Brandon Smith Scouting Report and Draft Profile
Linebacker, Penn State Nittany Lions, #12
Brandon Smith Scouting Report Measurements
6’3, 250 lbs.
Broad Jump: 10’8
Vertical Jump: 37.5 inches
Brandon Smith NFL Draft Player Profile
Brandon Smith was one of the best players in the country coming out of high school. He could have gone anywhere he wanted to, with 29 major scholarship offers, but he chose the Nittany Lions after a monster senior season. A unanimous five-star recruit out of Louisa County High School in Virginia, Smith was also a star basketball player for two seasons and was a National Honor Society member. He would go on to play three productive seasons at Penn State.
As a true freshman, Smith was primarily a special teamer and rotational linebacker who was used more in sub-packages. He did appear in all 13 games and managed to record 14 total tackles. In his sophomore season, Smith became a bigger contributor as he amassed 37 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in the shortened nine game season.
Entering his junior season in 2021, there were legitimate expectations that Smith would break out and become a big-time NFL prospect. He did have his best season with 81 tackles, 4 TFL, and 5 pass break ups, but it was not the season that Penn State fans and NFL scouts wanted to see. There was hope that Smith would return for a senior season in which he could have a true star season. Somewhat surprisingly, he entered his name into the NFL Draft and now we will see how inconsistent film affects his draft position this weekend.
Brandon Smith Strengths
Smith is a freak athlete, and he has been since he was being recruited out of high school. As a linebacker weighing in around 250 pounds, a 4.52 40-yard dash is quite impressive. That time put Smith 4th amongst all linebackers, but he did it at a higher weight. In fact, Smith put on close to 10 pounds compared to his playing weight in 2021. His speed shows up on film when he closes on ball carriers and deals with running backs in man coverage. Smith is also excellent moving laterally in coverage and side-stepping blockers. His change of direction ability is another impressive trait, as he is far from a stiff mover.
Coverage in Space
Smith can run with the best of them at running back and tight end. His elite athleticism and movement skills allow him to stay with guys even as they break their routes and stretch the field. Not only is he fast in a straight line, but he has also the short-area quickness to flip his hips and cover guys laterally. Smith has also lined up in the slot and has shown he can defend quicker receivers as well.
Smith appears to be best suited as a WILL once he starts his NFL career, but he has gotten valuable experience playing at all three linebacker spots in a prototypical 4-3 defense. He is also willing to fill gaps in the run game and has gotten a lot of reps rushing the passer. Because of his closing speed, NFL teams should be able to utilize him as an effective pass rusher where he doesn’t have to read and diagnose as much.
Brandon Smith Weaknesses
There is no doubt Smith can pack a punch and run sideline-to-sideline to chase ball carriers, but his tackling technique needs refinement. There are multiple instances on tape where Smith is in position in the backfield, only to lose his grip and let the opponent escape. He often flies into tackles causing him to miss high, failing to wrap up. His tackling issues show up more against the run when he is tasked with taking guys on downhill.
Lack of Dominance
With Smith’s athletic profile, his tape often leaves you wanting more. Statistically speaking, his numbers are pedestrian and don’t show someone who is ready to make a consistent impact in the NFL. When watching the tape, there can be long drives by the offense where Smith fails to make a single play. Unlike other top linebackers in this draft, Smith struggles to stand out sometimes. He often plays passively and doesn’t show a killer instinct.
Awareness and Play Speed in Crowded Areas
Smith’s biggest weakness is his lack of awareness in zone coverage and not being in the right spot consistently. When there is a lot of action in the middle of the field, and Smith is responsible for multiple things, he is often caught out of position. Smith finds himself covering empty areas a lot and hardly recognizes actions before they happen. He finds himself caught up with blockers and in traffic often because he is slow to read the play.
Brandon Smith Draft Stock
Smith entered the 2021 season as a projected late first or early second round pick because of his elite traits. The film during his junior season was underwhelming and has caused his stock to drop. In a deep class of linebackers, Smith hasn’t been able to differentiate himself and piece together the complete package. Smith helped himself with a great combine showing, but that just confirmed the athletic ability everyone knew he had. He figures to be drafted early on Day 3, with the possibility a team bets on his potential at the end of Day 2.
Brandon Smith Scouting Report Final Thoughts
Depending on a team’s timeline and strength at the linebacker position, Smith is definitely a worthwhile selection to develop over his first few seasons. He shouldn’t be expected to jump into a big role on the defense right away, but giving him a defined role in some sub-packages would be good use of his elite traits. Smith has shown good character traits, and if he can take some hard coaching, some team may be getting a steal in the fourth-round range. There is no doubt he leaves you wanting more on a consistent basis and that will likely scare some teams off of him before that.
Brandon Smith Scouting Report Analyst- Justin Trevisani.