Can knock defenders backward and create movement at the line
Blocks with attitude
Blocks through the whistle
Shock defenders back with strong hands
Good length for a guard
Effective on short pulls
Able to control defenders when he latches on them
Plays with good leverage as a run blocker
Good anchor to stop bull rushes
Short-yardage and goal-line asset
Plug-and-play starting potential
Possible emergency tackle
Pulmonary issue; blood clot problems
Lumbers in the open field
Not a long puller
Not a great fit for a zone-blocking system
Has to improve his footwork
Summary: In 2017, Quenton Nelson was the top offensive lineman in college football, but the second-best guard in the nation could have been Smith. Considering there were other good guards like Will Hernandez and Braden Smith who were second-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, that is really saying something for how Smith played as a freshman. Smith dominated at the point of attack and was extremely impressive when taking on Alabama. He looked like he was just scratching the surface with the upside to be even better with more experience. Smith played guard and left tackle for the Volunteers as a freshman.
Smith had a strong sophomore season for Tennessee prior to missing the final five games of 2018 with blood clots in his lungs. The issue first impacted Smith during workouts after his freshman season. After being held out for some time, Smith returned to practice in training camp and played the first seven games of the 2018 season before the blood-clot issue returned and ended his season. Smith was able to return to the field as a junior and was able to avoid missing time in 2019 and 2020. He closed out his college career playing well for the Volunteers and was one of the top guards in college football.
In the ground game, Smith is a load at the point of attack who has strong hands and the power to be a drive blocker. Smith uses his heavy hands to shock defenders back and drive them out of their gaps. His length and ability to sustain blocks make him tough to shed, as he turns and manipulates defenders regularly. Smith is a power run blocker who should be an excellent fit in a man-blocking scheme.
In pass protection, Smith is tough for defenders to get by thanks to his significant size and length. His strength and weight allow him to anchor bull rushes and stop them cold. On the inside of the line, speed rushers struggle to get past him, where his length keeps them from collapsing the pocket and his strong hands help him to sustain his block. Smith does not have the feet or agility to play left tackle in the NFL, but if there were injuriesm he could be an emergency tackle given his experience blocking on the edge at Tennessee.
Smith is an average athlete at guard for the next level. He does well when pulling if it is a short distance needed, but long pulls or running out to the flat are weaknesses, as he can lumber in the open field. Thus, he would not be a great fit for a zone-blocking system. Smith has technical issues that he needs to work on in the NFL as well. There are too many times Smith loses his balance, and he has to improve his footwork.
The big concern for Smith in the NFL is durability. While he played the last two seasons, the return of the blood clots is a significant concern, according to sources across the league. If it weren't for the clots issue, Smith would be a safe pick to turn into a solid starter. Early in his NFL career, Smith could become a good starting guard - provided he can stay on the field. Smith has an outside shot of sneaking into the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft and should go no lower than the third round.
Player Comparison: Kelechi Osemele. Osemele is quicker and more athletic than Smith, but both are strong at the point of attack with the ability to block on the edge in an emergency. Osemele (6-5, 330) and Smith are identical in size and possess strength as run blockers. Osemele was a second-round pick, and Smith is likely to go in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.