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 Feb. 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 Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith. In three years and 37 games on the field with the Terrapins, Smith caught 150 passes for 2,205 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also returned 120 kickoffs for 2,939 yards and three touchdowns. Smith set the ACC career record for kick return yardage (2,983), and the single-season mark for receiving touchdowns at Maryland with 12. He also put up more total yards (5,183) than anyone in school history.
Pros: Runs as fast in a straight line as anyone in this draft class -- difficult for all but the quickest cornerbacks to trail on deep sideline routes. Smith has tremendous quickness to get past defenders and upfield when crossing and looking for openings on slants; it's tough for anyone to keep up with him in space. He's more susceptible to man coverage because he's not a developed route-runner, but he just blows through zones and becomes a real problem for teams looking to have their linebackers and backs move to and sit in areas.
Can turn the edge on the sideline and get vertical as quickly as you'd like. Impressive ability to time his jumps to catch the ball even when he's running full speed. Incendiary kick returner who set an ACC return-yardage record in 2008 and broke it in 2009. More physical than you might think given his size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and speed; he doesn't develop alligator arms in traffic and he can give a good stiffarm to get separation after the catch. Overcame a difficult childhood to gain his degree, and his coaches can't say enough good things about him.
Cons: Needs a lot of work on his routes -- especially those routes, like comebacks and digs, requiring tight and immediate cuts. Tends to round off his cuts and make those routes far less defined. Doesn't consistently turn quickly upfield after facing the quarterback on quick passes and can get poleaxed by oncoming defenders as a result.
Conclusion: As with most pure burner receivers, Smith got by with speed at the NCAA level, and he'll be asked to do more against better and more complex coverages in the NFL. But his straight-line speed isn't his only characteristic -- he's a somewhat physical player for his size and seems to have the physical talent to develop into a more polished route-runner -- some of his rudimentary skills in this area are simply because he could blast past people before. Smith is expected to run under 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, and if he matches his speed with a plus performance in all receiver drills, his spot as the third-most coveted receiver in this draft class behind A.J. Green and Julio Jones could be secured.
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