Florida State LB Telvin Smith Could Be Steal of the Draft by Jaguars

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMay 10, 2014

Florida State's Telvin Smith (22) celebrates his fumble recovery against Duke in the second half of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship NCAA football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Bob Leverone/Associated Press

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a punchline the past several seasons, a perennial cellar-dweller who lost their first eight games last year, many in embarrassing fashion.

Well look who's laughing now.

By any objective measure, the Jaguars' 2014 draft has been a major success. Not only did the team make big strides in the passing game in the draft's early rounds, but, on Day 3, Jacksonville may have grabbed the defensive steal of the entire draft.

With the 144th overall pick, the Jaguars selected Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith, who had 90 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions for the Seminoles in 2013.

It's a pick that met with the immediate approval of D.C. Reeves of The Tuscaloosa News:

There's good reason for that optimism. A "rangy athlete," according to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Smith reeled off a 4.47 40-yard dash at February's combine, where he also wasn't shy about tooting his own horn in regards to his coverage ability:

Brugler goes on to compare Smith to Wesley Woodyard of the Denver Broncos, writing that "While undersized, both Woodyard and Smith have the athletic range and natural instincts to make up for their lack of size and strength."

Granted, this isn't to say that Smith doesn't have flaws, or we wouldn't be talking about the youngster on Day 3 of the draft.

The first is his size, or lack of it. At 218 pounds, Smith is very small for a linebacker. So small, in fact, that many have predicted a move to safety for Smith in the NFL.

There's also the matter of the character concerns born of a failed drug test at the combine.

However, Smith has taken responsibility for the misstep, and told Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union it wouldn't happen again:

As for the move to safety, at least one Jaguars' beat writer isn't seeing it:

Given the mess the Jaguars are mired in with Justin Blackmon, you can bet the rent the team carefully considered that drug test before pulling the trigger.

But, given how Smith could fit in Jacksonville, it's not hard to see why head coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell looked past it.

Russell Allen's abrupt retirement as the result of an on-field mini-stroke last year leaves the Jags with a hole at linebacker, on a defense that had enough holes to begin with.

Paul Posluszny is entrenched in the middle, but, prior to 2013, Geno Hayes, who manned the weak side in Jacksonville last year, was primarily a strong-side linebacker.

Hayes is a serviceable pro, but he's little more than that, so moving the fellow Florida State alumni back across the formation makes sense.

That opens a hole at WILL in Jacksonville's 4-3 front, which just so happens to be the optimal position for Smith, where he can best take advantage of both his speed and athleticism while minimizing the negative impact caused by his lack of size.

This doesn't mean that fans should pencil Smith in as a Week 1 starter. He's going to have to bulk up, but, as important as adding size is, he'll have to do so without sacrificing the quickness that made him appealing to Jacksonville to begin with.

However, the stars are aligned for Smith to potentially see significant playing time as a rookie, and if Smith can add some size and even realize that comparison to Woodyard (a good, albeit not great, NFL linebacker) then the Jaguars will have gotten one of the bigger values of Day 3.

With that said though, if a player Brugler said "shouldn't get out of the top 100 picks" can get bigger without getting slower, his "awesome closing burst and overall range to cover the entire field like a running back on defense" could easily make him a better pro than Woodyard.

As in Pro Bowler good. Seriously.

And that would make Telvin Smith not only the biggest steal of the third day of 2014, but also one of the biggest steals of the entire NFL draft.


Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.