NFP Prospect Focus: Preston Smith and Xavier Cooper

Preston Smith – DE – Mississippi State If there is any defensive lineman whose stock has risen since the regular season ended, it has been Mississippi State’s Preston Smith. He had a strong week at the Senior Bowl and followed that up with an excellent Combine. At the Combine, his numbers bordered on the elite for defensive ends. He measured 6’ 5 – 271 with long 34” arms. Not only did he run well, but his agility drills and jumps were also outstanding. His two 40’s were both timed in 4.78, he had a 34” vertical jump and a 10’1” standing long jump. His 20 yard shuttle and 3-cone were 4.28 and 7.07 respectively. He also benched 24 reps. The problem evaluators have with Combine numbers like that is that he didn’t show that kind of athleticism on the field. He played like a good athlete but not close to what those numbers say he should be able to do. Smith lined up both inside and outside in the Mississippi State scheme depending on the situation. I felt he showed good instincts with good read and react skills. He has the strength and power to hold the point and the hand use to shed blocks fairly quickly. He is a consistent player versus both the pass and run. In 2014, his pass rush technique and hand use improved, and that showed with him having his best season with 9 sacks. Still, I felt he lacked consistent effort and as much as he improved with his pass rush, he didn’t have a top counter move. He also didn’t make as many plays as he was capable of making. He looks to be a left end in a base 4-3 defense. In college, he was often used inside as a pass rusher and that may also happen in the NFL. He has a lot of upside in that while he was in college he played in spurts, if he puts it all together he can be an outstanding pro. His tape says he should be a third round player, but with the workout he had, he will probably go somewhere in the second round. NFP'S SCOUTING BOOTCAMP IS COMING TO CHICAGO Xavier Cooper – DT – Washington St. During the season, you didn’t hear that much about Cooper, because he was an underclassman and he played for a poor Washington State team. When you turn on the tape, you see a hell of a football player with NFL upside. At 6’3 – 293, Cooper has good size. His arms are a bit short (31 ½) but he is strong (29 reps), quick, and powerful. He is a high energy player with a good motor. He shows very good initial quickness, has quick hands to shed blocks and makes plays. Playing inside, he finished the season with 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. He had a dominant game versus Oregon. I like that despite being a big guy, he is always chasing the ball and makes pursuit plays. He consistently takes good angles of pursuit. On the negative side, his short arms cause him to miss some tackles, and he will lose sight of the ball at times. Cooper is a very good athlete, timing 4.88 in the 40, has a 29” vertical jump and a 9’2” long jump. His agility drills were among the best of the defensive tackle group. I see him as a big, athletic inside pass rusher. He can penetrate and disrupt in the run game. He has good closing quickness off blocks. While he plays with a high motor, he is not a consistent finisher. That is a trait that he should be able to improve on. His best fit is as a 3-technique in a 4-man front but he may also be able to play nose or the 5 in a 3-man front. With his top athleticism, he should be a solid day two selection. Look for 4-3 clubs to value him the highest. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

Upcoming Games