2015 NFL Draft Preview: OL Donovan Smith
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the 10 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. For our final week, the focus is any prospect we missed. Today, we look at OL prospect Donovan Smith from Penn State.
Donovan Smith is a redshirt junior coming off a rough season for Penn State's line, where he was the only veteran offensive lineman. With four first-year starters on the five-man line, Smith was forced to hold his own at left tackle as the lone stalwart of the otherwise inexperienced line. His best season came in 2013, while protecting true freshman QB Christian Hackenberg. Smith's leadership was a major focus in the 2014 season with four younger teammates on the line.
At 6'6", 338 lbs, Smith has the prototypical size of an NFL guard. Even though most of his collegiate experience was at tackle, he definitely showed up against the best pass rushers the Big Ten could offer. Specifically in 2013, before NFL starter and math whiz John Urschel departed for the Ravens, Smith was able to handle edge rusher and top prospect Randy Gregory from Nebraska.
Smith and Gregory are the matchup closest to the camera. His game is all about overpowering his opponent by being the immovable object protecting the quarterback.
With 31 games of experience at left tackle, it will definitely be a challenge for Smith to slide over to guard. His first step is sometimes good enough to stop the likes of rushers like Gregory, but moving to guard will probably make this skill less important. His hand skills need work to avoid holding penalties at the next level. His size and power are both ideal for the next level, but his athleticism has a lot of room for improvement, especially if he does move to guard.
Smith's stock has been rising over the past few months, with some analysts even mocking him to the late first round. I don't see him as an immediate rookie starter, but he's only about a year removed from contributing as a guard (likely RG) on an NFL roster. His upside is very high but it would be hard to commit more than a late second round pick on him. It has been intriguing watching Smith climb up the mock draft circuit, as his performance at the combine followed by Penn State's pro day even got him an invite -- which he accepted -- to be in Chicago for the Draft.
Unlikely that they are going to spend earlier picks on the trenches, the Oakland Raiders could really use Smith down the line, and don't necessarily need him to preform immediately. They're still a few years away from competing, so adding lots of talent at the top of the draft followed by Smith in the third round would make a lot of sense for Oakland.