(Editor’s Note: Heading into the upcoming NFL Draft, held May 8-10, DallasCowboys.com will take a closer look at the prospects, including some that could be potential fits with the Cowboys. Today’s featured player is Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith).
Name: Chris Smith
Position: Defensive End
Honors: Smith was a standout for the Arkansas defense during a pair of otherwise disappointing seasons in 2012 and 2013. His 9.5 sacks in 2012 earned him honorable All-SEC consideration, and his 8.5 sacks in 2013 earned him second-team All-SEC.
Key stat: Smith’s smaller stature makes him one of a few intriguing tweeners prospects in this draft. He has shown his ability as a down pass rusher, but many project him to rush the passer as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
Where He’s Projected: This isn’t a guy the Cowboys would have to make a decision on in the first few rounds of the draft. Primarily because of his size and uncertain position, Smith currently projects as more of a mid-round pick. The common opinion is that he’s likely a third or fourth round pick.
How He Helps the Cowboys: Anything this team can do to improve its pass rush has to be considered a positive. If the Cowboys think of Smith as a linebacker at the next level, it’s doubtful they’d take him for a 4-3 defense. But the former Razorback did rack up 18 sacks in two seasons against SEC offensive linemen, so it’s possible he could be used as a situational edge rusher.
Scout’s Take: The Cowboys will evaluate Smith as a defensive end, while some 3-4 teams will see him as an outside linebacker. As a pass rusher, he can get up the field. Will use a quick spin move to free himself as he is working up the field. Plays with effort. Will chase the ball to the outside. He’s better when he can chase the ball from the backside.
I thought there were times in his games and the Senior Bowl when he needed to get off blocks quicker. There were snaps where he was controlled by the tackle. Had some trouble redirecting back to the ball or was late off the snap. Will play off the ball as a linebacker. Will get pass rush through strength. Bull rush.
Smith managed the throw 225 up 28 times at the Combine. I would like to see more pass rush moves -- that spin move was about it. Against Texas A&M and Jake Matthews, he got into his pass rush then stopped. Later in the game, came with a better purpose and plan on his rush and managed a sack on Johnny Manziel. He was able to outwork Matthews and that was the difference.
The majority of the time, he will attempt to chase the ball down. After the sack, he did a better job of staying active. I would like to see him do a better job of finding the ball, as he can get locked up and lose sight. I’ve seen him hop around the blocker instead of standing in there and handling the blocker.
He played with some hesitation in the Auburn game, most likely because of the read-option scheme. Good on the inside charge from the outside spot. Better in this game when it came to retrace his steps and get in on tackle.
Smith played on both side at end for Arkansas, but I think he would be better on the right side. Would be a better fit for a 4-3 team as a rusher. Strength is there to handle the run but needs to develop more pass rush moves in my opinion because he flashes some edge rush ability. He’s not for everyone because of his height and weight, but he should be a consideration in the third or fourth round.