Updated July 22, 2021
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
For the second year in a row, the Penn State Nittany Lions could have one of the top defensive prospects for the NFL draft. Linebacker Micah Parsons was the 11th-overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft to the Dallas Cowboys after sitting out the 2020 season, and in his absence, sophomore linebacker Brandon Smith took advantage of the opportunity and broke out. Like Parsons, Smith has an excellent combination of size, speed and athleticism. Some advance scouts have Smith graded as the highest non-edge-rushing linebacker and one of the highest graded defensive prospects on their preseason watch list.
In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Smith collected 37 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, two sacks, an interception and pass broken up. The NFL advance scouts have Smith listed with the excellent numbers of 6-foot-3, 240 pounds and running the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, which isa tremendous time for a linebacker. After doing combine training that time could be even faster, perhaps in the 4.4s or 4.3s similar to former teammates Parsons and Jayson Oweh. Smith made his starting debut in 2020, so he could easily be better in 2021 thanks to hisexperience against Big Ten competition.
Under head coach James Franklin, Penn State has produced a lot of freak athletes with great skill sets, and Smith looks poised to carry on that tradition in 2021. Entering the season, some advance scouts have him as the top non-pass-rushing linebacker prospect with a high preseason grade.