Fifth Round: 146th PIck
As NFL fans are getting up to speed on the 2013 NFL draft class, many are becoming more familiar with Florida State pass rusher Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, who would have been a top 10-15 pick if he hadn't torn his ACL in November.
Another elite pass-rusher went down with that same type of injury in November, and like with Carradine, teams will have trouble figuring out exactly where to put Quanterus Smith on their draft boards once they get a lot of what he can do.
Smith is the most advanced pass-rusher in this class. His use of hands and sequencing of pass-rush moves/tactics to set up his opponent over the course of a game is far beyond anything any other pass-rush prospect has exhibited. A quick first step, the lateral agility to change up or adjust mid-rush and the power to finish are all there. He rarely lets a quarterback in his sights escape, and when he finishes, the passer usually gets blown up.
He is also a true two-way end with the sand in his pants to hold the point against the run and the awareness to diagnose and track plays both to and away from his part of the field. Smith's motor runs hot, and he still makes plays when his initial attack is thwarted.
Smith is not an elite athlete and might have benefited a bit from playing a lower level of competition, although he was on fire against national champion Alabama last year when he recorded 3.5 sacks.
He's not a quick-twitch speed-rusher and will have more trouble going outside against more athletically gifted NFL offensive tackles. Smith often plays too high off the snap and will need work on his pad level.
Smith measured in at 6'5" 250 at the combine, but he plays with a better anchor than his height would indicate. His 33 1/4" arms and 10 3/8" hands come into play when it's time to corral a running back or quarterback. His lateral agility and change of direction aren't explosive, but excellent play recognition abilities allow him to be very effective on running plays and in space as a pass defender.
Smith is a great hustle player who processes information quickly and acts on his instincts even faster. He was a durable player before his ACL tear, so teams should not be worried about his overall fitness and ability to stay on the field. He had one of his biggest games of the year against the best team in the country, so Smith knows how to rise to the occasion.
Smith played exclusively as a 4-3 defensive end at Western Kentucky, but he would drop into coverage at times.
Few college pass-rushers have demonstrated the variety of moves that Smith has in his career. A straight outside speed rush, a bull rush, a swim move, a stunt, a quick change of direction to get around a tackle on his heels—it's all there. Smith dips and turns the corner with ease, and he also powers inside without much trouble on tackles who cheat to the outside to cut off his quick first step.
Smith finishes what he starts, becoming a projectile at the quarterback, with the ability to separate them from the ball when he is in range. What is most impressive about Smith has a pass-rusher is how he brings that entire array of moves and strategies and sequences them to keep his opponent guessing for the entire game. He understands how to set up his opponent and instinctively goes in for the knockout when they are the most disoriented.
Smith also uses his top-notch awareness to change his strategy as the play unfolds. He already does a lot of things that even some veteran NFL pass-rushers have never been able to fully grasp.
Against the Run
Smith's tendency to play too high gives him trouble holding up at the point of attack, but he does show the ability to anchor and shed blockers on running plays. His awareness and hand-fighting skills allow him to get free of his blocker at the right time. He won't back down from bigger opponents, and Smith will manhandle a tight end if given a chance to.
The choice that the read-option offense gives a defensive end is no problem for Smith, who is decisive and can use his length to disrupt the play from the outset. He has the great motor needed to affect plays that go away from him.
Playing the run isn't a major strength, but it isn't a major weakness, either.
Those long arms and big hands show up when Smith gets them latched onto an offensive player. He levels quarterbacks and is a sure tackler, even against more elusive quarterbacks.
Smith lands his blows with enough force to create fumbles. His lines to the ball are efficient, and he takes them with a sense of urgency that puts him on the ball quicker than his opponent is expecting.
Use of Hands
Much like his variety and sequencing of pass-rush moves, Smith's use of his hands is way beyond his peers in his draft class. He will club and slap away an offensive lineman's attempt to get their hands on him. He'll land an initial punch to jolt his opponent backwards and create more room to operate.
Smith can rip free from an offensive lineman who already has his hands on him. He'll use his hands to create leverage inside or outside and find a shorter line to the quarterback. Smith keeps his arms extended and rarely lets the offensive tackle reroute or stop his pass rush.
It's fair to say that no 2013 pass-rush prospect is more active as a hand fighter than Smith.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
Smith has the read-and-react ability and adequate athleticism to move to 3-4 OLB, and if he isn't successful at lowering his pad level, that could be his best fit in the NFL. He also has the length, the frame to add more weight and the combative nature to stay at defensive end in a 4-3. Obviously, he can also be a great fit in a hybrid front that asks him to play both as a stand-up linebacker and a defensive end with his hand on the ground.