Why Undrafted?: Saivion Smith

Why Undrafted?: Saivion Smith, S, Alabama
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Five 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. Three years ago, we started the Why the 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 will respond to the email.

Alabama has been a defensive back factory under Nick Saban, and when Smith decided to enter the 2019 NFL Draft, many assumed that he would be the latest in a line of prospects to go in the early rounds of the draft. Smith had only one year of serious playing time at Alabama, but he turned in some solid production in 2018 with 60 tackles, three interceptions and five passes defended. The 6-foot, 199-pounder has versatile size and upside to grow. The junior college transfer started out 2018 as a starter, lost his starting spot for part of the year, and then returned to the starting lineup in Week 7 for the remainder of the season after Trevon Diggs was injured.

In speaking to some team sources, Smith was graded by a number of them as a late-round pick and just happened to slip to the undrafted ranks. Every year, there are many players with late-round grades who go unselected, and Smith was one of them for the most recent NFL draft.

After going undrafted, Smith signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, which was an interesting choice. On the down side, they have a lot of talented veterans leading their secondary and are in win-now mode, so the coaching staff may resist giving snaps to an undrafted rookie. However, Jacksonville could use a young nickel back and safety to emerge as starters. The Jagaurs need a free safety to go with Ronnie Harrison, and that could be Smith’s best hope for sticking in the NFL. They lack established veterans at the position, so Smith could challenge to see the field there relatively quickly. Also, there are rumblings of the team and No. 1 corner Jalen Ramsey going their separate ways in the near future, so that could open up more spots at cornerback for Smith to compete. If Smith can earn a backup spot on the roster in the preseason, that could lead to him having a bright future in Jacksonville.

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