Scouting the 2015 NFL Draft EDGE Defenders: Preston Smith, DE, Miss St.

The following player evaluation was published on Preston Smith’s player page on DraftBreakdown.com by yours truly.  During the course of the 2015 NFL Draft season, I’ll be posting my evaluations on the player pages at DB, so be sure to check there regularly.  For those of you who have inquired as to whether I’ll be publishing a 2015 NFL Draft guide, the answer is “maybe.”  

Over the last 2.5 months, most of my time has been focused on my recently acquired ownership interest in DraftBreakdown.com.  However, now that things have calmed down a bit, I’ve started organizing my evaluations, player rankings and overall Big Board in the same way that I did for the 2014 FRG NFL Draft Guide. Depending on how many evaluations I can complete (with time built in for editing), a 2015 FRG NFL Draft Guide could potentially be ready for download roughly one week before the NFL Draft.  

Until then, here are my thoughts on 2015 NFL Draft hopeful, Preston Smith:

Overview:

Preston Smith, the senior defensive end from Mississippi St., enters the 2015 NFL Draft after competing in 47 games with 24 starts during his time as a Bulldog.  In 2014, Smith totaled 48 tackles, 15 TFL and a team-leading 9 sacks.  For his career, he notched 134 tackles, 27 TFL and 16 sacks.  He was named First Team All-SEC at the end of the 2014 season.  Physically, Smith is tailor-made for a 43 front’s defensive end.  He possesses great length (34” arms) and has the kind of girth needed to hold his ground against the run.  Smith isn’t the flashiest athlete on the field, but he possesses enough burst at the snap to challenge opposing tackles in a hurry.  He won’t make a living winning with speed to the edge, but he combines enough baseline athleticism and very good power to be a handful from snap to snap.  Against the pass, Smith displayed an array of pass rush moves; He showcased an effective swim, club and rip, and speed to power skills.  In addition, he has enough brute strength to get into the opposing lineman’s body and drive them into the quarterback’s comfort zone.  Smith’s motor is top-notch, as he continues working his feet and hands in unison when getting after the quarterback; He doesn’t give up on the play.  Smith isn’t the most flexible guy, and he’ll struggle to bend around the edge in the NFL, but he’s not entering the League relying on that kind of skill set.  He’s a natural football player who has the hand technique and developed rush moves needed to succeed.  Against the run, Smith holds his ground and is rarely fooled by misdirection plays.  He’s a powerful hitter who is reliable when bringing the ballcarrier to the ground.  He’s not going to chase some of the NFL’s faster running backs down from behind, but he’ll penetrate and disrupt the play’s aiming point allowing for second level defenders to make a play on the ball.

BOTTOM LINE:  Preston Smith is a good football player who is going to start, and produce, in the NFL for a long time.  His nine sacks in 2014 is evidence of his ability to get after the quarterback, especially when you see how he did it.  His hand play is phenomenal, as he consistently keeps himself clean when working into the backfield.  He sheds blocks well, has a good overall understanding of the opponent’s play design, and keeps working until the whistle.  He’s a lot more developed as a pass rusher than some of the more highly discussed prospects in this class, and it wouldn’t shock me if he performs better than  many of them on Sundays.  He’s a natural fit for a 43 team looking to add a reliable all-around football player with developed pass rushing traits.

GRADE:  7.9 (Late-1st, Early-2nd)

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