Kentucky DE/OLB Za'Darius Smith
— Smith was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player at the East-West Shrine Game with one sack. He then was added to the Senior Bowl.
— As a senior, Smith ranked third on the team with 61 tackles, second with 4.5 sacks and third with 7.5 tackles for losses.
— In two seasons at Kentucky, he tallied 10.5 sacks, 14 TFLs and 120 tackles. Before that, he was one of the nation’s top junior-college performers at East Mississippi Community College.
— Smith played defensive end in the Wildcats’ 3-4 scheme. He said he can get up to 290 pounds to play five-technique end. He also could play linebacker. At Thursday’s pro day, he tipped the scales at 271 pounds but ran his 40 as fast as 4.69 seconds. A source called him a “beast” after watching him in defensive line and linebacker drills.
“I can play whatever the coaches want to play. Just to get in and get a chance to play,” he said at the Scouting Combine.
— While older brother Bo Meeks played eight games for the Broncos in 1993, basketball was Smith’s sport — until he figured out he wasn’t tall enough. He never played football until his senior year of high school.
“I was a basketball player growing up,” Smith said. “Just being in a small community, we didn’t have a lot of tall guys, so being tall and being my size, playing the 5-technique (center in basketball). I got a chance to play AAU basketball. I traveled around the (country) and seen guys playing the 5 at 7-foot tall and me not getting any rebounds, I just thought I should switch it up and have a backup plan. So I went out and played football. My senior year I had like 11 sacks, got a scholarship to East Mississippi Junior College. It gave me a chance, I learned the game and now I’m here.”
Height: 6-foot-4 1/2. Weight: 274 pounds. Arms: 32 5/8. Hand: 10 inches.
40: 4.83. 10: 1.74. 20: 2.86: Three cone: 7.42. Vertical: 29 inches. Bench press: 23 reps.
Smith is viewed as a third-round pick. For Green Bay, he’d be a fit at the elephant position manned by Julius Peppers, Mike Neal and Nick Perry. There’s a chance none of the three will be with the team in 2016.
Smith has the raw power to play on the inside, if needed, but is likely to be used as a 3-4 rush end in the NFL, thanks to his impressive foot speed and closing burst. An intense offseason training program greatly increased his power in 2014.
Even though Smith has established himself as a pass rusher, he also displays the ability to be a productive run defender. He has a strong initial burst off the ball and, for a taller player, he demonstrates the ability to play with good pad level. He uses his hands and reach to maintain separation and reacts to blocks well by getting his hands on the blocker and squeezing down. As a pass rusher, he can be disruptive as he can get up field with a good initial burst and is violent with his hands, using his reach well.
Smith is a quick reader who has the lateral agility to get transfer and has the balance and foot speed to pursue through trash. He seems to kick it into high gear when the play is developing away from him. He shows tremendous effort to pursue that play. He has a wide array of pass rush moves, but will show reliance on his spin move. When he gets engulfed by the larger blockers, he is usually contained on the spot if he gets his hands outside his frame. He has developed good strength, but has had better success by pushing the pocket with technique and quickness.
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