I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. Find all the profiles here.
Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State - 6'5, 271 - Senior - 4.74 40
Here is a prospect that I meant to get to a month ago, but he fell through the cracks as a defensive line "rush-man" that might look pretty nice right here in Dallas. He is from a school that seems to have a coaching staff that recruits and develops some high energy defensive line players on a semi regular basis that fit the general profile that is sought for by Rod Marinelli in his 4-3. Smith has a rather small body of elite work - 2014 was what we would call elite, the other 3 years were not - but has grown into one of the names that you keep hearing might be of great interest to teams that are looking to assemble a stable of DL that can come at you in waves. For this study, we took hard looks at LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Kentucky.
What I liked: With Smith, the first thing that is apparent is that he has an ability to be versatile and to be lined up in a number of spots. MSU would start him at RDE, but you are going to see him move to LDE, 3-tech, and even the 0-tech where he lines up right on top of the center in the 3rd down package when the Bulldogs would opt for a 30 front. When he gets a center in space in that situation, he is often able to get to the QB with rather impressive ease. He is decent in his edge rush, but I would not call it explosive. Rather, it seems relentless in that he is not going to concede a play until the whistle blows. There are many in his spot who shut it down when they feel a double team coming or when there first move is stoned, and Smith does not seem to have that in him. His motor runs high, and that serves him very well as he does run into a few sacks that would not have been there had he slowed down after his initial move. Against the run, he is stronger than you think and was a notable athlete at the combine in short-space quickness for a man his size. Overall, I think he is the type of player the Cowboys are always looking for, and he honestly reminds you a bit of Tyrone Crawford, but with better pass rush moves already in his arsenal from when Crawford left Boise State. He has a thick lower body which might mean he could add another 15 pounds and be an impressive 285-pound DE.
What I did not like: Well, as I said, you are always looking for extreme explosion off the snap around the edge, and that doesn't appear to be Smith's best attribute. Beyond that, he is solid in just about every category, although I did note that he might be best suited for a rotation as he did seem to tire in a few of these games as the day went along. I am sure we must attach this to his relentless abandon on each snap, but you clearly don't want your DL all gassed-out by the time the 4th Quarter arrives. Of course, he did play on some hot fields, including the Texas A&M game where this was evident.
Summary: Overall, you want a "jack of all trades, master of a few" DL type to add to your mix here in Dallas (or in a number of cities). Smith may not have jaw dropping top-side, but his overall game and his battle level is exactly what you look for in a defensive linemen. He is disruptive and full of energy, along with a nice array of hand skills and moves that show you that while he may not be your star, he is certainly a nice piece of an ensemble cast that should build and rotate to the vital portion of the game where a single play might make the difference. The best part about Smith is that while there is no guarantee where he goes, it is possible he could slide to a fortunate team in Round 2. That team will certainly feel that they were able to acquire an additional 1st round player in this draft.