As many of you have probably noticed, the BRB staff selected CB-FS hybrid Sean Smith of Utah in the SB Nation Mock Draft. We were predictably criticized for our pick as many considered it a reach because Smith isn’t projected to be drafted until late in the first round. I stand behind the pick because eight of the first fourteen picks were defensive players including Malcolm Jenkins and Clay Matthews, Jr. Furthermore, Matt had a compelling argument that as long as a player will be picked before your next selection and you believe that player is better for your team than all the other players that will be taken in the same time period between picks, your selection shouldn’t be considered a reach.
The reaching notion isn’t the impetuous for this post though. Prior to Mile High Report's pick for the Denver Broncos, Tim and I were discussing what would happen if Malcolm Jenkins, Clay Matthews Jr. and Sean Smith were all on the board and he wasn’t quite sure how to answer. The reason that Tim was at a loss was because of differing opinions among Texans bloggers about the three of those prospects. Matthews seems to be the unanimous favorite among the OLBs projected to be available at 15, but the identity of the top DB (to play CB or FS) is a polarizing debate between Smith, who is championed by Matt, and Jenkins, who may or may not have a restraining order against yours truly.
Tim, being a diplomat, probably didn’t know how to answer because he wasn’t sure which blunt, overly-dedicated Texans blogger he wanted to listen to for hours try and convince him he was right. Tim is like Charlie Sheen in Platoon, trying to figure out if Elias’ or Barnes’ life philosophy is more accurate.
The war is over for me now, but it will always be there, the rest of my days. As I'm sure Elias will be, fighting with Barnes for what Rhah called possesion of my soul. There are times since, I've felt like a child born of those two fathers. - Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) Platoon.
I guess I'm Elias by default since Matt makes a better Barnes, because he’s much more likely to refer to me as a "crusader" or threaten to stick a centipede in someone’s crotch...but in a good way. Matt has already made this case among others for Sean Smith, so I’ll tell you why Malcolm Jenkins is my guy. Cue the epic soundtrack, and let’s hope I don’t get shot.
I’ll start with Jenkins’ most common detractor--his speed. Jenkins was discussed as a surefire top 10 pick before he ran a 4.55 at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, at which point NFL personnel started to doubt his ability to play CB in the NFL. Meanwhile Smith ran a similar 4.55 at the Combine, but was able to reduce his time to 4.47 at his Pro Day while Jenkins was not. The flipside to this is that in the 3 cone drill, the exercise that is designed to gauge a player’s change of direction ability, Jenkins scored highest among DB’s with a 6.52 as compared to Smith’s 6.92.
As for body of work, both have impressive credentials. Smith’s 9 career interceptions are comparable to Jenkins’ 11, and might even seem more impressive since they were spread over two years rather than three, as is the case with Jenkins. Upon further inspection though, it’s a little misleading because opposing QBs avoided throwing at Jenkins more as his career progressed because of the ability he had shown to defend passes. Jenkins’ INT stats have been criticized on the basis that most of them came against sub-standard opposition; in 2008, Jenkins’ 3 INT came against Ohio, Wisconsin and Purdue, whose combined passing averages is 52, where as Smith’s INTs came against Wyoming (2), TCU, BYU and Michigan, whose combined average is 75. Furthermore, it’s been said that Smith faced better passing opposition than Jenkins; however, the average of the passing offenses of Utah’s opponents was 71 while Ohio State’s opponents average was 45. Also, just because the MWC’s best passing offense was BYU (6th) and the Big 10’s was Illinois (20th), Utah’s opponents passed for an average of 193 yards per game, as opposed to Ohio State’s opponents, who passed for an average of 225 for the year. I think it’s safe to say that argument is moot.
As stated, both Jenkins and Smith have shown adeptness in coverage, but one of Smith’s noted flaws is run support. Don’t take my word for it; check out Smith’s profile on NFL Draft Dog, NFL Draft Scout (by way of CBS Sports), and FF Toolbox. If you don’t want to check them out yourself it says things like:
"Does not play with the physicality that scouts would like given his size … Catch-and-drag tackler whose height is a disadvantage when trying to bring down tacklers with a low center of gravity … Gets stuck on blocks … Takes poor angles to make tackles in space or when attacking a screen … He is not a big hitter and almost never initiates contact… Smith is not a run enforcer."
Meanwhile, the same sites say this about Jenkins:
"Outstanding open field tackling … Attacks ball carriers behind the line, making secure tackles … Also willing to assist in tackles downfield or inside"
(Authors Note: In all fairness, they also stated that Jenkins misses some tackles because of his desire to deliver a big hit).
Look at it this way: Jenkins averaged 12 more tackles a year than Smith, and in 2008, 60% of Jenkins’ tackles were finished by Jenkins himself, while Smith did so less than half the time (49%). Jenkins also tallied 14 tackles for loss over the last three seasons, while Smith had 3 in his two years as a starter. Smith does have three inches on Jenkins and therefore longer arms, but Jenkins put up 50% more bench press reps (15) than Smith did (10).
We bring up character and experience all the time, and this case should be no different. Several reports (review the same web sites listed above) cite Smith as a cocky trash-talker who possibly has a bad attitude. I’m not personally sure how true that is and I like confident kids, which is what I think Smith is, but Jenkins is much more than that. Jenkins has been known as a motivational leader since his sophomore year, and has never had an off-the-field issue. Jenkins is coming out with four years of experience playing defense, while Smith has only two. Jenkins passed on a sure first-round selection, and therefore millions of dollars in the 2008 NFL Draft, to return to school for his senior year. I'm definitely not an Ohio State fan, but his dedication to the program and his teammates is impressive. Jenkins was also willing to do whatever it took to win in school, as evidenced by his handful of blocked kicks while playing special teams.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, especially in the inexact realm of draft speculation. Despite making all these arguments, I really like Sean Smith and believe that he will be a good NFL player. I just happen to believe that Jenkins will be GREAT. I tried not to use video highlights in my argument because Smith doesn’t have any to speak of on the internet, but every time I watch the Jenkins videos I’m reminded why I have such a high opinion of him. I'll be ok if we end up with Clay Matthews, Jr., and I'll be ok if we end up with Sean Smith. If you’re trying to compare Sean Smith with Malcolm Jenkins though, I don’t think there is a comparison. I look forward to Matt's rebuttal. I just hope it's less violent than Barnes' counter-argument in the movie.