From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I will be profiling Georgia S Christopher Smith II.
#29 Christopher Smith II/DB Georgia – 5’11, 192
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Christopher Smith II||5110, 192||9 5/8||31 1/8||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Split||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Elite tackler in the open field, potentially the most fundamentally sound defensive back in the class in that department
— Has a great trigger when defending the run game, takes great angles coming downhill and can make plays in the alley from a two-high safety shell
— Brings solid physicality at the point of contact when tackling
— Ball magnet, has a really nice feel for recovering fumbles, football seems to find him at times to create takeaways
— Powerful hands to extend and disengage from blockers to stay clean the run game
— Has nice patience in his pedal, keeps himself in phase to drive and contest shallow to intermediate routes from the slot
— Has a nice feel in zone coverage, stays calm and allows routes to develop, keeping things in front of him before attacking downhill
— Plays with physicality in the post, separating receivers from the football with physical sticks at the catch point
— Plays with an enforcer’s mentality at the safety position
— Disciplined, high-IQ player in coverage. Has a great feel for when to attach to routes in quarters/pattern match zone concepts
— Does a nice job of baiting quarterbacks and producing takeaways when rolling down from two high shell as a “sky” safety in Cover 3
— Noticeably not a plus-athlete, can be a step slow coming out of breaks, turning potential PBUs into tackles after the catch
— Stiff-hipped in coverage, can struggle to transition and carry when receivers break across his face
— Has a tough time covering vertical speed releases, does not possess the necessary speed or efficiency in transition to carry receivers vertically
— More of a tackle the catch type guy in man coverage
— Efficient, but not explosive in his breaks, triggers well but fails to cover sufficient ground to close to the catch point effectively from depth
— Poor speed can allow receivers to jet past him in the open field, even when approaching with a good angle
— 133 tackles 5 TFLs 1 sack 1 FF 1 FR 6 INTs 16 PDs 1 TD
— 2022: 61 tackles 5 TFLs 1 sack 1 FF 1 FR 3 INTs 8 PDs
— 2022 AP First Team All-American
— Was also a First Team All-American per FWAA, Walter Camp, and Sporting News as well in his 2022 senior season
— 2022 All-SEC First Team
— 2022 Finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player
— Was recruited primarily as a cornerback coming out of high school, before transitioning to safety at the collegiate level
Following the departure of Cameron Sutton and with uncertainty surrounding Terrell Edmunds, who is an unrestricted free agent, the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary will feature some new faces in prominent roles next season. While the remainder of free agency should provide some clarity, Sutton’s versatility in sub-packages means that Pittsburgh has a need to fill sub-package snaps at safety, as well as the glaring hole at corner.
With holes at boundary corner, potentially safety, and slot corner I am largely focusing my efforts on corners and safeties who are able to fill the multiple roles listed above. Enter Georgia’s Christopher Smith II. A first-team All-American this past season, he worked primarily in the post and in split-safety looks at Georgia, but he has also proven to be effective in his extensive work covering slot receivers.
A less than spectacular athlete, Smith’s game is defined by his physicality and an advanced football-IQ, which allows him to generate takeaways at a healthy rate. In coverage, Smith is at his best when allowed to play downhill from split-safety looks in zone coverage, inserting into “hook/curl” and “flat” zones in Cover 3 schemes.
Here, with Georgia playing four over four in a quarters scheme to match the gun-empty quads look, Smith glues his eyes to his key at the snap, allowing the routes to declare before planting and driving the No. 3 receiver in the stalk and go concept. Trusting his eyes, Smith breaks downhill with zero hesitation, arriving to secure the takeaway and gain a healthy amount of hidden yardage back on the return. He is able to make up for his lack of high-end athletic traits with efficient footwork and high-level route recognition.
Similarly, when working as a single-high, post safety, Smith is able to rely on his top-end anticipation skills, understanding of route concepts, decisiveness, and ability to take efficient angles, to cover plenty of ground despite a clear lack of straight-line speed. Here, working as the post safety in a Cover 1 scheme, Smith gains depth in the post, keying the quarterback before identifying a blown assignment by his teammate Kelee Ringo, who got caught with his eyes in the backfield after a nice re-route, allowing vertical separation.
