General manager Ryan Grigson is big on trusting what he sees when reviewing tape.
“We like the film first and foremost,” Grigson said of Smith, chosen with the 64th overall pick in the NFL draft. “Then he tested and he ran so fast, he benched. Everything kind of lined up there as well, that was just an added bonus. Then when we met with the kid, sometimes a guy walks in and he leaves and we all just look at each other, you feel like wow we’ve got to have this guy.
“So much so coach (Chuck) Pagano went and worked him out down at his school. He was just one of those guys that was always kind of in our wheel-house that we wanted to have here because he has a certain tenacity about him. He’ll support in the run. He’s an explosive 4.3 guy, he returns kicks and he can do a lot for you. He’s all business and the way he came across in that interview was somebody that’s very focused, driven and tough.”
Smith ran a 4.39 40-yard dash on his pro day and impressed in every other aspect of the workout, Pagano said. He can also play safety, if needed.
“This kid has position flexibility back there,” the coach said. “I know he can play outside. I know he can go inside. He’s tough enough and smart enough. He’s got the short area quick’s along with long speed to play the nickel spot. When I went down to FAU to work this kid out, we were very, very impressed at the combine with the interview. He’s wired right. He’s a very, very competitive guy. He’s a great teammate. You go in the weight room and you go to these different pro days and you work these guys out.
“The way that a guy interacts during a pro day with his teammates, the energy that he brought to that entire day, just in the weight room. He could have stood on his numbers alone from the combine and just done position specific drills with us that day. The great competitors, they see the guys going and they get juiced up and amped up. He jumped right in there and did 18, 19, 20 whatever benches it was. He’s compact, he’s strong as heck. He was the guy leading everybody cheering his teammates on. We got out to the field and he didn’t have to run. He ran fast at the combine. He had a bunch of scouts there, bunch of people there, his teammates were there and he elected to run. He warmed up and I think he ran a 4.39. A bunch of guys had low 4.3’s on them. Great competitor, then we put him through all the position drills. Great change of direction, great feet. Good hips, can high point the ball, locate the ball, good ball skills. He’s wired the right way to play out on the island the way we ask guys to play. He loves that challenge.”
Grigson admitted the Colts rolled the dice that Smith would still be available with the first pick in the third round when they traded down with Tampa Bay from No. 61 to 65 to move up to 109 from 128 in the fourth round.
“He was our target in two,” Grigson said. “We gambled a little bit, but I think we bettered ourselves for what we did with Tampa. Got him at the very top of the three, kind of 2012-style picking at the top of the round. Another thing just sitting here thinking about him was when we had that interview, I remember Chuck turned to me and you said something about corners never know things like this. When they had him going through our defense, talking just ball with him, he seemed very, very strong in terms of his football intelligence. He just kind of knew what everyone was doing on the field and it was very impressive. At every turn this kid impressed us. His all-business approach and he’s got a real quiet toughness about him. It shows up on the field and we’re excited about this guy.”
Smith was so excited on his conference call, he proclaimed he would be the best cornerback in the NFL. The Colts’ brass were asked if they minded such a boast.
“You don’t want a meek kind of milk toast type of guy sitting there,” Pagano said. “This sucker was on the edge of his seat in the interview when he came in. Like Ryan said, it was all business. This guy truly believes. At the time when we asked him who the best corner was in the draft this year coming out, he said, ‘It’s me.’ He plays with a chip on his shoulder. It’s because I think everybody’s probably told this kid you’re too short, you’re too this, you’re too that. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s got great confidence. You have to have it to play that position. This guy’s relentless.
“I talked to Charlie Partridge, the head coach down there, and he was the first guy in the building. Coach hadn’t been there but a year. This was I think his first year down there. They’d leave the practice field and the lights were still on and they’d look out their offices, their windows overlook the practice field, and there’d be a guy out there still working. So he’d go out there, and he’d have to kick him off the field. They turned the lights off because it’d be an hour after everybody was gone. This kid will not fail. Lord willing, the creek don’t rise and he stays healthy and all that stuff. He’s a grinder. He’s got that mentality that he can be, and he will work to be one of the best that plays that position.”Player evaluation
Cornerback Smith drafted in 3rd round
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Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.