Saturday, 17 January 2009

Who is Jason Smith?

Rob Rang caused quite a stir when he predicted the Seahawks would select Jason Smith (OT, Baylor) in his first mock draft. The main reason being, nobody knows much about him. Whilst pundits have been dissecting the qualities of Michael Oher, Andre Smith and Eugene Monroe, Smith has quietly climbed the mock drafts. With the Senior Bowl work outs coming up this week, he has a chance to improve his draft stock further.

So who is he? Born in Dallas, he'll be 23 years old four days after this year's draft. Originally starting out as a tight end for the Bears, coach Guy Morriss is credited with seeing his potential as an offensive linemen. Listed anywhere between 280-310 pounds, Smith has a slender build and good height (6'5"). Nicknamed 'Smooth', he missed some of his red shirt sophomore season with a troublesome knee injury. Tremendous athleticism has led to claims he's 'unbeatable' in pass protection and his run blocking can't be too bad - Baylor averaged 195.8 rushing yards a game in 2008. With Smith anchoring the line, the Bears rushed for 29 touchdowns, the schools highest mark since 1994. He's also got the brains to match the athletic talent. He graduated quickly and actually took post-graduate studies during his senior year.

For more information on Jason Smith check out these links:

John Werner from the Waco Tribune Herald says, "when Jason Smith walks into a room, everybody can feel his presence".

Matt McGuire compares Smith to Sam Baker (USC), drafted in the first round last year by the Atlanta Falcons.

NFL Draft Scout ranks Smith as the fourth highest offensive tackle prospect.

Scott Wright compliments his outstanding athleticism, but suggests he needs to add bulk. Smith is touted as a 'pro-bowl prospect'.

Chris Steubar conducted a Q&A with Smith just before Christmas. They talk about everything from football to music taste - 'Smooth' even reveals his 'dream date'.

Adam Winkler reports that Smith could be the first Baylor prospect taken in the first round since Walter Abercrombie (who went 12th overall to the Steelers in 1982).


MTJHoyas said...

Naturally, my concern with an athletic OT who needs to add bulk is what happens to his athleticism once he adds weight? Is he a guy we can plug into on other parts of the line assuming Jones is healthy? My concern is that we get too caught up with the notion that you can't "waste" a pick on a WR at 4. It just so happens, that arguably the most talented prospect this year is a WR and "ta da" we do not have a #1 WR. If we go with Jason Smith because he grades out better is one thing, but I (like many others) will be disappointed to pass on Crabtree because we are scared of the "bust" factor. Not to mention, there is a lot of money in our O-line already and Ruskell has said multiple times that we does not like drafting OL high in the draft. Obviously Rob Rang knows more than most of us, but I am kinda getting tired of people inferring that all OTs taken at the top of the draft turn into Walter Jones. From what I have read and heard, there is no Joe Thomas or Jake Long in this year's draft. Michael Oher has already dropped quite a bit on a lot of boards and Andre Smith has major questions about conditioning and his ability to pass block. I want the best value at 4 and I think it's Crabtree. He just seems like the perfect player for our offensive system.

Rob Staton said...

You raise some valid points MTJ. With regard to Smith plugging into other parts of the line, I am not too sure. He's shown an ability to adapt and learn the OT position quickly after switching from TE. I'm not a big fan of plugging guys in though. If you're spending a top five pick (and top five money) on a LT I think you have to either play him at that position or at least be training him up to master that role in the NFL. I still look at taking an OT this year in the first round as an investment in the teams future rather than an immediate fixture that can help the team from day one in 2009. You're getting a guy you are confident can replace Walter Jones when he eventually retires.

Smith appears to have the good character, the brains and the work ethic Tim Ruskell looks for. He's not from a big school though - another thing Ruskell has looked at in the past. We'll be asking these questions until the 'Hawks hand in their pick. Do you use this high pick to secure the long term future at an important position such as QB or OT, or can you find a more immediate fix with a Michael Crabtree or a defensive prospect?

I think it's also important to stress that Rob Rang said in his interview with Eric Williams (see article below this one) that there are other options for Seattle. He said there was absolutely a chance the Hawks pick Crabtree, that a guy like Malcolm Jenkins could be an option or how about this wild card - a running back like Moreno or Wells. Seattle do need a play maker on offense somehow, it needs new life. Whether they use a first round pick to get one, or instead go for a long term answer at offensive tackle, is something we'll all enjoy debating as the draft gets closer.

Steve in Spain said...

Rob, doesn't "big school" = Division-1A school? I don't know too much about college football, so I guess that was just an unchallenged supposition of mine.

Anyway, perhaps you might be a tad optimistic about Big Walt's chances of making a full recovery for next year? Microfracture surgery's a real hit or miss procedure, even in the NBA where it has a longer track record. Look what's happened to Marcus Tubbs. I know the front office is putting on a brave face, but they have plenty of reasons to paint a rosy picture: draft posturing, jersey sales, season ticket sales, troop morale, etc. But looking at this draft, I think you have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best and, in the case, drafting OT in the first is preparing for the worst and the return of Walter Jones as a quality starter is at best a "hope."

As for J. Smith, I like the pick a lot. It just smells like a Tim Ruskell pick. J. Smith looks like a good fit for the ZBS, being agile and able to move in space, and not so much a mauler. I like that he has room on his frame to support more bulk. You kind of worry about A. Smith and the way he's already maxed out his natural frame. People talk about Oher as a high-character guy, and I don't doubt he is, but people question his football character - J. Smith looks more like the complete package that Ruskell would target. Not flashy at all, just a solid, safe pick, like Rang says.

Rob Staton said...

Hi Steve, I think the term 'big school' is open to different definitions. You could most definitely include all Division 1A schools, or you could be more restrictive and just list the obvious candidates. Baylor haven't had a first round prospect for nearly 30 years, so that's part of the reason I referred to them in the way I did. USC had four first rounders in 2008 alone. Arkansas had two prospects at the same position (RB) go in the first round last year.

My own feelins on the Walter Jones injury are mixed. As you rightly say, the type of surgery he's had, it's very difficult to recover from. But you almost have to hope that he can carry on, it'd be a real shame to see such a great career end like this.

If Jones retires, the team has three options. They paid Sean Locklear a big contract last year, with incentives on him playing LT. I have to wonder whether the plan is for Locklear to move over and be the future at left tackle. Free agency is also a possibility, adding a veteran linemen. They also have a rare oppurtunity to draft a left tackle very early in the first round. They won't find a Walter Jones, but they could find a very good linemen who can secure the position for ten years.

Your analysis on Jason Smith is spot on. There are questions on both Andre Smith and Oher. There are concerns Andre Smith will struggle against elite speed, he is carrying a lot of weight. I believe he may be more suited to guard or right tackle. Michael Oher has the tools to be the best tackle in the class, but some scouts have raised questions about his intelligence. Not good trying to learn the kind of complicated scheme associated with Mike Solari.

Jason Smith on the other hand has room to add bulk, he is super athletic with great footwork. People have questioned his run blocking, but you only have to look at what my article says about Baylor's running game with Smith anchoring their line. He's intelligent, he had the character and the leadership this team looks for. I wouldn't be suprised if from this class of linemen - he has the best career.

I'd like to check out his knee problems though. From my research, he has missed time with a problematic knee. Will it be an issue?

Steve in Spain said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Rob. Great blog, also - forgot to say so before.