2015 Draft Profile Penn State Tackle Donovan Smith

We continue our draft profiles with a look at Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith.  I have to admit that I am profiling him simply because the Detroit Lions have already hosted him for a workout so the team has shown an interest in him.  Otherwise I likely would have stuck to the big names and the late round sleepers.  I will say that he is in interesting prospect.  The first thing i noticed was that while CBSsports.com and the Detroit Lions have announced him as a tackle, the statistical website mockdraftable.com lists him as a guard.  I have yet to find evidence that he has ever played guard, but he could be an entertaining guard if only due to his size.

Donovan Smith was a 3 year starter for Penn State.  He started every game as their left tackle.  He has good size at 6’6 328lbs.  He has quick feet and is very competitive.  Smith has violent hands and does a good job of getting to the second level.  He is very athletic and recognizes the blitz well.

Some of the knocks on Smith, which is why he is not a first round grade, are that he plays with poor technique, allowing pass rushers to get into his body.  He also plays too high which is a typical concern among bigger players.  He leaves the inside too open while protecting the corner, something he may struggle more with against faster rushers.  Wearing two knee braces concerns scouts as it may indicate knee issues that he is covering up.

The bottom line with Donovan Smith is that he needs to develop more consistency and fix his poor technique.  Both of these can easily be corrected with coaching.  Even though he left school a year early, Smith already has his degree which is something Jim Caldwell likely is impressed with.  It shows that Smith was dedicated to school as well as football, meaning he is more mature.  Smith’s degree, Criminology, is also not a typical sports degree for athletes just looking to get by.  He could use that degree to proceed down a career path in law enforcement should football not pan out for him.

Physically speaking, Smith is not a stand out at his position.  Below are his combine statistics and a breakdown of what they mean:

40 Yard Dash Bench Press Vertical Jump Broad Jump 3 Cone Drill 20 Yard Shuttle
5.27 26 32 109 7.95 4.79

Statistically speaking, the 40 yard dash is useless for an offensive lineman so we can toss that number out.  I have concerns about Smith’s low bench press number, but maybe I should not be concerned with it.  By comparison, Ereck Flowers, a first round prospect at offensive tackle, has 37 repetitions.  But if you look at Detroit Lions standout right guard Larry Warford, he only benched 28 times.

While not as important in terms of explosiveness, Donovan Smith’s leg strength is very good by comparison to other players at his position.  He may not need to explode into the man across from him like a defensive player would, but he does need to have the leg strength and drive to protect against the pass rush.  That is something that Smith shows with his vertical and broad jump numbers.  He scored in the 90th percentile for his broad jump and the 91th percentile for his vertical jump.

Perhaps the most important note about Smith came from NFLdraftscout.com.  They stated that Smith showed well at the Senior Bowl, looked good in position drills and got even better at his pro day.  He apparently lost 13 pounds between the Senior Bowl weigh ins and his pro day.  Of the NFL’s 32 teams, 30 of them had representatives there to watch his workout.  He is currently expected to be a 3rd or 4th round pick, but he could go higher given how many tackles are expected to go in the first round already.

Donovan Smith is already on the team’s radar given his visit.  I expect that Martin Mayhew likes what he has seen of Smith, and if the draft shakes out in a way that causes him to go in a different direction in rounds 1 and 2, Smith could be a solid option at tackle in round 3.  Mayhew loves to select the best player available in the first round, and I think Smith allows him to do that even though the Lions need an offensive line upgrade.

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