Green Bay Packers 2012 Draft: Profiling Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
Last season, the Packers allowed a league-worst 299.8 passing yards per game.
The team's inability to rush the passer may deserve more of the blame, but the secondary failed to play to its 2010 form.
Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins was lost for the season after suffering a serious neck injury in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers. One year after starter Morgan Burnett's season was ended early, backup Charlie Peprah was again asked to replace a key figure in the starting lineup.
Only this time, Collins' shoes were too big for Peprah to fill.
A final decision on the future of Nick Collins will not be made public until after the draft, but the uncertainty at safety could result in selecting a safety early in the this week's draft.
Each of the past three days, we've profiled a player who could immediately impact the pass rush department.
Today will focus on one potential difference-maker in the secondary—Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.
With prototypical size (6'2'' 213 lbs) and under-appreciated athletic ability, Smith figures to be selected towards the end of the first round or beginning of the second round.
One of the teams that could benefit from adding a player of Smith's caliber is the Green Bay Packers at No. 28.
As a freshman for the Fighting Irish, Smith was thrown into the fire as an undersized outside linebacker due to both safety spots being occupied by Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton. In his first year on campus, Smith led the team in tackles for loss, tied for the team lead in sacks and finished fourth on the team in total tackles.
Although Smith struggled the following season in the transition between linebacker and safety, his experience in the box as a freshman should help him in this week's draft.
In today's NFL, the biggest mismatch for a defense comes from the tight end position. A player with Smith's rare size and speed could prove to be a tremendous counter-attack to the league's new breed of athletic tight ends.
Along with Green Bay's significant deficiencies in man-to-man coverage and rushing the passer, their tackling was simply atrocious.
The team's top three cornerbacks: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, and both starting safeties: Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah all missed at least ten tackles in 2011.
While he isn't known to deliver many bone-crushing, SportsCenter hits, Smith is a reliable tackler and plays the run game extremely well for a defensive back.
Perhaps Smith's best season came in 2010, when he led the team with 91 tackles and seven interceptions. Despite not recording an interception last season, Smith again showed physicality and range by racking up 90 tackles and 10 pass breakups.
While certain prospects always fall lower than expected on draft day due to off-the-field red flags, or injury concerns, Smith does not fall under that category. A team captain at Notre Dame, Smith will benefit on draft day from his intelligence both on and off the playing field.
Certainly, the possibility of Green Bay selecting Harrison Smith in the first round would increase exponentially if Nick Collins is forced into retirement.
However, even if Collins returns, the Packers must address a lack of depth in the secondary and could do it as early as round one.
With green—and gold—check marks next to the "high character" and "good football player" labels, Harrison Smith appears to be a good fit for the Packers.
In a few days, we'll see if Ted Thompson feels the same way.
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