One of the most fascinating aspects of the draft each year is the way players move up and down the rankings throughout the long draft season. As a result, the players whom we initially project to go to the Cowboys either move up the rankings (Nick Fairley) or down the rankings (Cameron Jordan; Prince Amukamara) and, hence, no longer merit strong consideration, while others move up or down to replace them. As we have crawled closer to April 28, USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith, one of these players, has become the consensus choice for the Cowboys at pick #9. Here at BTB, this change in thinking has occurred in no small part because of the tireless efforts of ChiaCrack, who has been soapboxing for Smith for about ten weeks now (okay, sure, and people like Wes Bunting haven't hurt!).
As a result, most of us in Cowboyland already know a great deal about him--and his game. So, I won't overload you with material that's been traversed countless times, or post already-posted videos. Here, without further ado, are what some of the leading Internet draft gurus think about Smith.
National Football Post (Wes Bunting) top-rated OT; 9th overall
A tall, athletic-looking offensive tackle prospect with a long frame, long arms and a lot of growth potential in his lower half. Is only twenty years old and still has a lot of maturing to do with his frame and should be easily able to add additional bulk/weight without much of a problem. Plays right tackle at USC and will likely need to learn to make the move to left tackle at the next level, stunting his growth a bit in playing quickly during his rookie year. However, he's a gifted athlete off the edge with natural bend in his lower half, is able to sit into his stance, play with leverage into contact and extend his long arms well at the point of attack. Lacks ideal power/strength for the position and at times tries to make up for it by getting a bit more physical into contact and will get overextended and lunge into blocks and lose his man toward the corner. However, for the most part is a patient puncher who uncoils quickly into contact, is heavy handed for his size and has the body control to slide his feet and mirror through contact. Displays good hand placement and is tough to disengage from through the play. Possesses clean footwork on the outside, has a quick power step but at times gets a bit long with his footwork. However, for the most part maintains good balance, stays compact and has the range to consistently reach speed toward the edge and redirect in space.
Is a gifted athlete in space in the run game. Quickly releases to the second level, breaks down on his target and consistently is able to get his hands into contact and seal. Doesn't always hit what he sees when trying to cut defenders down at the line, but is quickly out of his stance when trying to step and seal and works his legs around defenders well through contact. Plays with good leverage as an in-line guy, extends his arms well into contact, bumps his legs and can create an initial surge because of his pad level and technique. Needs to continue to get stronger in order to do the same at the next level, but he should be able to pretty quickly in his career.
Impression: A gifted athlete for the position who at only 20 years old is far from a finished product. However, the flexibility, athleticism, frame and body control are all there for this guy to develop into a very good starting left or right tackle in the NFL, depending on where he feels comfortable.
The Sporting News (Russ Lande) 2nd-rated OT; 10th overall
Run blocking: Is a good run blocker inline and out in space. Can drive defenders down the line of scrimmage on side blocks. Does not have the quickness to fire off the line on straight-ahead run blocks. Locks up his defender well with both hands to open a hole for the running back. Gets to the second level with ease to block the linebacker.
Pass blocking: Has the height, long arms, quickness, athleticism and strength to be an excellent pass blocker in the NFL. Is able to slide out to the corner and cut off the speed rusher. Blocks with good leverage and can slide well to the side to adjust to pass rushers. Punches blockers aggressively with his hands.
Initial quickness: Must improve here on pass blocks, as he doesn't react quickly after the snap. Gets out of his stance and into blocking position quickly and uses his strength, technique and competitiveness to block his man out of the play on run blocks. Shows good initial quickness getting to the second level.
Strength: Has the muscular build and strength that NFL teams covet. Is a dominant force despite not being a huge offensive lineman. Uses his hands and strength to punch pass rushers. Is able to drive defensive linemen down the line of scrimmage and lock them up on inline run blocks.
Mobility: Easily shoots through the line of scrimmage to the second level to lock up the linebacker. Is quick out of his stance and has the speed to lead block effectively in space.
Bottom line: Smith, a junior, left school early for the NFL draft (one of just two offensive tackles to do so). While he hasn't received a lot of hype from the media, NFL teams see him as a high draft pick because due to his all-around athleticism and excellent mobility.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki) 3rd-rated OT; 19th overall
Positives: Extremely athletic physical specimen with rare arm length and huge mitts—looks exactly how scouts would draw up a left tackle. Rolls his hips and can create some movement in the run game. Can adjust to movement in space, hook, seal and gain an edge. Outstanding feet to shuffle and slide. Great body control. Is one of the youngest layers in the draft, everything is in front of him and he is dripping with upside. Impressed evaluators by adding roughly 25 pounds after the season.
