The NFL draft is this week, and the Georgia Bulldogs are expected to have at least 10 players drafted, starting from the first round on Thursday through the seventh round on Saturday.
One of the former Bulldogs that is not expected to be drafted is cornerback Branden Smith, who was not invited to the NFL combine back in February.
Smith was never an All-American or an All-SEC player. But he did a lot for the program, and based on his talent and ability to make plays, Smith will be a valuable piece for any NFL team.
Here are four reasons why Smith should be selected in the NFL draft.
Smith started nine games at cornerback last season, but he lost his job to Damian Swann.
Smith’s numbers aren’t going to impress anybody. He did not have any interceptions and had only 25 tackles last year. But he did have nine pass breakups, which was a career and team high.
Smith’s size was one of the reasons he was not a full-time starter at cornerback (5'11", 182 pounds), but he knew how to cover SEC receivers and rarely made mistakes.
When Smith was not playing on defense, he would try to add a spark on offense.
During his four-year career in Athens, Smith ran the ball 38 times for 363 yards and three touchdowns. Smith also played some receiver and tallied seven catches for 63 yards.
Because of his speed, Smith was brought in on offense occasionally to give opposing defenses a different look. It may not have worked all the time, but this demonstrates that Smith is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win.
Smith not only played on offense and defense, but he was also able to contribute on special teams as a kick and punt returner.
2010 was his best year as a returner. He averaged 14.3 yards per punt return, with his longest being 40 yards.
Fans started to notice Smith as a returner his freshman season when he had a 49-yard return against South Carolina.
2011 was the only year Smith took part in both kick and punt returns. He averaged 18.7 yards on kick returns and 7.8 yards on punt returns.
Smith did not have any kick or punt returns last year because he was needed more on defense, along with as a special weapon on offense.
Since Smith did not get invited to the combine, he had to excel in the pro day, and he did in a huge way.
4.38 was Smith’s 40-time, 34" was his measurement for the vertical jump and his broad jump measurement was 10’8’’.
Smith also showed solid footwork and had very few miscues during his position drills.
Having a day like that will get Smith noticed by an NFL team or two.
Despite being a versatile player and having an impressive pro day workout, Smith is still a work in progress, so it looks like he will be taken in the sixth or seventh round.
One of the teams that could use him is right in the backyard of the Bulldogs: the Atlanta Falcons.
With the loss of Brent Grimes and Christopher Owens, the Falcons need more depth at cornerback.
Also, the Falcons could use another return guy. With the speed Smith possesses, along with the experience, he could step right into that role.