Position Ranking: #1
Strengths: Smith shows exceptional athleticism for an offensive tackle. He’s well-built and muscular with an even distribution of size throughout; doesn’t carry much body fat and has the frame to easily add 25 pounds or better. Very good functional strength and is able to control larger defenders once he latches on in both run support and pass protection. Extends arms quickly at the snap with heavy hands to jolt defender. Highly effective on angle and hook blocks, consistently driving opponent down the line; good lateral bend and quickness. Shows a nice burst to get to the second level with the hip flexibility to adjust to moving targets. Extremely effective on outside pulls, gets to the perimeter quickly and neutralizes the defender to clear an outside running lane; shows better straight line speed than some tight ends and can be dominant in space. Has the strength to control defenders and drive open a running lane with hands underneath defenders extended arms. Manhandles linebackers in space.
Plays with a consistently wide base in pass protection and creates a wall when he wins the snap against an outside release; shows a good hop step and wingspan. Has the hips, arm length, and natural athleticism to recover effectively even when he loses outside leverage. Handles an inside bull rush very well, dropping down to anchor and holding his base. Plays with a mean streak and finishes every play. Well conditioned, looks the same through four quarters.
Needs Improvement: Footwork is still raw; doesn’t have a natural kick slide. Tends to get flat footed and will trot instead of sliding to recover or mirror. Gets in the habit of overextending and relying on his upper body strength; needs to be more patient and wait on defender in pass protection. Doesn’t have much experience at left tackle, played almost exclusively at right tackle. Size will need to improve to maintain his overall effectiveness at the next level.
Bottom Line: Smith almost looks more like a defensive end than an offensive tackle. His athleticism and strength are impressive and jump out at you as you watch him play, he’s much quicker and stronger than his 280 pounds. I hadn’t started evaluating Smith until late in the process as I was surprised that he declared. But what I noticed about Smith, more than any other prospect, was the gradual progression in his play- especially his footwork. From week one, to week five, to week nine, to week twelve, his footwork improved each game and he began to show the ability to become more natural in his technique (went from no kick-step to a functional kick-step).
He’s not nearly a finished product, but the gradual improvement will be noticeable to teams and also show that he responds well to coaching. With no clear-cut, day one left tackle prospects available, I believe Smith’s upside and potential are higher than any other top prospect. He’ll likely start at the right side as he adds weight and technique, but the physical skills and raw athleticism are as good as it gets for a left tackle prospect.
Draft Projection: 1st round.