With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on February 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue our series with USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith. Without actually playing left tackle (he did his work on the right side at USC), Smith is projected as an NFL left tackle prospect due to his athletic ability, and h won the 2010 Morris Trophy, given to the conference's top offensive lineman (and voted on by the conference's defensive linemen), based on his work at right tackle. Smith started 24 games for the Trojans and turned into the pointman up front for a 2010 offense that racked up 189.8 yards per game on the ground and saw just 18 quarterback sacks.
Pros: Bounds up quickly off the snap and engages well inside. Has a better than average kick-step and dropback in pass protection and has a good arc when keeping edge rushers out of the play and into the pocket. Gets a wide base and turns the corner very well with excellent footwork. Gets to the second level and locks on effectively and quickly; runs like a tight end upfield. Doesn't get consistent pad level, but this is actually an indicator of how well he uses his hands; even when he loses the leverage battle, he can use his hands to fend off defenders. Defends swim and rip moves very well by repositioning and using his short-area agility. Gets outside and blocks out very well in zone situations. Pulls and traps well, though he'll be better with motion-blocking as he develops more inline power.
Cons: Smith isn't consistent in power situations - he doesn't cut-block specifically well and he can be bulled back. Size (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) is a concern and probably a root cause - he's going to want to bulk up when he's in the NFL. The upside is that he's got the perfect frame for it. Blocks better and more quickly out of a two-point stance -- this may be a coaching point or a real point of doubt among some teams, but it's something definitely worth mentioning. Tends to wrestle and dance with defensive linemen more than he pops and stops.
Conclusion: USC doesn't play a spread offense, but right now, Smith projects best as a pure zone/spread blocker. He's going to have to increase his power and put together a few technique issues, but there's no question that he has the speed and agility to play well in any coordinated motion scheme. The Williams comp is based on his play at this point in time; the question Smith will have to answer is whether he can transcend the size and strength concerns that Williams hasn't, and that USC alum Charles Brown(notes) is still adjusting to in New Orleans. It's a difficult transition, but Smith could be the best of this tackle class down the road if he can make it. He'll most likely tear up the scouting combine drills - the real questions come later.
More Shutdown 40
#40 -- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State | #39 - Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
| #38 - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | #37 - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | #36 -- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami | #35 -- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor | #34 - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State | #33 -- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State | #32 - Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida | #31 - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado | #30 - Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame | #29 - Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois | #28 - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State | #27 - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA | #26 - Brandon Harris, CB, Miami | #25 - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin | #24 -- Jake Locker, QB, Washington| #23 -- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado| #22 - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin | #21 - Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois| #20 - Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State | #19 - Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland | #18 - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue | #17 - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama | #16 - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa