Summary: Smith is an experienced prospect who has a nice mix of size and speed. He is the top free safety candidate in the 2012 NFL Draft. While it is a weak safety class, Smith is still a respectable prospect. He is a good centerfield safety who prevents big plays from getting behind him.
Smith has had some differing years with varying production over his three seasons of playing time. Most recently, he had 90 tackles with three tackles for a loss, 10 passes broken up, one forced fumble and zero interceptions in 2011. Smith had some mixed games with nice performances against Michigan State and Wake Forest. However, he didn't play very well against Michigan or USC.
Smith had a good Senior Bowl week. He showed off the speed to cover a lot of ground and didn't get caught out of position. He also was physical with offensive players. Later, Smith had a very strong Combine showing. He blazed a fast 40 time at 4.56 while looking very good in the field drills with the hip flexibility to turn and run fluidly.
Smith looks like a good NFL safety to patrol the deep part of the field. He should be able to handle coverage responsibilities on running backs coming out of the backfield or tight ends. Smith also figures to be solid in run support. There is demand at the position, and Smith is one of the few safety prospects who looks like he could play quickly. He also projects to be a long-term starter. It is possible that he breaks into late in the first round, but at worst, he should be an early second-round pick.
Player Comparison: Mike Brown. Brown was a Pro Bowl safety before injuries derailed his career. In his years with Chicago, Brown (5-10, 205) was capable of making some splash plays while also contributing well against the run. Brown was an intelligent player and a sure tackler. Smith's game, especially in 2010, is similar to Brown's.
NFL Matches: Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Dallas, San Diego, Cincinnati, New York Jets, Baltimore.
The Colts need to upgrade their defensive backfield and have never really replaced Bob Sanders. Tampa Bay has to get a safety. Sean Jones is a free agent, while Tanard Jackson is in the final year of his contract. The Cowboys could still consider safety even after signing Brodney Pool, and Smith could be a good fit in their defense.
Cincinnati re-signed Reggie Nelson but could use an upgrade next to him. The Jets have a huge need at safety, and filled it temporarily with a 1-year deal for LaRon Landry. The Ravens could use a young safety to prepare themselves for when Ed Reed calls it a career.