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Dawuane Smoot might be better than you think

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Did the Jaguars get some nice value in the 3rd round?

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

There was a pretty big consensus reaction after the Jaguars third round pick was announced last night.

Who?

With pass rushers like Derek Rivers, Carl Lawson, and Tim Williams still available, many people were surprised to hear the name Dawuane Smoot instead. As Alfie Crow points out though, the reason it was Smoot and not one of those other guys is because the Jaguars wanted a left end behind Calais Campbell.

But because this was unfamiliar territory, the pick wasn’t met with much enthusiasm. However, many fans might be surprised to find out that Smoot is a better player than they realize. Our friends over at The Champaign Room provided a nice breakdown on Smoot, one that you can read in full here. Here’s a little taste of they had to say.

At nearly 270 pounds, Smoot can bring a physicality that many elite pass rushers lack. Whether he’s playing as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, he’s already big enough to be competitive in run support, while still being quick enough to shoot gaps and be disruptive in the backfield.

An underrated thing that coaches will like is Smoot’s motor. He only came up with five sacks his senior year, a drop after picking up eight the year prior, but his quarterback hurries increased from two in 2015 to 10 in 2016. Even if he’s not getting the statistical accolades of a sack, bringing that kind of relentless pressure play after play and getting in the quarterback’s face is what wins football games.

As with any player, there are also some downsides to Smoot’s game, which you can read about in the article. However, the strengths presented are definitely some things you want to hear about a guy you just drafted. This is especially true for the Jaguars, given that consistent pressure is something they have lacked, but it’s something that was highlighted for Smoot.

The craziest thing I’ve found about Smoot so far is that he was actually considered a much higher pick entering last season.

Also, as a quick aside, all of the Jaguars picks in the 1st three rounds were thought highly of entering the 2016 season.

Well, it’s certainly pretty exciting to see that a guy the Jaguars just got in the 3rd round was originally considered a top five talent entering last year. However, it obviously begs the question: why did his draft stock slip so much in one season?

For starters, his sack production dipped in his final year, which will give NFL execs pause any time that happens. But why did that occur? An article posted to NFL.com back around the Senior Bowl might give some insight.

The scoop: "I didn't think much of him when I studied some quick tape before heading down here (to the Senior Bowl), but he was one of the most impressive pass rushers I saw. I think he was probably hurt playing in Lovie (Smith's) defense." -- NFC defensive line coach on Illinois DE/OLB Dawuane Smoot

This sentiment is one I saw echoed repeatedly on Twitter last night from people around the league and with ties to the Illinois program, and it’s one that would explain why Smoot was thought so highly of entering this year, only to fall to the third round. People believe that playing in Love Smith’s defense did Smoot no favors, and that’s the reason his production dipped. Apparently, Smoot also dropped weight this past year, which hindered him from replicating his game tape from the 2015 season. Dave Caldwell has already addressed this issue though.

Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Smoot is a future Hall of Famer that the Jaguars stole in the third round. But when you consider the fact that he was highly touted coming off of his 2015 season, and he will be back to playing at that weight with the Jaguars, it has to make you feel a lot better about the pick. Smoot definitely brings some nice traits to the table, and getting to come along slowly and learn behind Calais Campbell while contributing to the rotation should really help him.