2023 NFL Draft: Why Bears view CB Terell Smith as 'special' player

Why Bears drafted 'special' cornerback Smith in fifth-round originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears' retooled secondary got another addition Saturday when general manager Ryan Poles selected Minnesota cornerback Terrel Smith with pick No. 165.

Another big, strong, fast corner, Smith is a reliable tackler with good coverage skills. Smith is the prototypical Matt Eberflus corner with the length and athletic traits needed in today's NFL.

"What's special about him is he's kind of made that steady ascent, right?" Bears co-director of player personnel Trey Koziol said Saturday. "So, when we look at drafting players, it's like, can you still get more out of them? Are they still on that developmental upswing? And I think that's where Terell really stood out.

"He's had some good. He's had some bad but it's constantly gotten better and so even throughout this whole process, it's like, I thought the senior year he showed a ton of improvement and he just kept getting better and better and then he went to the East-West Shrine game and that just kept getting better and better and better and he obviously tested out really well at the combine and had a really nice pro day. So, all the little checked boxes that we look for, he kind of hit all of them through. For somebody, like we talk about, resilience is a big thing. That is one of the key cogs we talk about when we're looking for Bears players, so for somebody to stick it out and kind of work through those things and kind of pull himself up by his bootstraps and continue to get better, that shows a lot about him both as a player and a person. So, I think that is a really special thing with him."

A day after drafting Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson in the second round, the Bears went back to the "traits-over-production" well with Smith.

At 6-foot, 204 pounds, Smith checks every physical box for the Bears, who have revamped their secondary in the course of two drafts.

"I think everybody, really, is looking ideally for big, long, and fast, right?" Koziol said of the Bears' prototypical corner. "Because when you’ve got somebody with those physical skill sets, they don’t have to be perfect, and they can still be right. The speed, the length, all that stuff is critical in the sense that they can run downfield with speed wide receivers, they can come up and support the run, they can get their hands on guys at the line of scrimmage. There’s a lot you can do with those guys to take advantage of some mismatches too, which is great."

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Smith's ball production didn't match his traits. He recorded just three interceptions in the past two seasons and let several takeaways slip away.

But the top-end speed, anticipation, and physicality are worth the fifth-round swing.

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