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2019 NFL Draft Scouting Reports: Cameron Smith will be a steal at linebacker

Though he is not getting much hype in this year’s draft cycle, Cameron Smith has leadership, skill, and stats on his side.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Through his four years with the USC Trojans, Cameron Smith was always an integral part of USC’s defense. Though Smith had countless games leading the Trojans in tackles, this draft cycle he is flying under the media’s radar. Here are Smith’s strengths, weaknesses, and projections that will make him a steal come draft day.

Combine Measurables

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 238 pounds

Arms: 32 3/8 inches

Hands: 10 3.8 inches

Though one of Smith’s weaknesses is an unimpressive build, it is not indicative of the way he plays. The weight he lost last season helped improve his quickness and he was still able to maintain the upper-body strength to push off blockers.

40-Yard Dash: 4.69

Bench Press: 15 reps

Vertical Jump: 39 inches

Broad Jump: 123 inches

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.23 seconds

Smith’s playing speed is faster than his timed speed, which stems from his top notch instincts and and quick play recognition. Smith recognizes counter steps and fake keys from opponents and is able to play efficiently in space with shoulder slips, wrapping up, clear field vision, and solid passing lane zone defense.

Biggest Strength

What made Smith so valuable to USC, was his incredible football IQ. He is very hard to fool and was essential for the Trojans stopping third down conversions. His instincts combined with an exceptional hold on the fundamentals of good defense, made him a tackler to be reckoned with. His quick reflexes and smart eyes made for a career four interceptions, 14 passes deflected, and three fumble recoveries. Smith has no trouble locating where the football is at all times.

Biggest Weakness

What will deter some teams from Smith is his lack of explosiveness. His stat sheet only shows 19 tackles for loss and his slow top-end speed limits his range. Speedy running backs are where Smith struggles in coverage, once he changes direction it is hard for him to accelerate. However, he did help explosion questions by preforming well with the vertical at the NFL Combine, recording a 39 inch jump.

Area to Improve

One area that Smith needs to improve on is his blitz timing. Luckily, timing is an easy issue to fix with the right coaching, so Smith should not have trouble making this particular adjustment. We often see Smith getting caught up in the opponents offensive line, struggling to break through and get off blocks to make a tackle for loss. If he adjusts his blitz timing, he will be able to attack at full speed when the ball is snapped.

Best Performance as a Trojan

Utah Utes vs. USC Trojans 2015

It is hard to argue that USC’s upset of Utah in the Coliseum in 2015, did not set the stage for Smith’s biggest game of his career. Smith had a freshman breakout performance against the then No. 3 Utes. with nine tackles and three interceptions for 122 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown. That game set up a list of post-season awards for the young linebacker which included Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and multiple freshman all-American honors. Smith’s three interceptions allowed the Trojans to stay on top and trounce Utah in a huge upset win of 42-24. Smith’s performance had the USC student section ready to storm the field, which ultimately didn’t happen but is a feat in itself.

Draft Projection

Smith grades out with a chance at becoming an NFL starter and is projected to go in rounds 3-5 of the draft. Potential landing spots could be with the Los Angeles Rams who have picks in rounds four and five, or with the Atlanta Falcons who have picks in all seven rounds. Both teams are looking to fill needs at linebacker for 2019. With Smith, a team will be getting a highly intelligent player, excellent tackler, and solid coverage man. A two-year captain for USC, his leadership abilities are not lacking. If a team wants a hard worker, smart player, and true leader, Smith will be a steal in the middle rounds.