After losing defensive end Elvis Dumervil in free agency to the Baltimore Ravens, the Broncos needed help at the position. Some experts thought they would address defensive end early in the draft, but instead, the Broncos did the exact opposite. They traded out of the fourth round and picked up two picks (146, 173) from the Green Bay Packers.
Smith is a one-dimensional pass-rusher, but he has intriguing upside if he can stay healthy and develop his skill set. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compares Smith to Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles, and it's an accurate comparison.
Smith is a natural pass-rusher with outstanding speed off the edge. Some speed-rushers play out of control, but that is not the case with Smith. He plays with good balance and has the footwork to change direction smoothly when pursuing the quarterback.
He's a position-versatile player who can line up as a left or right defensive end. This versatility allows coaches to move him around and bring pressure from various areas.
With long arms and strong hands, Smith can reach out to snare a ball-carrier or quarterback with ease. He is more of a chase tackler than he is an edge-setter.
Smith lacks the size to stand up when blockers engage him directly in the ground game. He will be able to add size and functional strength in the Broncos weight program, but initially in his pro career, he's likely to be a part-time player.
Like all of the Broncos' selections this year, Smith has a combination of production and potential. He is known for getting sacks in bunches, but in 2012, he had seven games without a sack. However, Smith did produce in a game against Alabama, collecting three sacks against one of the nation's best offensive lines.
The 2012 Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year was leading the NCAA in sacks in 2012 (12.5) before missing the final two games of the year with a knee injury.
That injury has brought up concerns about his durability and whether or not he can regain his trademark speed. The Broncos medical staff must have given him a thumbs up, or the team would have avoided drafting him.
Broncos fans will have to be patient with this pick. Smith was unable to work out for scouts in the pre-draft process and missed the combine as well. The Broncos could always put Smith on the Physically Unable to Perform list at the beginning of the season if he's not healthy.
If Smith is ready to compete for a spot in the defensive line rotation, the Broncos could ease him back in during training camp. Smith is going to be a rotational player early on in his career and may never be anything more than a pass-rushing specialist. That is more than acceptable on a defense that features Von Miller and is going to be playing with a lead nearly every week in 2013.