Makes up for his fundamental issues with long arms and speed. Uses his agility to move around and finish plays in space.
Technique: Uses his long arms pretty well to avoid cut blocks. When he can't get deep to the outside rushing the passer, will struggle some to disengage. Needs to learn better hand placement to work a counter move. Leverage is only ordinary, but should get better with experience.
Final word: Smith was a sensation as a freshman, but was slowed as a sophomore due to fractured right leg. That caused him to miss the first three weeks of the 2010 season. On the year, he had 48 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Still, Smith is ready for the NFL. He's so intriguing because few possess his ability to get after the passer. In the 4-3, Missouri used him on the inside and outside with good results. If he develops more power, he should be a terror as a 4-3 defensive end. If not, he might work better as a 3-4 outside linebacker."
Smith was a three star recruit coming out of high school, and is now being talked about as a potential first round draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He has compiled 17 sacks in two seasons at Missouri, and while he is a raw prospect, he has quite a bit of upside.
Smith is one of the more athletic pass rushers entering the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s very quick off of the snap, and has an excellent swim move to penetrate the line of scrimmage. He gets up field in a hurry and does a nice job moving laterally as well as playing in space. He has very long arms, and he does a nice job of using them to separate from the opposition. He has a non-stop motor, playing extremely hard from the first snap of the game, to the very last. He will be a load to handle against slower offensive tackles which lack a great initial punch at the next level.
Despite his 260 pound listing, he doesn’t look the part, and Smith isn’t very strong. He only seems to have his swim move and relies often on pure athleticism and quickness off the edge to get into the backfield. He will most likely make the transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker, and he will need to improve in coverage as he’s just mediocre when dropping back. He will struggle against bullying tackles because of his lack of overall strength. He could use work in breaking down and tackling in the open field, as he tends to look stiff at times, and he will get bullied against the run. He is quite raw, and will need to become a more versatile player at the next level.
It’s quite tough to see where Smith’s value lies as of now. Some have him as a Top 10 prospect, and others as low as the early 3rd round. Personally, I see him as a late first/early second round talent with potential to be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. He could sneak into the Top 20 with an excellent NFL Combine, as well. As of now, I see him slipping to the 45th pick in the NFL Draft to San Francisco, and no later than that. Tampa Bay, Baltimore, New England, New York (Jets), and Pittsburgh could all look to grab him in the late first.
NFL Comparison: Terrell Suggs
Negatives: Needs to expand pass rushing repertoire... No bull rush... Pass rush tendencies will become predictable... Lacks strength and bulk... Needs to work on hand technique... Can be washed out against the run... A bit of a tweener... Would project as an OLB for a 3-4 team... Has not been asked to drop into coverage... Is stiff in the open field... Fractured fibula sidelined him for three games this season."
Weaknesses: Lean for a DE and doesn't have much experience as a LB, to which he's suited. Strong but not big enough to stand in versus OTs. Lacks polish as a pass rusher and must improve his technique and develop a counter move inside. Talented but raw.
Projection: Mid-first round pick as a pass rushing DE/OLB with tremendous potential. Will contribute immediately as a situational pass rusher."
During Smith's two years in Columbia, he put up some superb numbers. As a redshirt freshman in 2010 he tallied 64 tackles, 19.0 tackles-for-loss and 11.5 sacks. As a result he was named to just about everybody's First-Team Freshman All-American squad and won the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award. In 2010 Smith was facing more double teams, but he still managed to tally 48 tackles, 10.0 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks in just ten games. This time Smith earned some more postseason accolades, including Big 12 First-Team honors.
Smith certainly has the skills to move up into the first round -- he is quick and strong and is one of those players who will perform well across the board in the pre-draft workouts. Having potential is nice, but Smith has proven that he can get to the quarterback. His youth and lack of experience may not make him an immediate impact player, but he could be a dominating pass rusher sooner than later."
He was electric coming off the edge, using his explosive first step, agility, and long arms to beat offensive linemen and penetrate the line of scrimmage. In addition to his top-notch athleticism Smith plays with a high motor; he’s relentless when getting after the quarterback and when he smells a sack he has the closing speed to get all the way to the quarterback. If he continues to develop physically, improve his bull rush, add a variety of moves, and work on his hand technique the Missouri product could be downright unblockable as a pass rusher.
Smith also proved to be productive as a run stopper, making an impressive 64 tackles as a freshman including 7.5 for a loss against the run, which is why his rookie campaign was so special. The Tiger is blessed with great length at 6’5”, prototypical for a defensive end. However, at 255 pounds he will need to add some bulk if he is to fit the mold of an NFL trench man, although some believe he may be athletic enough to make the move to outside linebacker in a three-four scheme where he could be a force coming off the edge. Smith will be draft eligible following the 2009 season and while he figures to return for the 2011 season at the very least, depending on how quickly he progresses in all aspects of his game the Missouri native could be temped by the NFL riches."
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