The Florida State Seminole defense has produced a high number of slightly undersized but extremely fast players that gone on to the NFL. They have had their fair share of busts in doing this but also some huge successes. There are a few guys that fit that bill on this year’s team, but one of the more intriguing is outside linebacker Telvin Smith. He seems do a little bit of everything for the Noles as he plays the run, helps in coverage and gets after the quarterback with his tremendous athleticism, but he also plays a ton of special teams.
Nevertheless, Smith will be labeled a tweener and rightfully so, but while his long term destination is not clear as to what position he will ultimately play in the NFL, there are a few roles that stand out now that could get him on the field quickly. In many ways, he fits the role of a Spur as some will call it as someone who plays a position that does some of the jobs of a safety as well as a linebacker, but the Noles really have him operate as more of a traditional linebacker in their system.
Smith is an impressive athlete with great speed and agility, but he needs to get stronger, might need to get bigger if a team wants him to play a fulltime linebacker role at the next level, and get better with his technique in coverage. Smith has the potential to be a specialist that can be a great player on special teams but his best value might be in his ability to potentially defend against tight ends. Smith projects as a third day pick as he is somewhat of a project in order to become a fulltime player, but he could be an immediate contributor on special teams and as a sub package player.
Vitals & Build
Smith is listed at 6’3” 218lbs and is an undersized linebacker. He has incredible explosiveness and great top end speed that allows him to fly all over the field. His strength is not anything that stands out obviously and he has a difficult time in certain situations. Smith can change direction pretty well at times but needs to work on sinking his hips and maintaining his balance better when he does it. The potential for Smith seems to be really high going to the next level as there is plenty of room to add weight but so much will depend on the role a team wants him to play.
Smith is a good tackler in contained space and a phone booth, but needs to improve when it comes to going out in space. When in a confined space, Smith uses good technique, gets low, hits with a rising blow and wraps up to secure the tackle. It seems as though his lack of size and strength has caused him to evolve into a pretty good technician in that part of the game.
On the other hand, Smith is so fast and explosive that he can be out of control on the outside and ends up missing tackles. He has a difficult time breaking down and making the tackle out in space. Too often, Smith ends up getting juked and being so high, he is off balance and cannot react quickly enough. He needs to work on breaking down a little earlier and just finding a way to be under control so he can make the play. His range is a tremendous asset but if he cannot make the tackles, it does him little good.
Smith has a difficult time in run support. He functions on his ability to shoot gaps and basically beat blockers and really the running play as a whole to the spot. When he can do that with his speed and quickness, he can make some big time plays and he has been able to get a number of tackles for loss as a result. When he is not able to get a jump on the play, he is too often overpowered and just made a nonfactor. There just is not enough of Smith and he is not great at taking on blocks, so he tends to get washed out or knocked off balance or even just thrown out of the way. There are times when he is able to beat blocks and slip them on his way to the ball carrier, but they are not often enough to be able to plug him in to that part of the game right out of the box.
Smith has sideline to sideline speed and can easily get to plays on the outside and can be in on a lot of plays, but again, if blockers can get their hands on him with any kind of leverage, he has problems. He is always a threat because of how fast he is and how much ground he can cover but on the whole, he ends up making most of his plays because he is surrounded by a loaded defense.
This is the area where Smith appears to have a significant amount of potential going forward, but he is still raw. His athleticism and size make him extremely valuable in a coverage scheme because he can help with a wide receiver or running back but he is best suited to play against tight ends.
That is what makes him valuable and intriguing. There are just not many players that are equipped to stop a 6’5” 250lb tight end who can run. Smith needs to keep building up strength to hang with them physically, but in terms of having the size and speed to cover them, he has the ability to be a huge pain. With his speed, his height and the fact he is going to bigger than most safeties while being far more athletic than run stopping linebackers, he can step in and potentially have a role immediately.
The game of football has adjusted the rules to make it harder and harder to stop tight ends so having a specialist that came in and compete against tight ends is not only a valuable asset, but increasingly a necessity.
Smith can get into his drops for zone quickly and has all of the ability to keep up in man coverage, but just needs to continue working and polishing off his skill set. There is certainly potential there but he needs to do a better job with his hands in dealing with defenders as well as taking better angles and just getting his hands in on more passes.
Pass Rush & Blitz Ability
Smith has experience rushing the passer from the inside as well as from an outside linebacker spot. When he rushes from the inside, he looks for holes like a running back just like he does against the run, but with pass blocking, the holes are more clear and easier to see. As a result, when he is right and can get through, he is on top of the quarterback often times before they even realize it. Even when he does not get the sack, he is able to get pressures and hits on the quarterback.
On the outside, Smith’s explosiveness and raw speed are still apparent and he can fly off of the edge. He really does not display much when it comes to moves to defeat blocks. Smith either wins on speed or he does not get there and can be relatively easily washed out of the play as long as a blocker can get their hands on him. He tends to win on catching a team not accounting for him coming or just raw speed and beating the opponent to the spot.
This is an area where Smith really excels. His size and speed is a tremendous asset in a part of the game that does not really have a prototypical player. Smith has shown he can be the first guy down to cover on punt, he can get down the field and make plays on kickoff, and he can potentially be a nice player when it comes to trying to block kicks.
Smith is the type of guy where a coach wants to put him on every special team possible and he could be a superstar in that part of the game. He could be the type of player that fans of the team know him just from his impact on special teams and admire what he brings to those units on a weekly basis.
This is a situation where it all comes down to the eye of the beholder. The first thing that jumps out is what he can bring to special teams. His unique combination of size and speed make him a great player for coverage units. Smith could end up playing as a sub package linebacker who can come in and cover tight ends or rush off of the edge initially and be developed in a few different ways depending on the way the team feels. There could be a few teams that believe he can make the move to strong safety and play that role for run downs and move him down to linebacker and have a big nickel defense.
There are also teams that might just want to bulk him up and play him as a weak side linebacker. He definitely has the speed and instincts to do it, but just needs more size so he does not get overwhelmed against the run.
Smith also has experience lining up inside as a linebacker but with substantial protection in front of him as well as being fast enough to get outside when needed, so a 3-4 team could like him as a specialist initially and try to bulk him up for that role. Not every 3-4 team requires their inside backers to be huge. The Browns are a good example where Craig Robertson is only 234lbs.
Smith’s best situation might be to be drafted to a 4-3 team and developed into a weak side backer, but Smith’s athleticism makes it so he could be developed into a few different ways and all of them could end up being a successful.
Smith’s game might end up similar to that of Wesley Woodyard of the Denver Broncos. Woodyard is undersized, but fast backer in the Broncos linebacker unit now, but it has been a product of a lot of hard work to get there. He was somewhat of a coverage specialist and special teamer in the early part of his career, but has become a standout player in that unit the last year and a half. That could be the same type of path that Smith takes in the NFL, provided he ends up on the right team that makes good use of his abilities.
Smith has a lot of ability and potential, but he is undersized and he is a tweener at this point. Depending on which team he ends up on, he could be moved to a weak side linebacker, inside linebacker or a safety. While he develops to hopefully become a standout at one of those spots, he could be a great special teams player and potential sub package player that can rush the passer or help in coverage. Smith projects as a third day pick but he could still end up making an immediate impact for the team that picks him in a few key areas.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com