Understanding his athletic limitations, Smith opens to transition at a 135-degree angle, working to gain depth and stay on top of the receiver, where he will then be able to break downhill. Once he has gained proper depth, Smith begins to break downhill to close to the catch point, arriving with physicality to stun the receiver and pop the football loose. Athleticism aside, Smith’s ability to cover far hash to numbers here with the ball in the air is undeniably impressive and gives promise for his ability to operate as a post safety at the next level.
When filling the alley from split field safety looks, Smith triggers downhill like a man possessed, closing rapidly and imposing his physicality on ball carriers. He was arguably the most effective and fundamentally sound open field tackling safety in all of college football over the past two seasons.
Here, playing three over two in a two-high, split-field safety look, Smith, aligned at depth, diagnoses the backfield action and triggers downhill immediately, taking a perfect angle to close to the ball carriers near hip, maintaining proper leverage. Smith does such a nice job of consistently coming to balance yet maintaining his speed to eat up the ball-carrier’s space and finish with noticeable hit power.
Teach tape alley fills are littered throughout Smith’s Georgia tape. He should immediately elevate any NFL defense’s ability to defend perimeter runs, with the rare ability to make plays in the backfield from his two-high, split-field safety looks.
Here, once again playing from Georgia’s two-high safety shell, Smith, aligned at depth on the far hash, diagnoses backfield action and triggers immediately. He takes a disciplined angle to force the back to bounce outside, where he is able to secure a nice leg tackle well behind the line of scrimmage.
Smith is equally adept at tackling the catch in the open field, making him particularly effective when defending screen and quick game concepts. Below, aligned in a side-turn alignment over slot receiver Jalin Hyatt, Smith works in a man-coverage assignment. At the snap, Smith pedals patiently, staying low in his pad level with proper eye discipline, before breaking downhill as the receiver snaps back on the hitch, driving to close ground, come to balance, and make a nice open field tackle to eliminate any potential for yards after the catch.
While Smith is, generally speaking, more of a catch/tackle type guy in man coverage, lacking the explosion out of his break to close and break up passes from out of phase, he is capable of handling matchups against slot receivers and tight ends. Due to his elite tackling ability, he is largely able to protect against explosive plays in the passing game, particularly after the catch.
When placed in isolated man coverage matchups, whether in true man or modern quarters, which effectively becomes man when a receiver declares vertical (any route which breaks beyond five yards), Smith’s lack of fluidity in coverage shows up. Particularly when asked to flip his hips and transition to cover laterally, Smith can struggle to stay in phase with even the most pedestrian athletes at the receiver and tight end positions.
Here, Smith, working in zone coverage as the Tampa backer (seam dropper) in an inverted Tampa 2 scheme, stays patient, but gets caught with his eyes in the backfield, allowing a receiver to climb up the seam and catch him off balance. Late to react, Smith gets spun around, showing a lack of fluidity in his transition, and keeping him a step slow in closing to contest the catch point. While he has elite ball skills, allowing him to be effective in playing the catch point from out of phase, this lack of fluidity likely makes him more of a tackle the catch than contest the catch guy at the next level.
I genuinely believe that Christopher Smith II will carve out a 10-year career in some capacity at the NFL level. Will that come as a full-time starter on the back end? I tend to have some doubts on that. While his physicality, run defense, and instinctual play from zone coverage assignments add to any defensive scheme, his lack of high-end athleticism and functional movement skills likely limit his ceiling as a starter.
In an ideal world, Smith will be drafted into a scheme where he can play in sub-packages as a dimebacker, while providing depth as a spot starter at the safety position, adding the ability to work as a slot cornerback in a pinch. Likewise, with his physicality and ability to consistently take elite angles in pursuit, Smith has the potential to develop into a four-phase, impact player on special teams early in his career. In that respect, his floor at the next level is an extremely effective backup, capable of elevating depth and versatility in a secondary.
In terms of both measurables and tape, Christopher Smith II reminds me quite a bit of longtime NFL veteran safety Tyrone Carter, who similarly was able to provide a physical presence on the back end despite lacking prototypical size. While he may never become a full-time NFL starter, Smith II has the ability to provide championship-type depth, a player who is more than capable of filling in as a starter for extended stretches.
Projection: Late Day Two/Early Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.4-Rotational Player (4th Round)
Games Watched: vs Vanderbilt (2022), vs Tennessee (2022), vs Oregon (2022), vs Ohio State (2022), at Kentucky (2022), vs Clemson (2022), vs Alabama (2021)