Why the Slide?: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

Our “Why the Slide” series parallels and grew out our “Why Undrafted” series. The latter was created a number of years ago in response to your questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For both series, 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.

At the end of the 2022 college football season, there were many projections of South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith going in the first round. Smith closed out 2022 in impressive fashion and was one of the nation’s best cornerbacks. It was his second straight good year for the Gamecocks, and many thought Smith would follow a recent tradition of first-round cornerback talent from South Carolina. However, Smith slid well into the second round before he was selected.

Team sources told WalterFootball.com that the biggest issue for Smith was off-the-field concerns. Some franchises had ruled Smith out because of massive character questions. Teams did not like some of his off-the-field habits, and some sources said their organzation would not bring a player of his character into their locker room.

Along with the issues away from the game, some sources shared that they thought Smith was more of a second-day player because he grabs too much on receivers and could have serious problems with being penalized for pass interference. Those sources said they believe Smith lacked some twitch and explosion and was not a good fit to play zone corner. Some sources noted that Smith was a really good press-man corner, but the scheme limitations were a consideration.

The Miami Dolphins ended Smith’s slide in Round 2, which was a mixed landing spot for him. On the positive side, Smith can work on his technique issues while developing behind Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey. However, it could be hard for Smith to break into the starting lineup with the Dolphins because of those veterans. Smith does not have the skill set to play nickel corner, so he will need to line up on the outside. Perhaps Howard can move into the slot so all three can get on the field, but Miami has other defensive backs who are solid options for nickel corners. Thus, Smith might be buried on the depth chart for a few seasons until Howard or Ramsey ages out or becomes a cap casualty. Smith will have to stay patient and work hard to develop, but in some time, he could become a long-term starter for Miami.

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