AnalysisSmith was an active and productive defensive back at FAU. There, he posted some nice stats. Smith played in 46 games, starting 32. He finished with 123 tackles, nine interceptions, and 29 pass deflections. Many have not seen this cornerback but they will on Sundays starting this fall. This defensive back has outstanding instincts and a terrific burst or break on the ball. Smith doesn’t have great size (5-10/187) but makes up for it with his smarts, speed and athletic ability (36-inch vertical jump).
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:Before the 2014 season, you might have had an easier time finding Waldo before you could locate D'Joun Smith past the mid-round range on any NFL team’s draft board. What changed that analysis of Smith, formerly known as D.J. Frye-Smith, was that he emerged as one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the nation and perhaps the best draft prospect to come out of the Conference USA ranks this year.
Even during his high school days, recruiters gave the Miami native just minimal thought. At FAU, he contributed 10 tackles on special teams as a freshman, taking over field cornerback duties in 2012, finishing that year with 25 tackles and eight pass breakups before he was benched for what the coaches deemed as “poor work habits.”
Smith’s turnaround began in 2013, as he ranked second in the nation with 20 passes defended and third with seven interceptions. Smith’s frame looks wiry for a 190-pounder, but that has not prevented him from excelling on the field. His 2013 campaign saw him register 34 tackles while playing at 175 pounds. His offseason was spent adding 15 pounds to his frame, hoping to entice scouts during his senior season.
He did not match those numbers in 2014 (one pass theft, eight deflections), posting 53 tackles to improve his career numbers to 29 pass breakups, nine thefts and 120 tackles in 44 games. He’s also averaged 23.3 yards on 47 kickoff returns (1,093 yards), including averaging 26.3 yards on 17 runbacks in 2014.
Smith excels at staying tight on the hip of the receiver. He is quick to recognize the play developing, and unlike most young cornerbacks he will not eye the quarterback long, rather using his hand/eye coordination to mirror his coverage assignment throughout the route. He has that sudden burst to recover when a receiver manages to slip past him on crossing routes.
Smith has that natural, smooth turn and burst of speed that lets him catch up and close with good urgency. His ability to stay on the hip of the receiver will see him gain instant playing time in nickel and dime packages at the pro level. He also shows a good feel and anticipation ability to know when the receiver is going to break off the route.
You won’t see him be effective playing the press due to his size and short arms, but you will also never see him get burned or caught out of position due to his closing burst, acceleration and good feel for the ball in flight. It is very rare to see him get lost in coverage because he does a good of a job of breaking down the play and closing on the ball. He has more than enough quickness to close or cover. He makes plays due to his ability to take proper angles to the ball.
While not muscular, he does demonstrate good power, putting up the bar 18 times during the 225-pound bench press drill at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. He has valid foot speed and quickness, demonstrating the agility, flexibility and balance to accelerate and close on the ball. He is consistent to maintain position on the receiver and can play with a big cushion because of his closing speed.
The Owl does a good job of flipping his hips and turning smoothly in transition and has very good ability to get his head turned around to track the ball in flight, as he is fluid in his movements coming out of transition. As a cover cornerback, Smith’s speed, timing on his leaps and explosive acceleration after the interception are reminiscent to that of former Dolphins standout Terrell Buckley during his prime.
Smith has the top-end speed and balance to stay tight on the receiver throughout the route (timed at 4.45 in the 40-yard dash). He gets his head turned around nicely to look the ball in, but needs to time his leaps properly to compensate for his short arm reach. He is equally effective playing the trail or in tight coverage. He used to be sloppy in his back-pedal, but demonstrated better hip sink and foot balance as a junior in attempts to smoothly turn and run.
The senior FAU prospect has an explosive burst closing on the ball, and while he might be late at times to locate the pigskin he will show urgency getting to the ball once he locates it. He is more comfortable in man coverage, but can effectively handle the switch-off when operating in the zone. He has enough turning motion in his breaks and the feet to take good angles in pursuit. He still needs to continue to improve his feel for deep coverage, but gets a good break when reading three-step throws.
Smith’s best ability is to make plays on the ball in the air. He has exceptional body control to run, jump and adjust to the thrown pass and has the natural hands to pluck and secure the ball before heading up field. His above-average vertical rise lets him get to the ball quicker than the taller receivers.
Despite showing good tackling form, he is not much of a factor in run force due to size issues. He is physical attacking ball carriers and receivers in the open but occasionally takes a side. He will not hesitate to square up and put his helmet under an opponent’s chin.
While he is not recognized like others at this position, his ability as a ball thief and his excellent timed speed has seen his stock continue to rise, adding more value with his return skills. While he is still developing, he can provide immediate value in nickel and dime packages and has shown some value as a kickoff returner, as well.
D’Joun Smith Scouting Combine measurables
5-10/187 (4.45 forty)
30 3/8-inch arm length
8 1/8-inch hands
18-reps bench 36-inch vertical jump
10-foot-4 broad jump
6.96 3-cone drill (right calf strain)
4.26 20-yard shuttle
11.80 60-yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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