Christopher Smith II, a safety from the University of Georgia, is a “Dawg.” Being able to draft a safety of his prowess in the fifth round may prove to be an absolute steal for the Las Vegas Raiders.
A player of Smith’s caliber doesn’t usually fall as far as he did in the 2023 NFL Draft. That being said, the Raiders may have found a gem. Smith is a 2022 consensus All-American at the safety position. If Smith is as advertised, the Raiders have a two-time former national champion who will be a ballhawking safety for years to come; he can do it all.
He lays the wood on much larger opposing tight ends and is capable of coming from deep safety to make plays on running backs in the backfield. Rarely is Smith caught out of position. In fact, not many receivers have been able to get over the top of him on deep balls. He is a true junkyard dog, simply put. He relishes all opportunities to engage in contact with anyone and does not miss many tackles.
Does Christopher Smith II fit with the Raiders?
Patrick Graham, the Raiders defensive coordinator, has a unique and ever-evolving defense that adapts to the offense it’s playing against. Provided he has his full complement of defenders to apply to situational football. Defenses are in sub-packages (nickel and dime) 85% of the time. A good safety is the last line of defense and should be one of the best playmakers on the team.
Smith has been compared to Duron Harmon. Harmon was called “the closer,” an old wily vet with a nose for the football and a knack for making big plays. Much like Harmon, Smith is sound in his assignments, disciplined in his reads, and sticky in coverage. Those are all traits required for Graham’s defense. More importantly, Smith can further develop those traits surrounded by a mixture of youth and veteran depth.
Through the course of the offseason, the Raiders have gone about the business of replenishing their secondary in an interesting way. There weren’t many huge splashes made during free agency: Marcus Epps and Jacquan Johnson were solid additions to Trevon Moehrig, Roderic Teamer, and Isaiah Pola-Mao, the holdovers at safety. Finally, Graham will have enough talent on the field to call defenses the way he wants to.
“The Anti-Combine Warrior”
A “combine warrior” is a player who had a killer scouting combine, earning elite athletic grades based on drills and exercises completed at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana. Typically, these players fall off as soon as the pads come on and leave everyone with a sour taste in their mouth. In today’s NFL, there are a lot of combine warriors. Differentiating them from players who can play is why these front office personnel and scouts get paid the big bucks. This is no different for the Raiders and general manager Dave Ziegler.
Smith didn’t run a sub-4.6 40-yard dash; his 33-inch vertical is good but not great, and his 5’11” 192-pound frame is a concern for durability. It is true that Smith isn’t a prototypical physical talent, but you can’t measure heart or football IQ. For all the questions about his range, as mentioned earlier, very rarely is he beaten over the top. Time will be the ultimate measure of this draft pick, but at pick No. 170, the Raiders crushed it.
*Top Photo: USA TODAY Sports
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