Where The Vikes See Raonall Smith

Raonall Smith had some of the best Combine numbers among linebackers, and the Vikings had him as their top linebacker left when they felt they needed to fill that position in the second round.

Raonall Smith is doing some moving of his own and moving other guys around in the Vikings' rankings. Minnesota's second-round draft pick out of Washington State is expected to come in and be an immediate starter at weakside linebacker.

Making Smith a starter means that Lemanski Hall will assume a backup role, probably at both strong- and weakside, while he competes for situational playing time. Last week the team moved second-year player Patrick Chukwurah from a pass-rushing right end to the starting strongside linebacker.

"We talked about a safety and we talked about a linebacker," head coach Mike Tice said after pushing the team's war room to draft Smith. "We like Raonall as coaches and as scouts. We talked about what was there after him."

In other words, this year more than ever the Vikings are admitting that many of their picks are need picks. While they liked a few safeties still on the board, their ratings showed that there wasn't much left at linebacker after Smith. Even Smith admitted some surprise at being selected when he was.

"I was completely surprised," he said. "Pleasantly surprised, definitely … I was told mid- to late second round."

Tice had dinner with Smith at the Combine in Indianapolis and like his character. He already knew about Smith's college skills because Tice has a home in Washington and follow's the states' sports scene.

Tice called Smith a "space player," meaning the Vikings are hoping their bigger defensive line helps to keep the blockers off of him so he can make tackles, another strength of his, according to Tice.

Defensive coordinator Willie Shaw said it was Smith's speed that impressed the Vikings. "4.5" was Shaw's familiar refrain, referring to the 244-pound linebacker's speed.

The drawback in some people's mind is Smith's injury history. After redshirting his freshman season, in 1998 at Washington State he finished with 26 tackles. A second shoulder injury in 1999 combined with a knee injury and limited him to 38 tackles as a sophomore. However, in his final two seasons, he missed just one game. His junior year he had 71 stops and 12 for a loss, and in 2001 he registered 79 tackles, including seven for a loss.

He is athletic, as his Combine numbers show. He ran a 4.55, did 26 reps bench-pressing 225 pounds and had a 42-inch vertical jump. Those numbers put him at or above those of the other top linebackers in the draft.


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