Another rookie linebacker that could make waves this year is former Florida State Seminal Telvin Smith. Despite only starting his senior year, the rookie linebacker increased his college tackles and turnovers each year. Usually some college linebackers struggle with their height being enough to play on the inside in the NFL, which is not the case with Smith. He is 6’ 3”, but the linebacker only weighs 218 pounds. I re-watched four of these games against Pittsburgh, Miami, Clemson, and Boston College to get a more well-rounded view of the skill set he brings to the Jaguars.
First his lack of girth could be an issue in the NFL. Smith does not step up and take on blockers well against the run. The linebacker usually gets knocked back or slips between the offensive lines on a blitz to make the play. There was so many times where Smith would get swallowed up by the mass of humanity at the line of scrimmage. I’m not convinced that he will ever have enough power to be a three down linebacker, unless Smith plays an uncovered weak side backer his entire career. It looks like Jacksonville will play him on the inside, but I think he might be better suited for the outside. It’s not for a lack of grit playing the inside, but Smith is more natural in space.
Smith is a quick-twitch athlete that anticipates and flows to the ball quickly with good lateral movement. He wraps up ball carriers with good technique, which is a necessity because he lacks that raw power/strength to simply knock an opposing player to the ground. In pass coverage, Smith can hang with some very talented receivers. He made several plays against top rookie fantasy wide receiver Sammy Watkins, closing quickly on him in the open field. While I’m not saying that the linebacker should matchup against a team’s best wide receiver, Smith can cover running backs and tight ends that cross his path or get used on disguised blitzes to pressure the quarterback. The linebacker is quite slippery on his way to the signal caller while having the balance and body control to break up passes. Smith’s motor is constantly running and has returned a few interceptions for touchdowns in his senior season.
I see Smith as more of a hybrid weak side linebacker/strong safety. Think a lesser Troy Polumanu without the hair. It might take the season to figure out how to use him best in their system, but Smith is worth a third/fourth round investment in your rookie drafts.
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