Offensive Slash On Team's Watch List:
First reported by Scout.com and confirmed in a recent local paper, Missouri quarterback Brad Smith had a private workout for a number of teams. Dallas, New England, Kansas City and St. Louis were the teams interested in the former Missouri product a source close to Smith confirmed. Not all of those teams were looking at him as a quarterback.
Smith has a little of the Kordell "Slash" Stewart ability in his play. A dynamic athlete, Smith is as much a threat to run with the ball as pass it. With all of the interest in versatility at positions, this particular workout for the Patriots holds interest.
It is no secret New England needs to start grooming backups to Tom Brady. Should Brady go down with an injury, the team's fate would be in a little proven commodity known as Matt Cassel. Although Cassel looks to be suited to the task, the team is always interested in providing more competition at the position.
Smith reminds scouts of Antwaan Randel El, a former quarterback who could play receiver, and still be a threat on trick plays or be the QB in case of emergency. Smith appreciates those comparisons (former QBs turned receiver in the pros), but he hopes to be more than just another QB turned receiver at the next level.
"It's flattering to hear people say they think I could play another position because of my athleticism," Smith told the Buccaneers official site recently. "I'm a team player, so it would be something where, as I'm learning and helping the team out at quarterback, that I would maybe help somebody in that sense."
So what is it about Smith that caught the Patriots attention and why Smith vs. another style QB? TFY Draft Preview may have hit the nail on the head when describing Smith's vault into the limelight in a game against Nebraska one fall day last year.
"Wallowing through what was a mediocre campaign, Missouri quarterback Brad Smith broke loose against Nebraska," TFY reported. "The athletic quarterback combined for 480 all-purpose yards; 234-yards came through the air while the other 246 was picked up on the ground. The victory put Missouri in the drivers seat for the Big 12's North division and also infused some much needed life into Smith's sagging draft grade."
That performance was 480 all-purpose yards in a single game by one player.
Tom Brady has been amazing at times for the Patriots, passing for over 400 yards on a few select occasions, but 480 yards not just with his arm, is probably not going to happen. What was impressive about Smith's performance is that almost 50% of those yards came on the ground in that game. Smith obviously has the ability to be a game changer with not only his arm, but with his feet. That is a skill many teams are interested in.
What could New England do with the Versatile Smith? Picture what Seattle did with Seneca Wallace or what Pittsburgh was able to do with Antwaan Randel El. Picture Smith lining up in the wing formation, Brady taking the snap, pitching to Smith and then thinking anything can happen. He can run, he can pass, and he can get it back to Brady The whole offense could take on a whole new dimension.
In all likelihood, the Patriots would try to convert Smith to a wide receiver. It's not the first time Smith has been considered as something other than a QB for the next level.
"Some NFL teams have called and said they want to work him out at other places," Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel told the Columbia Daily Tribune last season. "Some think he can play quarterback, and others think he'll be a receiver."
Wherever Smith goes at the next level, you can be sure that he will pose a threat not only with his arm but with his feet.
Another Defender Visits:
The other prospect the Patriots took a closer look at is former USC Trojan safety Darnell Bing. Bing's agent Peter Schaffer confirmed to Patriots Insider last week that the highly regarded safety would be making a visit to New England, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Bing met with the Patriots and Niners this past week. He also met with the Panthers according to his personal draft diary.
Bing represents a solution to a problem that the Patriots would like to avoid in 2006. Although Rodney Harrison is coming back from a major knee injury and has recently claimed he was getting close, players with that type of injury usually take more than a year to fully recover. Harrison only had surgery this year, which means he'll be close to normal at best by the time the season rolls around, and likely less than that by opening day.
By drafting Bing, or another big safety with experience playing in big games, the Patriots could upgrade a unit manned by former castoffs and neophytes. Outside of Harrison's play, the Patriots have had issues manning the safety position with a solid playmaker. Guss Scott lasted barely a game before he was sidelined again with an injury. Randall Gay filled in from his customary cornerback position, but his leg injury derailed his season. James Sanders proved to be a bit inexperienced, although he showed his toughness in hitting players when he managed to be in position. And the starting job eventually landed in Artrell Hawkins, a former cornerback castoff form Cincinnati who had a resurgence last season in New England and recently re-signed with the Patriots.
So why are the Patriots looking at safeties in the draft after they just signed another free agent (Tebucky Jones), and have others on the roster?
Depth would be the answer. Bing represents quality depth and a potential future starter in a year or two. Although some experts say Bing could start right away like former USC DB Troy Polamalu, the Patriots would probably keep Bing on the bench and work him into the rotation occasionally after he becomes acclimated to the system.
Bing not only keeps an eye on some of the recent top rated safeties in the league, he has an appreciation for historical greats like Ronnie Lott.
"I watch a lot of different players from Troy [Polamalu] to Ed Reed, but overall I like the way Ronnie Lott played the game the most because of the intensity he brought to the field," Bing said.
Bing has drawn comparisons to Rodney Harrison by scouts who liken his big time hits to that of No. 37. At 6-foot-2, 220-pounds, Bing is built like Harrison (6-foot-1, 218-pounds). With his big game experience it would be doubtful Bing would suffer and setbacks on the big stage once he managed to land some playing time.
Patriots Insider will bring you more on Bing and Smith as they will be talking to one of Scout.com's reporters this week to share their draft preparations and workout experiences.
For more on these and other draft prospect visitors or those players having personal workouts with the Patriots, be sure to check the Insider's Lounge where PI keeps track of these events. Also be sure to check player profiles for updated news from around the scout.com network on these and many other draft prospects.