School: Florida State University
Size: 6'3, 218
Expected Round: 3rd
Game Footage (Clemson and Duke)
Strengths: Solid instincts. Is often the first one to the ball. Plays with high intensity. Team captain. Has elite speed and it shows on the field. Changes direction well, quick-twitch athlete. Uses speed to evade blockers. Can cover running backs and move tight ends in space. Reacts quickly in coverage, has good timing to break up passes. Has a high motor--plays with constant energy. Rallies around the ball in zone coverage and gang tackles. Elite special teams potential.
Weaknesses: Only a one year starter. Lacks ideal NFL size and strength. Will struggle with disengaging from blockers if he doesn't bulk up. Average usage of hands in block shedding. Lean frame, will need to add weight which could detract from his speed. Will only fit in certain schemes. Long term prospect. Isn't interested in moving to safety.
What is his role? As luck has it, Rich just wrote a nice piece about the linebacker/safety hybrids in the upcoming draft. On the Patriots, Smith fits best initially as a 3rd down sub for Dont'a Hightower, or a matchup specific play--instead of having Collins be constrained to the "chess piece" role, Smith could take over and leave Collins to rush the passer more often.
Drafting Smith would also give the Patriots much needed depth at linebacker. With thumper Steve Beauharnais the primary backup at ILB, Smith could replace Dane Fletcher and be the primary linebacker ready to step up at any time.
Will it change from year 1 to year 2? Smith has only started 15 games in his FSU career, something I put in the weakness section for his overall evaluation. However, it does mean that he has a lot of room to grow as a player, mostly in getting stronger physically. From year 1 to 2 I can't see much of a change in his role on the Patriots, as the trio of Mayo, Hightower, and Collins doesn't seem to be going anywhere.
How many downs can he play? Many scouts believe Smith isn't ready to be a three down player. He could use his speed to evade blockers and make great plays in pursuit, but NFL linemen are simply faster and stronger than college linemen. I think he can be average in run defense at his current size simply because of how athletic and relentless he is, but he will be much better served growing into that role.
Which current player will he beat out? The Patriots have a hole at backup linebacker--after Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, and Jamie Collins the remaining players on the depth chart are Steve Beauharnais, Chris White, and Ja'Gared Davis. In a sense he doesn't have to beat out a specific player but prove he's capable of the role.
What’s his ST value? Smith covered punts in a slightly different formation than the ones used in the NFL, but he has the athleticism and tackling ability to be an elite player on the punt and kick coverage units.
Does he have positional versatility? His natural position is outside/nickel linebacker, though his body type suggests strong safety. Smith has said previously that he wants to stay at linebacker, but I believe he has all the tools to succeed at strong safety.
Why the Patriots?
Dont’a Hightower – 861 of 1,156 (74.5 percent)
Brandon Spikes – 690 of 1,156 (59.7 percent)
Jerod Mayo – 405 of 1,156 (35.0 percent)
Jamie Collins – 298 of 1,156 (25.8 percent)
Dane Fletcher – 209 of 1,156 (18.1 percent)
According to the current depth chart, the Patriots have a depth issue at linebacker. Smith is a great fit in the primary backup role filled by Jamie Collins and Dane Fletcher last year. He could also gain more snaps against certain players or matchups (ex. Jets vs. CJ2K, Broncos vs. Julius Thomas) and give the Patriots the upper hand in more situations.
Why not the Patriots? I wouldn't be surprised if another team jumps on Smith in round 2. The Patriots usually want a guy to be in the "starter" role in the first two rounds, so the earliest I see the Patriots considering Smith is round 3.
Verdict In addition to what he offers at linebacker, I truly think Smith is one of the hybrid players in this draft that actually has the skill to play at strong safety. If the Pats operate with Devin McCourty in a Cover 1, the strong safety will be playing "robber" close to the line or man coverage against a tight end or running back. Smith has the speed, range, and coverage skill to excel in this role. If he's available at pick #93, the Patriots should pounce.
Film Pointers (Clemson and Duke)
Telvin Smith vs Duke (2013) (via Adrian Ahufinger)
1. Makes line calls throughout the game. Clearly a leader on the field.
2. Ouch (:45)
3. Gets a great jump on the ball while covering the punt (:40)
4. Nice strafe to avoid the block, great recovery speed (1:43)
5. Attempts the tackle a bit too early, but a nice move by the WR. Reminds me of a failed hit stick in Madden. (2:26)
6. Miscommunication by the LBs, but solid recovery speed to change directions and make the tackle. Just a fluid mover. (3:08) Another miscommunication at 3:30.
7. We finally see Smith in a blitz situation. Handled the cut block well (3:44)
8. Nice use of the strafe to mirror the RB. Another example of lateral quickness. (4:15)
9. He's the first one to the returner, but he gets beat. Not much you can do there, as Crowder just runs horizontally to avoid the tackle. (4:50)
10. Seeing some great plays from Lamarcus Joyner. (6:00)
11. Diagnoses the play quickly, loses the blocker, and makes a great tackle on third down. (6:10)
12. Struggles when engaged with a lineman. Makes a great effort, but gets driven back. (6:54) (12:26)
13. Great play to make the interception. He was shading left in his zone, but reacted quickly when the quarterback was hit and made a great play on the ball.
Telvin Smith vs Clemson 2013 (via JmpasqDraftjedi)
1. Nice play to fake the blitz and have the recovery speed to swat the ball away. Textbook. (1:20)
2. Smith takes a good angle, but the RB breaks off his tackle. He doesn't give up though, and ends up making the tackle anyways. (2:51)
3. Picks up Sammy Watkins in zone coverage. (4:20)
4. Very similar route by Watkins, but this time it looks like Smith takes a bad angle and steps in front of him which allows him to get open. (4:45)
5. Gets taken out of the play by an interior lineman, opening a hole for the RB. (5:38)
6. Nice route recognition and break on the ball. Near pick. (5:52)
7. If an O lineman engages him he's often taken out of the play. Happens again. (7:23)
8. Awesome open field tackle, great angle. Gets there before the RB even has a chance to make a move. Hangs back in his original zone assignment just enough while reading the QB the entire time. (8:40)