Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut (HT: 6’2¼” WT: 246 lbs)
Seventh Round: 253rd Pick
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- Fine play recognition skills, rarely fooled by misdirection.
- Plays faster than he times due to quick read and react.
- Sufficient functional strength to take on blocks or tackle bigger backs.
- Fluid hips to turn and run, can cover ground quickly to get depth in zone coverage.
- Always following the eyes of quarterbacks and finds his way into passing lanes frequently.
- Gets a hand up to deflect passes on a regular basis.
- Comes forward to play scrambling quarterbacks with sharp angles and intelligent timing.
- Frequently disruptive as a blitzer with a combo of power and hand usage.
- Precise in his run fits with great understanding of gap discipline.
- Doesn’t take bad steps in pursuit, decisive in his movements.
- Eludes blocks with lateral quickness while keeping eyes up to track the football.
- Uses hands in cooperation with lower body to shed blocks.
- Quick with hands to dump blockers who don’t stay under control.
- Naturally flows over the top of off-tackle runs while keeping shoulders square to the line of scrimmage.
- Plays under control, doesn’t run himself out of plays or compromise balance.
- Delivers big hits to exposed ball-carriers or receivers.
- Plays with a notable edge or attitude to him.
- Not a physically or athletically dominant linebacker at the collegiate level.
- Feet aren’t especially light or quick.
- Average burst to close from static positions.
- Leaves plays on the field tracking to the perimeter, lacks significant closing speed in the open field.
- Doesn’t show burst away from blocks after clearing space.
- Played on his heels and let plays come to him at times in 2013, tried to make every play.
- Limited variety of moves as a pass-rusher, doesn’t come naturally to him.
- Needs to play with head on a swivel to locate route-runners in zone looks.
- Can be too aggressive with his hands in coverage, transition to NFL rules a big one.
- Little experience in man coverage.
- Played behind block-eating DTs, little ability to take on interior blockers shown.
- Inconsistent tackling technique, too high or doesn’t wrap properly on occasion.
- A 3-star prospect as a recruit in class of 2010, unranked by Rivals.
- 2013 All-American Athletic Conference first team.
- 2012 All-Big East first team.
- Started every game over three years of eligibility.
Yawin Smallwood drew some ire from pundits after declaring for the draft in December, but with the lack of strength in the 2014 inside linebacker class, he made the correct decision.
Smallwood is a class 4-3 middle linebacker type who is ready to step into a starting lineup right away. An increase in his playing weight could ease a transition into a 3-4 base defense.
His lack of prominent athletic traits is a concern. There were numerous plays left on the field in 2013 where he could only put diving tackle attempts on ball-carriers and came up short. Smallwood’s ability to play a step ahead of the offense by diagnosing plays quickly makes up for it to a degree. His skills in coverage also make him a three-down linebacker in the NFL, which is of great importance.
Draft Projection: 2nd-3rd Round