Height: 6’6” / Weight: 315 pounds / Age: 22
40 Yard Dash: 5.22 / Bench Reps: 35 / Vertical Jump: 33.5 / Broad Jump: 113 inches / 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.77 / 3 Cone Drill: 7.81 (Pro Day)
Strength and Athleticism
Perhaps the biggest appeal of Braden Smith is his massive size, strength, and ability to move in space. With those three boxes checked right there, he has the makings of a very good guard in the NFL. I was most impressed with his strength on tape though. Although his pass blocking reps weren’t always perfect and he sometimes didn’t square up his defender in run blocking, he could always rely on his strength to at least get the defender out of the play. Obviously he must improve on those things but having that strength as a baseline is always a plus. His athleticism in space also really impressed me as edge defenders and defensive backs were helpless with this 6’6” behemoth moving towards them. These few baseline traits set him up for success in the NFL.
The most important trait that Braden Smith brings to this team is his pass blocking ability. According to PFF, Smith only allowed 6 pressures on 445 pass blocking snaps last season which was good for 3rd best out of all guards taken in this past draft. His tape matches up with this stat as well. He does an excellent job of anchoring in pass pro and has great balance and control within his reps. His strength also comes in handy here as once he is able to establish a good anchor, interior defenders really struggle to move him off his spot due to his strength. Overall this will be the biggest factor in Smith potentially getting snaps in his rookie campaign as the Colts look to protect Andrew Luck coming off his shoulder surgery.
If you ask any evaluator what they want most in an offensive lineman, a lot of them will say a mean streak. Braden Smith is a big, mean lineman that all defenders know is on the field. In pass pro, he’ll often look for work and deliver big hits on edge rushers engaged with tackles when he doesn’t have an interior rusher in front of him. In run blocking, he will go for the kill shot on unsuspecting linebackers and defensive backs if any of them aren’t on the lookout for him. As starting center Ryan Kelly said recently, “If it’s that late shove at the end of the game or at the end of the play or whatever it is to protect our wide receivers or our running backs, all that kind of stuff, it just instills a mindset to the entire defense that we’re playing against that.” Kelly and a lot of lineman understand the importance of being mean and setting a tone and Smith brings that aspect to this group.
One point of Smith’s game that he must clean up is his hand placement. In college, Smith could get away with this mistake due to just being stronger than every defensive lineman he faced. That won’t be the case in the NFL where if you allow defensive lineman into your chest as a guard, you typically lose the rep and the quarterback ends up on the ground. Smith has to learn to come out of his stance with his hands more inside instead of just grabbing the outside shoulder pad of rushers. Once he gets this down, his pass blocking will be top tier.
Holding Blocks in the Run Game
Braden Smith is excellent at pulling in the run game and knocking defenders off balance once he makes contact with them. Where he needs to improve is engaging with defenders and holding the block. Too often in college, Smith would initially hit the defender but not sustain the block until the play is over. This would lead to his defender ultimately being able to make a tackle when he should be taken out of the play. Smith has to learn to hold those blocks and drive the defender out of the play rather than thinking his initial contact is good enough to keep the defender away.
Pro Comparisons For Smith:
Another guy I took a peek at is Guard Braden Smith (#71). A comp for him was Mitch Morse drafted by KC in the 2nd round (Bills National scout Marvin Allen was Dir. of College Scouting in KC at the time). pic.twitter.com/bhKZ0xTgr0— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) April 24, 2018
Overall I think that Smith has the potential to be the long term solution at RG for the Colts. His pass blocking is already really good and his size and ability in space make him an above average run blocker. I think he could benefit from guys like Slauson and Mewhort as well who are now vets in this league and understand a lot of the intricacies involved with playing guard in the NFL. If he can clean up some technical flaws, Smith does have the ability to be a very good guard in the NFL. Even if he doesn’t start in the first game, it would be hard for me to believe that we don’t see Braden Smith start at some point this upcoming season.