Southern California Junior
40: 5.00 (estimated)
Very athletic blocker that has good, quick feet and nice lateral quickness. He can mirror speed on the edge. Is very quick to get on the second level and is able to pull outside, and runs smoothly. Shows ability and potential as a cut blocker. Plays with good pop off the snap and has quick hands as a run blocker. Can get position and lock on. Flashes some potential as a drive blocker, but takes good angles and create running lanes. Does a good job to create lanes on the backside pursuit for the cutback lane. Does a nice job initiating contact on the edge in pass protection and can lock on there. Plays with mean streak and finishes his blocks, not afraid to drive defender into the ground.
Has a thin, skinny build and needs to add bulk. Is a waist bender that needs to polish up his technique. Will get caught overextending at times on the edge trying to deliver his punch. Has trouble playing with base against a power rusher and gets pushed back on the edge. Opens up his stance too early at times. Can be late reacting off the snap. Takes a false step at times as a run blocker and blocks too high at others, limiting how effective he can be at getting push as a straight-ahead run blocker. Misses assignments when it comes to blocking on the second level, cut blocking, or picking up the blitz at times.
Smith was listed at 285 pounds for the Trojans, but apparently has bulked up since declaring to the 300-pound range. If that is the case come the Combine, then it greatly enhances his NFL potential. He's got excellent athleticism, the type that teams look for, but he's a bit raw and probably could have used another year of development in college before turning pro. Smith was a two-year starter at right tackle for USC in their zone blocking scheme, starting 24 games in that span. He missed 1 game each the past two seasons, with a sprained ankle this past year, and was suspended for USC's bowl game as a sophomore due to being academically ineligible. He was a backup behind Charles Brown at left tackle as a freshman, playing in 10 games as a reserve. He also blocked two kicks as a junior.
Smith has the athleticism to play left tackle, but I'm not sure what is the best method to develop him. I think the best situation for him is going to a zone-heavy team and starting off on the right side and eventually moving to the left when he proves he's ready. But throwing him to the wolves as a left tackle is a big question mark and potentially disastrous if he's asked to play right away. Sitting him for at least a year probably is the best method, especially if it's a man blocking team that envisions him as their left tackle of the future. He's a potential boom/bust prospect in that way. He's very athletic, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if 5 years from now he's considered one of the elite left tackles in the game on par with a guy like Walter Jones. But it also wouldn't surprise me if he's also struggling to hang onto a starting job. I wouldn't expect him to be a complete bust in the pros because of how capable a run blocker he is in a zone blocking scheme, but the question will be how good a pass protector he'll be. He has the potential to be very good in that realm because he has top-level athleticism to match up with top-level speed rushers, but going to a man blocking scheme I think is going to take some significant transition, and it would not surprise me at all to see Smith struggle early in his career. Probably the best comparison is someone like Ryan Clady because they both came into the league as very good fits in the Alex Gibbs-style blocking scheme. Smith because of having less experience playing the left side in college is probably more raw, and less likely to take the league by storm like Clady did as a rookie. But he's probably the superior athlete.
Like Baker, Smith will be coming from USC's almost pure zone blocking scheme to a Falcon blocking scheme that is much more man heavy. Smith has superior tools than Baker because he has longer arms and is a much more effective run blocker. But he's probably not going to be a significantly better straight-ahead run blocker like the Falcons blocking scheme prefers, at least not initially. As he gets more comfortable with his new-found weight, adds more strength, and refines his footwork and technique, he should get better. If he was drafted by the Falcons, I think he could push Baker for his job, but would be surprised if he won it outright. With Baker having two years left on his contract, they could afford to be patient with Smith and his development, giving him at least one year on the bench before he could be asked. Smith isn't a good candidate to replace Clabo at right tackle because of the scheme differences and his inability to probably be able to get any push against bigger left ends. At least not unless the Falcons adopt a pure zone blocking scheme like they had under Mora, which isn't going to happen anytime soon.
Smith has first round potential, but because of how raw he is and the potential development he may need, he's probably a bit of a reach if he goes in the Top 20 picks. Instead, a late first round or early second round is ideal for him as far as value is concerned, because he's not an immediate slam dunk.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Pass Blocking: 3.0
Run Blocking: 3.5
Mean Streak: 4.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.