Scouts from the Chicago Bears were on hand in late March for USC's pro day. The team has already expressed interest in DT Jurrell Casey and LB Ronald Johnson. Yet the performance of outside linebacker Malcolm Smith was so impressive, the Bears decided they needed another look. The team recently held a personal workout with Smith.
Heading into the pro day, Smith (6-0, 226) was considered a likely undrafted free agent who might be able to contribute on special teams. Yet he posted some gaudy numbers at Cromwell Field: 4.44 40-yard dash, 28 bench press reps, 39-inch vertical jump, 10-5 broad jump, 4.54 20-yard shuttle and 7.08 three-cone drill. Compared to those outside linebackers invited to the Scouting Combine, Smith's numbers are at or near the top of each category. In fact, his 40 time was faster than every OLB except for Texas A&M's Von Miller, a top 10 pick, and Nevada's Dontay Moch.
Smith played mainly on special teams his first two years in Southern California before taking over as the starting weakside linebacker his junior and senior seasons. On tape, he's a player who is always around the ball – he was USC's second-leading tackler the past two years. He has good instincts in pass coverage and does a great job of reading the opposing quarterback's eyes. He has great game speed, able to chase down ball carriers from sideline to sideline, and he demonstrates solid play recognition.
Smith, whose older brother Steve is a starting wide receiver for the New York Giants, is not the surest of tacklers and can get caught with his head down at times. He doesn't pack much of a punch either. Against bigger blockers, he has a hard time creating separation after initial contact. He'll definitely need to bulk up if he's to earn regular minutes at the next level.
The Bears are obviously intrigued by his blend of strength and speed. He won't be starter material for at least a year or two, yet he has all the intangibles to turn into a quality player. At the very least, he'll make an outstanding special teams contributor.
Chicago likes to grab linebackers late in the draft to use on special teams. It wouldn't be surprising to hear his name called in the sixth round, especially if the coaches like what they see in his individual workout. The Seattle Seahawks are the only other team to have met with him. If he goes undrafted, the Bears will almost assuredly offer him a chance to compete for a roster spot. Players who are as gifted athletically as Smith don't come around all that often. With a little refinement and experience, he could contribute on defense in a few years. In the interim, special teams coordinator Dave Toub could get a lot out of him.
Chicago works out another Pac-10 linebacker
Gabe Miller began his collegiate career as a tight end, then switched to defensive end his junior and senior years. At Oregon State's pro day, Miller (6-3, 250) displayed some outstanding natural athleticism. Representatives from Chicago were witness to his performance and the team decided to take another look, recently putting him through a personal workout.
Miller ran a 4.65 40-yard dash and put up 33 reps in the bench press. He has a 36-inch vertical jump and a 9-6 broad jump. What was most impressive though was his 4.12 shuttle time, which demonstrates amazing short-area quickness.
On tape, Miller's performance at defensive end was below average. He was mainly a speed rusher who had a hard time against bigger offensive tackles. Which is why many NFL scouts project him as an outside linebacker at the next level.
He is definitely big enough and fast enough to play the position. Yet he has no experience, which makes him about as raw as any prospect in the draft. He's a smart kid though, named to the Pac-10 All Academic Team, and could most likely pick up the position fairly quickly.
(In video, he's #99, left defensive end)
If he fails at linebacker, the Bears could also give him the opportunity to play tight end. At the minimum, he'll make a quality special teams player.
Chicago is obviously intrigued by his versatility, athleticism and intelligence. It's unlikely the team will use one of its six picks on Miller, but if they were impressed by his individual performance and he goes undrafted, he'll most likely get invited to training camp.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.