As far as individual careers go, University of Central Florida running back Kevin Smith's collegiate career finished as one of the most decorated in school history. His final season was one of the best in college football history as he challenged former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season rushing record, falling 62 yards short. He finished the season with 2,567 rushing yards on a NCAA single-season record 450 carries (a solid 5.7 yards per carry). He reached the end zone 29 times rushing the ball and ended with 180 points, which was good for fourth on the NCAA list. All of this earned him a spot as an Associated Press All-American first team selection and has him as one of the top running backs in the nation, at least from a statistical point of view.
Smith's stock has dropped over the offseason workouts. He posted a rather pedestrian time in the 40-yard dash (4.53) at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine, and although he was slightly faster at Central Florida's Pro Day (4.47) his bench press was below-average. He managed just 15 repetitions at 225 pounds. Combine this with a deep draft class and Smith could drop in the draft despite his prodigious college numbers.
Smith is a quick back, who uses loose hips, shifty feet and solid in-line acceleration to get his yards. He does not have breakaway speed but rather can pick-and-slide his way through defenders. He gets good lift on his feet and is at his best when running with a low pad level. He may not break many tackles, but he has solid lower-body strength and can pick up some tough yards by turning his pads to squeeze through small openings.
His vision is another characteristic that is above-average. He sets up well behind his blockers and is patient, which helps him pick his way through crowds. When he sees the hole, Smith shows good burst getting to it and breaking to the next level. He protects the ball well in these situations and has enough strength that coaches shouldn't have to worry about fumbles. He might not have the top-end speed to break away from tacklers in the open field, but when he is running in-line, Smith has another gear he can get to that separates him from tacklers. He is a willing blocker and has shown the ability at times to anchor in pass protection. He has a good concentration level out of the backfield and should catch most of the balls thrown to him.
Smith is a bit on the small side for a feature back at the next level. He stands at 6-foot-1 1/8, 217 pounds, but he is not a powerful back. His straight-line speed is lacking so he is not going to break away from many defenders in the NFL. Without the physical tools, he could find it hard to translate his game to the next level. The numbers he put up in college might just be a product of getting the carries as there are some questions regarding the level of competition he faced in Conference USA. His carries are another worry for prospective teams as he might be worn down, which makes long-term durability a concern. A reduced workload could make him more effective.
Another area of concern is his tendency to try to make the big play all the time rather than taking what is there. Too often last year Smith was stopped at the line of scrimmage or worse, which was a direct result of him waiting too long for something to open up. He will have to do a better job breaking tackles and picking the right hole, as well as showing better burst if he is to be a consistent running back at the next level.
Smith's receiving skills could use work as he needs to show better adjustment breaking on passes. He's not an accomplished route runner and could have difficulty separating from defenders in man coverage. Most of his receiving gains will likely come on screen or dump-off passes.
Expected Draft Placement
Smith has worked out for a few teams in secret this offseason and is expected to go in the first four rounds. The third round is certainly a possibility, but more likely it will be a team looking for another back to use in a rotation targeting him in Round 4. The Detroit Lions are a possibility, as are the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers or Chicago Bears as they all have need at this position and could wait until the second day of the draft to address it.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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