What is the most important position in football? Of course, quarterback is the first to come to mind, which is in fact true. However, after your signal caller, many will make the case that pass rushers are most vital to a team’s success based on their ability to cause havoc for opposing QBs. Just last year we saw the Denver Broncos ride their defense led by Von Miller to a Super Bowl win.
Up in Illinois a pass rusher by the name of Dawuane Smoot has built quite the reputation for himself and has modeled his game after all-time great, Julius Peppers. Smoot has been a very reliable edge presence for the Fighting Illini and ended his career with 24 consecutive starts while compiling a productive résumé.
In what is a very deep draft class for pass rushers, Smoot will need to standout above the rest if he wants to go as high as Day 2. He has the productivity and the durability, but does he have the traits that standout on film?
Name: Dawuane Smoot
Draft Grade: 5th Round
— Jonathan Valencia (@JonValencia_WiB) January 21, 2017
Positives: Plus speed turning the corner. At his best when the blocker slides back giving Smoot more room to generate a full head of steam. Quick off the snap and snaps like a magnet. Gravitates to the ball carrier when he breaks into the backfield in space. Has the ability to carry blockers during his rush by angling his shoulder to keep the blocker in an awkward stance on the move. Displays good short area quickness on stunts. Recognizes when to leap and throw his hands in the air to bat a pass. Shows flashes with arm-under and spin moves. Good size/frame with room to add weight. Team Captain. Played track in high school – competing in the shot put and hurdles. Looks extremely raw on film. High character player who has a good relationship with his family.
Negatives: Clearly lacks viable upper body strength and will get driven back on occasion. Relies too much on his speed to win the edge. Frequently sealed off against inside runs. Tries to be too fancy in pursuit of the quarterback and will engage an extra blocker instead of attacking the clear path – makes it harder for himself to make an impact. Too much loop and too wide on rush in some instances. Takes poor angles in general, especially against the run. Fails to get consistent separation from blockers in run defense. Doesn’t shed blocks naturally and technique demands a lot of polish. Questionable effort and doesn’t have that non-stop motor. Normally doesn’t set his body positioning well and you’ll frequently see him on the ground. Extends legs too far on engagement and gets his body too diagonal. Too stiff. Often sealed off against the run. Slide protection causes fits for him. Looks to lack ideal length and reach to finish plays which could prevent him from being disruptive. Not aggressive. Not a strong tackler. Seemed to regress in 2016 and wasn’t as flashy or productive on the sack sheet as he was as a junior.
Outlook: I came away very disappointed after watching Dawuane Smoot. I was expecting another plus edge rusher to add to the strong class, but he just doesn’t match up to others in the draft class. Smoot possesses good speed off the edge, but he needs to learn how to utilize it effectively. He needs to become a more complete player and refine his pass rush repertoire as well as add more upper body strength. Good coaching will be key as he is still very raw. Smoot could’ve salvaged his early draft status if he at least gave good effort and displayed a motor, which he doesn’t do on a consistent basis. It was difficult for me to give him a draft grade based on how poor his film was. Ultimately I went with a 5th round grade, although most have him slated in the 3rd round. Smoot has upside as a complimentary speed rusher off the bench, but he has a lot of work to do. In a deep edge class, many other plays standout above him.