Why Undrafted?: Fish Smithson

By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that 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. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. 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 respond.

Every year in the NFL Draft, there are some excellent college players who go undrafted even though they had great collegiate careers. One of those players this year was Kansas safety Fish Smithson. Over the past two seasons, he recorded 200 tackles with six interceptions and three forced fumbles. Smithson showed excellent instincts while playing for some bad teams. Even though Smithson played really well the past two seasons, he went undrafted.

Sources say that Smithson was a good player who impressed them with instincts that really stood out on two years of good tape. However, the reasons that Smithson (5-10, 200) wasn’t selected were size and speed concerns. Sources believe Smithson is a good player, but teams weren’t convinced his skill set would translate to the NFL.

After going undrafted, Smithson signed with the Redskins, which was a good choice for him. They are open to having undrafted players beat out draft picks with better play – see Robert Kelley over Matt Jones for example. Washington also needs some long-term answers at safety. The organization signed veteran D.J. Swearinger to a 1-year deal, so he will be part of the team in 2017, but beyond that Washington didn’t commit to Swearinger. Su’a Cravens will start next to Swearinger, but Cravens could move to linebacker as well depending on how Su’a Cravens is utilized in the Redskins’ new defense. Smithson is going to a good situation as he could compete to be a backup safety and special teams player with 2017 fourth-rounder Montae Nicholson. It wouldn’t surprise me if Smithson uses his instincts to overcome his size and speed limitations to make the final roster as a backup. From there, I think he could end up being a massive steal as an undrafted free agent for the Redskins.

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