PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY
Notes: High school All-American. Played in eight games as a true freshman at Tennessee in '99, when he rushed for 189 yards and four touchdowns, averaging just more than six yards per carry, with two catches for 25 yards and a score. Dismissed from the team for rules violations. Transfer redshirt in 2000. Started just one game but split time in '01 with Seahawks 2002 second-round draft pick Maurice Morris and carried 161-1,007-7, caught 8-63, threw a TD pass and returned 12 kickoffs for 338 yards with a touchdown. Started 10-of-10 games in '02 as a fourth-year junior, carrying 244-1,141-12. Caught 13-78 and returned seven kickoffs for 175 yards.
Positives: Fluid, natural runner who can lower pads and deliver a blow and make defenders miss. Is agile, quick and instinctive and plays bigger than his size. Has a good center of gravity, good power, instincts, vision, skills and top ability and can break long runs and make big plays. Superb athlete with excellent running skills.
Negatives: Sometimes runs into the man to beat in the open field. May be better inside in traffic. Character is a big concern. Needs work in the passing game and on blocking. Must improve focus and attention to detail.
Summary: Great natural athletic ability, but his character will affect where he is drafted. He must stay out of trouble to have success at the next level.
He has a big burst to the outside, and can make people miss, showing some definite home-run-hitting ability. The question is, at the pro level, can he maintain his health over the course of a grueling 16-game schedule. A key with Smith is his effectiveness as a kickoff return specialist. He can be a major contributor right away for many teams on special teams, while working his way in to the running game slowly as a spot or situational back. During his days in Eugene he certainly showed flashes of first-round ability, and had he stayed for his senior season we'd be talking about him as a definite first-round pick and a legitimate Heisman candidate. However, whether he has shown enough over the long haul to the NFL brass is the big question. All-the-way threat and multi-dimensional performer, ranking as one of the more reliable pass-receiving options of all the RBs available and also showcasing excellent kickoff return ability.
Inside running: Lacks great size, but runs big and is slippery inside. Stays low to the ground, maintaining good pad level. Has terrific change-of-direction skills, and picks and slides in the hole without losing much momentum. Has above-average vision, good burst to the hole and shows patience. Doesn't break many tackles, and won't overpower many defenders. Grade: 7.7
Outside running: Might be the fastest back in this class. Has the speed to consistently turn the corner. Is a threat to go the distance with every touch. Shows great open-field acceleration. Is elusive and fluid. Makes defenders miss. Grade: 8.1
Blocking: Shows a good feel for assignments. Shuffles well laterally and gets in position to pick up blitzes. Has good footwork and can be an effective roll blocker. Is at his best when he chips blitzers outside. Lacks the size, power and lower-body strength to hold his ground against powerful rushes. Is much more effective off play-action and as a receiver than as an extra blocker. Grade: 7.0
Hands/routes: Is quite effective on play fakes. A daunting open-field receiver, has the speed and quickness to run routes out of the slot. Lacks experience here -- only 21 catches the past two seasons -- but has terrific upside. Grade: 7.8
Durability: The biggest area of concern. Runs with a low center of gravity and protects his body, but is undersized and has had problems staying healthy. Missed three games because of a knee injury in 2002 and had shoulder trouble in the past. Grade: 7.0
Bottom line: Smith needed to leave Tennessee for Oregon after off-the-field problems and a lack of commitment. Outside the intangible and injury questions, Smith is a solid first-day pick with big-play potential. Only 205 pounds, he runs more like a 225 pounder. Smith shows good vision and elusiveness; he has breakaway speed and would be a great fit in a spread offense. He is also a proven kickoff returner. Smith will likely be drafted in the second round.
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