As we lead up to the NFL Draft here at 1500ESPN, we will take a closer look at the prospects who could end up as Minnesota Vikings. For this edition, we focus on Auburn guard Braden Smith…
Why the Vikings could draft Braden Smith:
While Smith has not been mentioned by mock drafters in the first round, he belongs in the conversation with the best guards in the draft class. His strength, athleticism and consistent play in college football’s best conference over the last two years. If the Vikings aim for a different position player in the first round or track down, Smith will likely still be available in the second round. He could step in as a Day 1 right guard and give the Vikings power and athleticism at the position.
What the experts are saying:
“Braden Smith has an NFL-ready frame and will impress evaluators with the eyeball test. When the eyeballs are focused on the tape, they will see a player who is more than capable of matching power with power, but can be too regimented in his movement and overall play. Smith is a grinder whose play could vary greatly based upon the matchup across from him. He has size and power, but the holes in his game are unlikely to be patched up with coaching. He can become an average to solid starter.”
Pro Football Focus:
“Smith is a home run hitter type of guard who will alternate dominant reps with whi s. You can’t teach his strength though, and he’s going to be drafted highly because of it. He’s far from a perfect prospect, but he’s an easy projection with how advanced he is as a run blocker already.”
“He is tall and long with exceptional foot speed and heavy hands. The athlete in him stands out consistently. He shows easy balance and body control against the speed of SEC whether he is matched up against a quick pass rusher or a fast linebacker. He can hang athletically no matter what.”
What the numbers say:
In 445 pass snaps, Smith allowed three sacks, zero QB hits and three pressures, good for the ninth best Pass Blocking Efficiency in the draft class. He also did not take a single penalty in 2017.
Smith scored exceptionally high Pro Football Focus grades in both run and pass blocking and was above average in the screen game. Here are his grades via PFF:
Smith is tall at 6-foo-6, but isn’t the largest lineman in terms of weight, wingspan, arm length or hand size. He does possess outstanding strength, benching 35 reps at the combine and blew away the field in the broad and vertical jump. These things tell us about a guard’s movement skills, which are required in the Vikings’ run game.
Graphic via Mockdraftable:
Smith has been flying under the radar as a top guard prospect, but his production and NFL Combine performance should have him in the conversation for the Vikings. There are very few players who are as athletic and strong with the type of experience he has against a high level of competition.
Watch Braden Smith: