The Jacksonville Jaguars are set to begin rookie minicamp today, and with that in mind, we continue to take a closer look at each of Jacksonville’s draft picks. Next up in our series is University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) edge rusher/linebacker/defensive end Jordan Smith. The Jaguars traded up in the fourth round to select Smith with the No. 121 overall pick.
To get a better idea of what Smith brings to the table for the Jaguars, we spoke to Eric Henry, co-managing editor at Underdog Dynasty — SB Nation’s website covering non-Power Five college conferences, such as the American, Conference USA, Sun Belt, and the FCS. While Smith is a “raw” prospect that has some learning to do, he also has an exciting skill set. Here is what Eric had to say:
1. The Jaguars traded up in the fourth round to get Smith, a player who maybe wasn’t on the radar for a lot of Jaguars fans. What do you think it is about Smith’s skill set that was appealing to the Jaguars?
Eric: From a sheer athletic standpoint, there’s a lot to like about Smith. At his pro day, he came in at about 6-foot-6, 264-pounds, showing that he clearly possesses an NFL body that’s capable of playing at both outside linebacker and defensive end. While he “only” ran 4.8 (40-yard dash), part of that may have had to do with him putting on an extra 10 pounds of bulk for the pro day — Smith played faster than that number during his time at UAB.
2. With that said, Smith is still “very raw,” according to head coach Urban Meyer. What areas do you think Smith needs to improve upon in the NFL?
Eric: He’s raw in a couple of ways. First off, accounting for the sheer game experience, Smith has only played in 21 games as a starter and there’s evidence that he was able to get by on athleticism alone. While he’s clearly talented, his game experience pales in comparison to other players who have had double the amount of playing time. Secondly, there’s still work to do as far as frame and physical talents. Coming out of high school, he was a highly-touted prospect that had offers from the majority of SEC schools — that was as a 6-foot-5-inch, 210-pound pass rusher. Smith’s 17 reps on the bench are respectable, but expect him to continue to grow in an NFL offseason program.
3. Of course, Smith has great size and length at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, and could be used in a variety of ways. Defensive coordinator Joe Cullen’s scheme is expected to be “multiple” in Jacksonville with both 3-4 and 4-3 base looks. Do you think Smith projects better as a 3-4 outside linebacker/edge rusher, or as a 4-3 hand-in-the-dirt defensive end? Why?
Eric: Is saying both a cop-out? In all seriousness, a legitimate argument can be made for both. UAB was one of the best defenses in Conference USA and the entire nation over the past few seasons, in large part due to the success they’ve had deploying their 3-4 look. If I had to choose one, I’d lean toward the 3-4 outside linebacker/edge rusher. While I do believe that he will develop in terms of sheer strength and frame, he’s a natural pass rusher. If he’s asked to do that and make the plays that come his way in the run game, Smith will be more than adequate.
4. Before transferring to UAB, Smith ran into some trouble while he was at Florida and was involved with a credit card fraud scheme. He was suspended, and eventually moved on to Butler Community College before landing with the Blazers. Should Jaguars fans have any character concerns about Smith, or do you believe he has put the past behind him?
Eric: From those around the program, they all account for Smith being a model citizen during his time in Birmingham. I don’t believe there’s any reason to think that won’t continue in Duval County.
5. The Jaguars really struggled to get to the quarterback last year with just 18 sacks as a team (ranking 31st in the NFL). Smith recorded 14.5 sacks in two seasons with UAB (and 27 tackles for loss). Do you think Smith could play an immediate role as a pass rusher for the Jaguars, or do you think he needs some time to develop before he makes any sort of impact?
Eric: Despite all of the talk of how much of a raw talent Smith is, that’s really in relation to his ceiling — which should speak volumes. From the second he arrived in C-USA, Smith was one of the premier pass-rushers in the league and constantly made plays behind the line of scrimmage. Yes, he’s still developing, and physically, he still has a way to go. But he’s one of the most natural pass rushers to come through the conference in a while, and that includes guys like former first-rounder Marcus Davenport and current Baltimore Raven defensive tackle Jaylon Ferguson, who broke the NCAA record for sacks in a career.
A huge thank you to Eric for his strong insights, analysis and opinions on Smith. You can follow Eric on Twitter, and to keep up with news on some of the less-talked about college programs out there, be sure to follow Underdog Dynasty as well.
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