NFP Prospect Focus: Mario Edwards Jr. and Donovan Smith

Today’s focus is on two players who entered the draft as underclassmen. When they first announced their decision to enter, it was meet with skepticism. After viewing a lot of tape, talking to scouts, and watching performances at the combine and pro days, that skepticism has gone away, and both of these players should be drafted long before the second round is over. Mario Edwards Jr. – DE – Florida St. Looking at tape of Edwards is almost like looking at two different players. In 2013, he was an excellent player and dominated in some games (including the national championship). In 2014, he added weight, but it wasn’t all good weight. Playing at about 300 pounds while still playing fairly well, he looked a bit sluggish at times and not quite as explosive. At his pro day a couple of weeks ago, he wowed the scouts with an outstanding overall performance while weighing 279. Some scouts in attendance even told me that he could sneak into the first round. While that may not happen, he will go, at worst, in the first half of the second round. Edwards was a two year starter at Florida State. Coming out of high school, he was rated as a 5-star recruit with offers from the best programs in the country. He has good natural size, long arms, and is both strong and explosive. He has been well coached, and knows how to use his hands to play with leverage. In 2013, he looked better as a pass rusher than he did in 2014 playing at close to 300 pounds. He lost some of his suddenness at the heavier weight. Edwards has good, not great instincts, but he does play with a good motor. Again, at the heavier weight he just didn’t look as if he was playing as hard. Still, he plays the run well, can two gap and hold the point and make plays. He doesn’t give ground to blockers. Going forward, Edwards can play at a heavier weight than his present 279 as long as he adds good weight. The weight he added prior to 2014 was not good weight. If he gains weight slowly by adding strength and bulk in the weight room, he can eventually get to a solid 285-290. That will give him plenty of size to effectively play as a 3-4 DE in most 3-4 schemes. He can also play left end in some 4-3 schemes, but he may never be the top pass rusher that 4-3 teams want their ends to be. Donovan Smith – OT – Penn State When Smith entered the draft in January, it was met with more surprise than Edwards. Looking back, I think that the surprise was that no scouts even had Smith on their radar as a possible early entry. No one at Penn State had any idea that he was thinking of coming out. Between watching tape and the Senior Bowl practices, you find a player that is a very good prospect with a lot of upside. Smith was a three year starter at Penn State, all at left tackle. When you look at him physically, he doesn’t really look like a tackle. He has more of a guard's frame. While he is very tall with very long arms (6’6 – 338, 34 3/8”), he has a thick build with a huge butt. For a man his size, he moves around very well. At Indy, he timed 5.28 in the 40 with a 1.84 10-yard split. For a man his size, those are very good times. He also had a 32” vertical jump and a 9’1” long jump. Again, very good results for a big man. He proved to be light on his feet with bend, change of direction, balance and body control. In the run game, he gets off the ball quickly, stays low, and is explosive on contact. He has good natural hip roll. With his lower body power, he is able to generate movement and also does a good job getting to the second level. In pass protection, he shows a strong punch to control his opponent and shows natural bend. He doesn’t get bull rushed. He has the foot quickness to mirror opponents, showing he can slide and recover. He consistently keeps good position in pass protection. I feel Smith will start off as a guard once he gets to the NFL. While he played left tackle in college, I don’t ever see him playing there in the NFL. As he gains experience and confidence, he may move over to right tackle, but if kept at guard, he can be a very good NFL player. His best football is still in front of him. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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