It's not often that I can talk about a player that I have actually watched grow, game by game. Today I get that opportunity, as the player in the spotlight is Harrison Smith. A 5th year senior who is likely to be drafted in the 4th round, potentially he could go late 3rd but I don't see him falling much lower than middle-late 4th. If anyone reads Mel Kipers work, they will know that Harrison is a player who he spoke extremely high of last season and the National Football Post have pegged him as a player to watch at the senior bowl, they had many good things to say about smith:
Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: NFL scouts see the Notre Dame product as a strong safety in the league and I can’t disagree with that. Watching him in practice on Monday, Smith looked confident in man-coverage vs. the TE in Cover 1, was patient with his footwork and took solid angles to the ball. And today we get to check him out in full gear playing in the run front. There is definite value here with Smith as a rookie on special teams, but I also see a player that can develop at the pro level with his size (6-2, 212).
I couldn't actually put it any better. His strength is making the smart play and using his body against more athletic tight ends, it always has been his strength. I like my safeties to make smart plays, take good angles and we need someone to cover tight ends. When you play in the same division as the Patriots, covering tight ends is not optional it's a necessity. He does project as a Strong but I think he could do a job in certain packages as the free.
Join me afte the jump for a little more
Smith was a great prospect, who was heavily recruited by some of the SEC powerhouses like Alabama but decided to attend Notre Dame. As a redshirt his first year, his work on the scout team saw him play 2007 as an outside linebacker for the Irish. Until Brian Kelly took over, Smith was moved from safe to linebacker, back to safety, back to linebacker. As a result his confidence suffered, he started making mistakes and people started to question him. It wasn't him, it was the situation. Brian Kelly brought stability to Smith and as a result, he was the most impressive defensive player for the Irish not named Manti.
His former teammate Maurice Crum had nothing but positive things to say about Smith
"He’s just one of those guys that he has every tool," Crum said then. "A guy like that is a guy that you’ve just got to get him on the field because he can just make things happen just because he’s so fast, he’s strong and he has good size, and he has hands and he’s smart and he knows the game. He’s one of those guys having him on the field, anything can happen. He can make a play, or he can help make a play."
If you a looking for a highlight reel guy, then you are probably not going to like Harrison because I really don't think you can appreciate a guy who is so fundamentally sound as Smith without watching him on a week to week basis. Think another Leonhard who is more athletic, bigger and covers tight ends. He is a great open field tackler, a good communicator and it is extremely rare that he will cost you a touchdown.
He takes good angles, and will pick off any mistakes in his area. He won't be a ball hawk play-maker but there are certain risks to this kind of play. He's not going to be the greatest safety in Jets history from day one but in his first year he will be a good special teams guy with the potential to become and everyday starter.
There are some limitations to Harrison's game and there are plenty of other players that the Jets should look at, but I am confident they will be taking a long hard look at Harrison to see what he can bring to the tale.