Why the Slide?: Trey Smith, G, Tennessee

This series was created a number of years ago in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

Since his tremendous freshman season in 2017 on, Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith (6-5, 311) showed next level ability with size, strength, quickness and athleticism. Smith was put together 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 successfully avoided 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 the country. Smith was expected to go on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft, but he slid deep into the late rounds before getting selected.

A few days before the 2021 NFL Draft, Walter Football.com reported in the Hot Press that some team doctors had flunked Smith medically, which removed from their teams’ boards. The health evaluation was why Smith slid. Some scouts and coaches said they were worried about maintenance on the pulmonary issue and concerned about Smith missing practice and games in the years to come. Hence, the medical concerns were the catalyst for Smith to go lower than his talent level suggested.

The Kansas City Chiefs ended Smith’s slide in the sixth round, which was a great landing spot for him. Smith is a superb fit for Andy Reid’s offense, and the Chiefs need some young talent on their offensive line to emerge. This offseason, Kyle Long came out of retirement to join the Chiefs, but Long is not a long-term starter at this point of his career. Right tackle Mike Remmers is also not a starter of the future, so Smith could backup at guard and tackle for a season. That could help him to develop, get his body used to the NFL practice and work out schedule, and let him learn from the veterans.

If Smith develops well behind the scenes as a rookie, he could compete to take over a starting job in 2022. Smith landed with a coaching staff that has done well developing players, including offensive linemen. While it was disappointing for Smith to slide, at least he has an opportunity with a great franchise, which could lead to an excellent NFL career.

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