Brandon Smith NFL Draft 2022: Scouting Report for Penn State LB

BR NFL Scouting DepartmentContributor I

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 02: Brandon Smith #12 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates after tackling Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the second half at Beaver Stadium on October 2, 2021 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

HEIGHT: 6'3 1/2"


HAND: 10 1/4"

ARM: 34 5/8"

WINGSPAN: 6'9 1/2"

40-YARD DASH: 4.52




BROAD: 10'8"


— Very good speed. Can play sideline-to-sideline and cover down the field.

— Thick frame with long arms. Ideal build for the position.

— Flashes of great strength when taking on blocks.

— Good eyes and spacing in zone coverage. Squeezes windows and rallies downhill when QB triggers.

— Comfortable matching up man-to-man in coverage, even vertically.

— Functional processor versus the run. Does not false-step often.


— Physicality comes and goes; too often does not play downhill with enough of a temper.

— Below-average technique taking on blocks. Low, slow hands. Throws his shoulder when he shouldn't.

— Below-average tackler. Too often tries to hit rather than wrap up.

— Plays high. Leads to issues with settling down to tackle or change directions.

— Could do a better job playing tight to the line of scrimmage. Seems uncomfortable in traffic.


12 G, 81 TOT, 4 TFL 0 SK, 1 FF


— Two-year starter.

— 5-star recruit in 2019.


Brandon Smith is a ball of potential who may need the right coaching staff to get the most out of him. Smith sports a sturdy frame with long arms, giving him the ideal build for the position. He also plays with good speed and range that enables him to work across and up the field comfortably. His speed shows up best in coverage.

Thanks to his long arms and speed, Smith proved plenty of times that he can run up the seam with bigger pass-catchers, both in man-to-man coverage and zone. In zone coverage, he also does a great job understanding the picture behind him and flowing to close throwing windows. He does well to rally to underneath throws, too.

Opposite of most linebackers, Smith needs most of his development in the run game. While he rarely false-steps and takes himself out of the play, he does not always trigger downhill quickly enough. He can be too willing to wait and see the full picture develop in front of him, perhaps because of his discomfort working through congested areas. Some of that discomfort may have to do with his height and tall play style, which makes it tougher to navigate small areas.

Smith's violence in taking on blocks comes and goes, too. That issue is made worse by his technique being a question mark, as he too often plays with low and slow hands. It looks great when he does deliver a healthy blow, but those moments are too few and far between right now. Additionally, he can be an iffy tackler as result of his unwillingness to wrap players up.

Smith is a tricky projection. His coverage skills and combination of speed and length are tough to find in a young linebacker, but he will need to find consistency in the run game and as a tackler to warrant being on the field. Smith's early career will feature extreme highs and lows while he works toward being a reliable starter.

GRADE: 7.3 (High-Level Backup/Potential Starter - 3rd Round)



PRO COMPARISON: Germaine Pratt

Written by B/R NFL Scout Derrik Klassen