The players a team brings in for a top-30 visit are not always the players they have at the top of their draft board. Sometimes it’s players whom teams have a lot of questions about and sometimes it’s players who come from a smaller school and did not get a lot of exposure in college.
Ryan Smith is a player the Minnesota Vikings had in as a part of their top-30 visits that went to North Carolina Central. It is a smaller school and not many people know much about him, but he has shown plenty during his time there that could warrant a team selecting him as early as a middle round.
The Vikings likely had him in for a visit so they could get to know him a little better, see what kind of person he is and see how he actually measures up in person.
Vikings’ needs: Smith plays cornerback, which is not a position of immediate need for the Vikings, but there could be a lot of turnover in the next couple years. Terence Newman will turn 38 this season, so his career is coming to an end, Captain Munnerlyn is in the final year of his contract, and Xavier Rhodes’ contract will also be up soon (but the team is expected to exercise its fifth-year option for 2017 on his contract).
Measurables: Smith measures in at 5-foot-11 and 189 pounds, which is a little slender to be playing in the NFL, but he should be able to add some muscle mass to his frame. One thing that will hurt him is that he has short arms and teams usually like to have their cornerbacks with a wide reach.
He was able to put up good numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, though, showing off plenty of athleticism. He recorded times of 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.09 in the 20-yard short shuttle, 6.88 seconds in the three-cone drill and 11.18 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle. Smith also recorded 18 reps of the 225-pound bench press, a 36-inch vertical and a 122-inch broad jump.
Analysis: Smith will likely be viewed more as a slot corner than an outside one because of his frame and short arms. He also has really good footwork, plays with fluid hips and does well working with combination routes, according to draft analysts. All of those are characteristics of a good slot corner.
He also does a good job reading a receiver’s “tells” when he is running routes, but that could also be because he went to a smaller school. He will need to make sure he does not rely solely on that in the NFL as it could cause him to get burned from time to time when going up against better and more refined competition.
The biggest knock against him is that he needs to improve his instincts, but he also has not been playing cornerback too long, so that is to be expected. He also can get overmatched against big-bodied receivers that can out-muscle him, which is another reason why he may fair better in the slot at the next level.
Smith likely will have to fight for a roster spot during his rookie season, but having a season to sit back and learn the position should benefit him greatly.