NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
If you are reading this, it probably means you love football, or me (hi mom!) That means you were probably glued to the TV to watch the NFL combine over the past several days. It really is a sickness when you get excited to watch guys running, jumping, and doing various drills to see if someone will catch your eye or they do something to confirm what you saw when watching them actually playing in games. There were some unexpected results, both good and bad, but for the most part, we saw players do what they were supposed to do. One guy I had heard of, but had not watched, was Preston Smith, and his numbers were intriguing, so I decided to give him a look and see if he could be on the Patriots radar. Here is what I saw.
Name: Preston Smith
School: Mississippi State
Weight: 271 Lbs.
Smith had a great combine. Among the defensive lineman only, not including the hybrid players, he ranked 5th in the 40 yard dash(4.71), 3rd in the broad jump(10’1″), eighth in the vertical jump(34″), 3rd in the 20 yard shuttle (7.07), and 5th in the 3-cone(4.28). He also boasts long arms and huge hands. On tape, Smith uses his long arms and active hands to his advantage. He is technically sound with his hand placement and he uses a variety of moves when rushing the passer. Smith also holds up well in the run game. He does a nice job anchoring his lower body against double teams, rarely giving up any ground. Smith also does a nice job setting the edge on outside runs. Smith has position flexibility as well, playing inside and out in both a 4-3 and 3-4. He even dropped into coverage on a few occasions as well. Smith plays with a good motor throughout the game and shows good discipline and awareness.
Despite boasting such great numbers at the combine, it didn’t always translate on film. He is stiff and does not possess the quick movement skills to be drafted as a pass rusher from a 4-3 defensive end position. On tape, he is a little slow in his change of direction as well, which was unexpected considering his 3 cone and short shuttle. I also noticed that his momentum can me slowed or stopped at contact and he ends up just “dancing” with opposing lineman too often. Smith has build up speed but not short area speed to win on the edge.
When I saw Smith’s combine numbers, I was excited to go watch his tape. A man that big who moves as well as he does should be an exciting player to watch. I will be honest, I was a little disappointed. Maybe disappointed is the wrong word, but I was expecting something different I guess. Smith plays with great power and effort. He has great hand use in the run game and in the pass game. I like that he has developed a nice variety of pass rush moves. I think he could be a great option as a 5 tech in a base 3-4 defense. Where I really liked him as a pass rusher was when they kicked him inside on clear passing downs in their 4-3 defense, but at his size, I don’t think he can hold up inside consistently. From just the tape, I give him a 3rd round grade.