Telvin Smith was mostly a sub-package and special teams player for FSU until his senior season in 2013, where he played a key role in Florida State's defense. As a senior, he led the team in tackles with 90. He received an invitation to the 2014 Senior Bowl, where he played for the Jaguars coaching staff.
Fit With Jacksonville
In terms of fit for both Telvin Smith and Jacksonville, this is a perfect marriage.
Telvin was a player who was scrutinized throughout the draft process for being a tweener. He was playing linebacker in a safety's body, and many analysts (and likely many teams) were uncomfortable with him having full time linebacker duties.
The best situation for Telvin to be placed into would be with a 4-3 team that had a front-four who could occupy enough blockers to let him use his upper tier athleticism to make plays. And that's just what he lucked into with landing in Jacksonville.
Gus Bradley also harps on speed, speed, and more speed at linebacker. Jacksonville, meanwhile, had a serious deficiency in their linebacking corps -- they were slow and couldn’t cover. LaRoy Reynolds is a tremendous athlete, but was never a starter. Geno Hayes was the best athlete in the starting linebacking core but he was poor in coverage.
The Jaguars need a linebacker like Telvin to cover ground vs both the run and the pass. He offers a blend of athleticism and coverage skills that no other linebacker on the team offers, outside of maybe Reynolds, but he is still a big question mark. For both sides, this is a perfect fit.
This was not only the Jaguars best value pick of their draft. It was one of the biggest steals, in terms of value, of the entire draft. Telvin was bound to fall due to his tweener status and a failed drug test prior to the draft, but purely based on talent, he shouldn’t have made it out of the top 75 picks. This was a steal, plain and simple.
Telvin Smith’s Biggest Strengths
Speed, Speed, SPEEEEEEEED!
Whenever you hear about Telvin Smith, you hear about how athletic he is -- and for good reason. He has the athleticism to legitimately cover from sideline to sideline, which is something Jacksonville has not had in a long, long time.
Here is an example of his ability to use his speed to cover ground both laterally and downhill. He drops into coverage near the right hash, roughly 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage. It is a designed rollout so he stays with his coverage responsibility, but once he sees the quarterback (*cough* Houston Texans rookie Tom Savage *cough*) head to the sideline, he explodes downhill, limiting the quarterback from gaining really anything at all.
This play highlights the double edged sword that is Telvin Smith. While he is a dynamic athlete, he does have legitimate strength issues, which is the reason he can not quickly bring the running back down.
But, I don’t particularly care about that. You can help build strength. He will get stronger in an NFL weight room. What you can’t build, is this type of downhill explosion he shows. There is not a defense in the NFL that could not use this type of speed.
Telvin’s explosion is so good, he can maintain speed downhill through contact and chip blocks.
Telvin displays his speed in "phone booth" situations as well, which he will see more and more in the NFL.
In this play, the offensive line reaches the second level to attempt to make a lead block, but Telvin uses his short area quickness to simply evade him, and make the tackle. This is the type of athleticism that translates to the NFL.
Telvin will one of the Jaguars premier athletes on defense once he starts getting reps. And when he displays skills like these in practice, it’ll be hard to keep him off the field for long.
As I mentioned earlier, Telvin is very skilled in pass coverage, in large part due to his aforementioned athleticism.
On this play, Telvin shows blitz but quickly drops into coverage to track the running back out of the backfield.
Telvin has the agility to mirror the running back out of the backfield and then the explosiveness to break on the ball and disrupt the pass.
One of the issues the Jaguars have had on defense for far too long has been covering tight ends or "in-line" targets. They have been awful at it, due to the fact that they have not had a good coverage linebacker in a number of years. Telvin has shown he can help be the solution to this problem.
On this play, Telvin shifts from the middle of the field to the in-line target and is able to use his explosiveness to quickly break on the ball and separate the ball and the receiver, coming up with a near-interception.
Telvin can be a major strength in pass coverage. Period.
Telvin Smith’s Biggest Weaknesses
Strength & Taking On Blocks
Telvin’s biggest issues in college were pretty clear. He is borderline 220 pounds, and he looks it. His less than ideal size is worrisome when he is forced to take on blockers, as he does not have the build or the strength to be a force when taking on blocks.
This play is an example of how easy it is at times for blockers to take Telvin out of the play. Telvin has a clear course the running back, but a chip block by the right tackle is able to force him to lose his balance and get taken out of the play.
Here is another example of Telvin being eliminated from the play by an offensive lineman way too easily.
Here, Telvin displays his great range, but simply can not bring the running back down because he doesn’t have any real power to his game. NFL running backs will be much harder to tackle than this Clemson one was.
The silver lining to Telvin is that despite his poor strength and his smaller stature, he brings physicality every single play.
Ultimately, I think Telvin’s strengths help cancel out his weaknesses. He needs to get stronger, but his quickness will help him evade blocks.
The Best Case Scenario For Telvin Smith’s Rookie Season
The best case scenario is to see Telvin Smith win the weakside linebacker job in training camp and stake his claim as a playmaker early on.
Telvin has the skill set for today’s NFL to make an immediate impact, both against the pass and run. Due to the Jaguars scheme, some of his negatives (size, strength, etc...) will be negated as well. If he wins the job in camp, I’d expect Telvin to be one of the Jaguars’ most impactful front-seven players by the end of the year.
The Worst Case Scenario For Telvin Smith’s Rookie Season
The worst case scenario would be to see him not make strides in his strength development and for him to cause the coaching staff to be hesitant to implement him into the lineup.
I personally do not see Telvin’s negatives as big limitations because I believe his positives cancel them out, but I’m not the one whose job may depend on how well he plays. I think he can, and should, play right away. But the worse case scenario would be for him to make the coaching staff think otherwise.
Reasonable Expectations For Telvin Smith’s Rookie Season
Reasonable expectations for Telvin this season would be to expect him to put up a fight in training camp, but be a difference maker regardless of whether or not he "starts".
The Jaguars would be foolish if Telvin is not a third down package player by Week 1, simply because there isn’t anyone else who can do what he does. Despite Hayes’ athleticism, he can’t cover. I know Paul Posluszny is a fan favorite or whatever, but he shouldn’t play on third downs. He's a liability there. Telvin can be the team's best cover linebacker the day he steps onto the field, and I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect him to play like it.
Overall Opinion Of Pick
This was my favorite pick of the Jaguars draft, in terms of fit, value, and more. Telvin is a baller. I don’t care how small he is -- he's exactly what the Jaguars need, and the Jaguars are exactly what he need. I will talk a bit more about my reaction to the pick in a later post, but I am very happy the Jaguars pulled the trigger on him.