NAME: Sutton Smith
SCHOOL: Northern Illinois
POSITION: Edge Defender
CLASS: RS Junior
JERSEY: No. 15
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 225 lbs
First Step Quickness –Rolls out of his stance with ease and will challenge tackles from wide angled rushes. Carries speed very well through his turns and plays at a high rate of speed. Lateral quickness is equally impressive from flat footed stance, is a jittery defender in tight spaces and quick from the jump.
Hand Technique/Length –Advanced hands rusher with a clean swipe, rip and other various moves at his disposal. Understands value of shedding early and illustrates strong hand-eye coordination to keep his chest clean. Won’t stack blocks with overly effective results: lacking in the length and extension skills.
Pass Rush Counters –Predominant speed and finesse rusher, isn’t going to long-arm opponents or convert a lot of speed to power. Does show effective shedding techniques prior to contact and has a lot of success attacking blockers at the wrist to break up punches before contacting his chest.
Flexibility –Runs a tight corner, like his lean and tilt through the apex as a pass rusher. Shows ample ability to collect himself on his base at steep angles and still sustain body control for suddenness in start/stop situations. Reducing of surface area at first contact can continue to improve.
Run Defending –Total wash. Gets pushed around and bullied too easily by all comers. Won’t stack up skill players assigned blocking reps and gets absolutely murdered by long-armed offensive tackles, doesn’t really have an answer for bullies and people movers at the POA.
Competitive Toughness –Motor runs exceptionally hot. Is a “lead by example” player in the box and shows little to no fear for bigger bodies in his path. Will get swallowed up and enveloped in the ground game and struggle to stay leveraged and extended on offensive tackles stepping forward out of their stance.
Tackling –Short area close down ability is exceptional. Has enough wrap up skill to roll and finish through the ground in finishing opportunities. Doesn’t show a lot of ability to finish through blocks, needs to be uncovered in order to step into his finishes and get hips behind the pads.
Lateral Mobility –Range and ability to flow are both high quality features. Shows a lot of skill in pressing his pace and accelerating in lateral situations, offers a ton of value pressing to the boundary or scraping with the play. Short area quickness to dart and flash across face of blockers is strong.
Stand Up Ability –Has been featured in a lot of 2-pt stances and shows good spring out of the blocks. Training through pre-draft process for an off-ball role in addition to Senior Bowl experience. Shows functional athleticism and to play a role as a LB at the next level and be featured off the ball.
Football IQ –Savvy player. Knows how to temper his initial challenges and create angles and avenues for himself to help mask deficiencies as a pass rusher. Has shown promise in a potential position swap. Technical defender at point of first contact to maximize his reps clean in space.
PROSPECT COMPARISON – Joe Schobert
BEST TRAIT – Lateral Mobility
WORST TRAIT – Functional Strength
BEST FILM – Utah (2018)
WORST FILM – Florida State (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Sutton Smith’s NFL project can go one of two ways: Smith can be used as a pass rush specialist and special teams ace, or he can convert to linebacker and utilize his short area quickness, effective hand counters and football instincts on the second level. Smith has the functional athleticism to play in space and often rushed off the edge from a stand-up position. His ceiling is a starting off-ball linebacker with quality pass rush contributions.
PROS: Does well to keep himself clean despite lack of size/length. Slippery enough to evade blocks and keep himself free in pursuit. As a pass rusher, wins with deceptive footwork and the ability to take advantage of two-way gos. Good chop move to knock the hands down at the top of the arc. Low pad level helps him dip under punches. Good tackler with a non-stop motor.
CONS: Physical tools are painfully lacking. Gets engulfed by size and power whenever he tries to directly engage. Lacks the length, power and pass-rush athleticism to play on the edge in the NFL. Not explosive, false steps out of his two-point stance and won’t test tackles to the corner with speed. Not going to create pressure as a speed-to-power rusher. Tackles who know what they are doing won’t fall for his head fakes so easily. Counters as a last resort, not as a result of quick mental processing. Gets widened out of his gap because of desire to dance around blockers rather than hold the point and control his gap. Often fires way upfield without breaking down and processing.