Notre Dame Senior
Smart, instinctual run defender that is a consistent and capable tackler. Does a good job breaking down and wrapping up and does a good job making stops in the open field. Shows good burst upfield to defend the run, able to fill running lanes and prevent backs from getting to the edge on the outside runs. Has good closing burst on the ballcarrier and able to deliver a hit. Takes good angles to the ball when he comes upfield. Flashes nice burst off the edge to impact as a blitzer. Has nice ball skills that can undercut the deep route when the pass hangs up. Does a good job keeping things in front of him. Can match up with tight ends in man coverage and be in a position to make a play.
Lacks top-end speed or range, and not particularly explosive player on the field. Takes the occasional bad angle in pursuit. Will tackle a bit high at times, especially against the smaller backs. Doesn't show the hips and burst to really wow you in man coverage.
Smith isn't a spectacular player, but he's a disciplined, smart safety that you can trust at the next level. He is a good run defender and capable in coverage, and rarely makes the mental errors or mistakes. He's just not a guy that is going to be a huge playmaker at the next level. But he has the potential to play either free or strong safety, although he probably projects best for the latter. In a Cover-2 heavy scheme, he'll probably be the best fit. He was a four-year starter that played some linebacker as a sophomore.
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(9/10) at Michigan: 1 target, 0 rec. 0 yds
(11/26) at Stanford: 1 QB hit, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 missed tackle; 1 penalty (pass interference); 2 tgt., 0 rec., 0 yds, 1 PD
(12/29) vs. Florida St: 1 TFL, 1 stuff; 0 tgt., 0 rec., 0 yds
2011: 13 GP/13 GS, 90 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 0.0 sacks, 0 INTs, 10 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR
Smith is a solid starting safety prospect that should be able to come in right away and be an effective NFL starter. He's smart, disciplined and you know isn't going to be a guy that is going to make a bunch of mental errors. The question about his future is how many plays will he make. H'ell make some, but probably not a ton. He'll work best on a team where he plays beside a rangy, ball-hawking safety, sort of similar to the dynamic that Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu have, where Smith serves as the Clark type player. I think Smith can play either safety spot. While he doesn't have the top-level ball skills or range you want in a free safety, but he's smart enough to make the calls in the secondary. His ideal role will be as a run-defending strong safety that can play the deep half of the field, as well as come up and fill against the run because he's comfortable playing in the box. The comparison I would make is that if you could put Jim Leonhard in Bernard Pollard's body, that's the sort of player that Smith will likely become. It would surprise me if he has a season where he leads the league with like 6-8 interceptions, but then probably only average 1 or 2 every other year of his career. He can be opportunistic like that, similar to how he was as a junior at Notre Dame, but he's not a guy that can truly create plays on his own. Cleaning up the tipped passes over the middle will be more of his forte. He should have a nice long career as a solid to good starter, but unless he's playing beside another top-level safety, he probably will never really stand out.
Smith would definitely add good depth in Atlanta, and be a guy that you could trust to come in right away and be a solid No. 3 guy. You can use him as insurance at either safety positon. Ideally, he could push DeCoud at free safety, and while he lacks the sort of speed and range that DeCoud has, he's probably a bit more disciplined and more consistent, presenting a potential upgrade. He'd also make a nice insurance policy at strong safety in case the Falcons don't retain William Moore after this season. And while he's not the sort of enforcer that Moore is, wouldn't be a huge drop-off because again, he's solid and steady. But more than likely, the Falcons will use him to push DeCoud, and if given two or so years to develop on the bench, should be comfortable enough where he could take the position outright.
Smith doesn't have the elite upside of other safeties, but his consistency, versatility, and the fact that he should be able to contribute immediately as a starter makes him a nice second round value.
1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Man Coverage: 6.0
Zone Coverage: 7.0
Ball Skills: 6.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.