Negatives: Struggled to hold weight during his career and playing weight was close to 280 pounds. Tends to play too narrow-based and shows some stiffness that could create a balance deficiency. Does not play with power in his body. Inconsistent technician. Lacks football intelligence and is very raw—will require time to adapt to an NFL playbook and sort out what he sees. Is too often late off the ball. Can be short-circuited by complex blitz packages. Passive football temperament.
Summary: Ability to bulk up considerably before the Combine squelched concerns about his lack of mass and he is clearly the most athletically gifted left tackle in the draft. Moreover, with Matt Kalil manning the left side, Smith has remained on the right throughout his career, and questions still exist about how well he will be able to adapt to playing on the left side, especially given how much a former Trojan predecessor, Winston Justice, struggled to acclimate to the left side in the pros. May not be ready to plug and play, but physically has tools to warrant early consideration. Concerns about football IQ could affect his draft status.
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton) top-rated OT; 10th overall
Pass Protection: Possesses natural LT feet. Bends at the knees and gets into sets quickly. Moves easy laterally and can shuffle and mirror to stay in front of quicker rushers. Uses long arms and hands well and can sustain once gaining proper initial position. Also shows ability to sink hips and anchor against more powerful bull rush attempts. Only time he gets into trouble is when he lunges making himself vulnerable to effective pull/pull moves.
Run Blocking: Above-average first step quickness and consistently puts himself into proper position. Ability to bend at the knees provides him with natural leverage and possesses more inline power base than thinner frame would indicate. Eyes can drop to ground upon contact at times which can cause him to fall of blocks. However, when displaying proper technique, does a nice job of sustaining blocks. Easy mover in space when pulling around edge or climbing to the second level. Also shows ability to adjust on the move to throw on targets in space.
Awareness: Area of weakness. Still raw with natural instincts. Can be a second late recognizing blitzes and defensive line movement in protection. Usually assignment sound in the run game but can have problems locating targets at the second level on occasion.
Toughness: Strapped together and possesses good core strength. Tough and fights to sustain blocks. Displays a nasty side and will finish if given the opportunity. Shows good hustle and chases plays downfield.
Intangibles: Recipient of the 2010 Morris Trophy Award for the most outstanding offensive lineman of the Pac-10 voted on by his peers. Hard worker both on and off the field. Work ethic is adequate but not as intense and passionate about the game as NFL teams want to see.
Drafttek (Longball) 2nd-rated OT; 14th overall
An underclassmen who may have the highest ceiling of any prospect at this position is Tyron Smith of USC. There is no questioning this young man’s athleticism but there were questions about his maturity (20 years old) and lack of size (6’5” 285 lbs at USC); however, he showed up at the Combine a chiseled 307 lbs, 11” hands (“the better to grab you with, my dear”) and 36-3/8” arms that pumped out 29 reps. Yes, there are still many hours in the weight room ahead and I would have liked to see him stay in school one more year – but then again, I don’t pay his bills. USC played Smith at ROT, but he is a natural fit to slide to LOT in the NFL. His athleticism would be perfect for a zone blocking scheme, but he has the upside to play left tackle in most any offense.
Smith’s long arms allow him to effectively control defenders in pass blocking. He has an excellent kick step to his right, but will have to prove he can effectively do this on the left side. His initial punch is not overly dominating at the point of attack, but time in the weight room should cure that. He is also a little inconsistent and a bit wide with his hand placement, which can allow a defender to get into his body. Smith is most effective against speed rushers and uses his athleticism to maintain the edge well. He is a natural bender who dips low in his stance and has great fluidity for a big man. He can be overaggressive at times, but that mainly comes from lack of experience.
In run blocking, Smith is light on his feet and gets to the second level well. He finishes his blocks, gets excellent leg drive, and never quits on a play. His balance allows him to look natural on the edge in lead blocking. He is a little inconsistent in his initial movement off the ball and plays too high in the running game. Smith played in a pro-style zone blocking scheme under respected line coaches Pat Ruel and James Cregg and should be able to adapt to any scheme.
These evaluations are remarkably consistent. Not all scouts think Smith is the best OT in the draft right now--but all agree he will be three years from now. Bunting claims that Tyron Smith is twice the prospect that Jason Smith was--and the Baylor product went # 2 to the Rams in the 2009 draft. In T. Smith and the number nine slot, there is a happy wedding of ability and need. I'll put him there, and pray Jerry Jones doesn't get so cute trying to fix all that ails the Cowboys in a single draft that he misses out on a guy that could anchor the Cowboys OL for the next decade.
Next up: Arkansas OT/OG DeMarcus Love