Keith Smith is an inside linebacker for San Jose State. He is one of the nation's leading tacklers, with 159 tackles in only 12 games in 2013. Yet he may not even be drafted. Smith is undersized at 6' 0", 229 pounds. He isn't super fast, with a 40 time probably somewhere between 4.6 and 4.7. He simply lacks the physical attributes NFL scouts look for in a linebacker prospect. So Smith may go undrafted. If he does, that would be a shame. He isn't great in coverage, and he's not a big time pass rusher. He is a downhill linebacker who is always around the ball. He is good at reading plays and good at picking his way through traffic. He is tough, durable and fearless.
What Keith Smith has is a non stop motor. He plays through the whistle every play. I call your attention to the scouting video at the end of this article, courtesy of draftbreakdown.com. The video shows Smith playing against San Diego State. It's a long video, almost 12 minutes, showing every Smith play that game. You probably won't have the patience to watch all of it. There is, however, one play, starting at 2:36 of the video, that is must see TV. San Diego State throws a little 2 yard crossing pattern at the 38 yard line. Smith, number 31, closes fast to make the tackle, but is pancaked by a San Diego State blocker and lies flat on his stomach at the 36 yard line, seemingly out of the play. The receiver breaks free and runs down the sideline for a big play, all the way down to the 8 yard line. So, what's so special about that, you ask? Check out who ends up tackling the receiver at the 8 yard line. It's a little hard to see the first time you watch it, but the tackler is none other than #31, Keith Smith. That's right, flat on his stomach, completely out of the play, almost 30 yards down the field, and Keith Smith gets up, runs the faster receiver down, and makes the tackle. That, my friends, is a motor.
I don't know if Smith will ever make it in the NFL. With that kind of motor and tackling prowess and nose for the ball, at a minimum he should be a valuable guy to have on special teams. If he can add 10 pounds of muscle to his frame, maybe he could even develop into something more. On the other hand, his measurables say he may never even make it out of training camp. For my money, with a boatload of draft picks this year, I would be very happy spending a 7th round pick on a guy like Smith. While it's true that you can't teach things like size and speed, neither can you teach motor. And Keith Smith's motor makes him worth taking a chance on.