He’s got a really active set of hands. Fluid, constant motion on his outside rush track to swipe, rip, scissors, or otherwise drop hands off his frame. Claimed a nasty win off PSU’s Rasheed Walker with an inside spin that was set up well with an initial upfield drive. Shows effective versatility as a rusher and awareness in the run game to stack and chop clean.
Smith showcases sufficient power to collapse the pocket when landing a clean punch and has just enough juice here to punish soft sets. His conversion of power later in the rep is only modest, however, and power blockers like Andrew Stueber (Michigan) were able to sit down on his collapse effort.
I’m pretty encouraged by the continued growth we’ve seen from Smith despite him being a player who has constantly battled missed time and injuries. He’s fairly instinctual as a rusher and clearly has developed an understanding of winning with his hands and the value of a clean frame. I certainly wish his killer instinct to not just flash pressures but secure sacks and TFLs was better, but I think we can get there with some more proficient steps out of the blocks.
Ohio State EDGE defender Tyreke Smith is a highly interesting prospect among this year’s crop of pass rushers. Smith has ample bright flashes on film and has been a productive pass rusher for the Buckeyes over the last two seasons—although his pressure rate doesn’t consistently yield final numbers in the stat sheet and you’ll need to look closer to appreciate the potential that’s illustrated in his game. Smith has been the Buckeyes’ best pass rusher for the last two seasons but has only a handful of sacks to show for his effort. There’s good twitch off the edge present here to allow Smith to challenge tackles in a variety of ways and he’s shown himself to become a progressively more nuanced player with his hand usage throughout the course of his time with the Buckeyes.
This is a player capable of winning from all angles and taking multiple rush lanes to do so—Ohio State even dropped him into coverage on occasion to try to buzz underneath some quick game in the flats. Smith feels like a player destined to become a more productive pro than he was in college but he’ll need to work through the nagging injury history that has dogged him in Columbus and helped to bog down his development as a finisher in both the run game and as a pass rusher. Smith was a pleasant surprise to study and his NFL team is getting a high-tools, high-motor, high-upside player who should be able to serve in a rotational role up front sooner rather than later.
Ideal role: Hybrid EDGE Defender
Scheme tendencies: Multiple front defense with ability to play both from a two and three-point stance
Written by Kyle Crabbs
Games watched: Minnesota (2021), Oregon (2021), Penn State (2021), Michigan (2021)
Best Game Studied: Penn State (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Michigan (2021)
First Step Explosiveness: Smith’s release off the line is effective and will challenge with speed, although I do think he leaves a bit on the bone at times with his first step due to inefficient release. Too many times he pops up on the first step as opposed to driving his momentum forward and not upward. When he’s in obvious pass-rush situations, you do see ample juice to attack and stress with speed.
Flexibility: Smith has some really pleasant cornering ability—he’s flattened sharply a couple of times that I didn’t feel like in real-time he had any chance to claim. He’s smooth and fluid in his hinges rotationally as well to allow him to close his chest to rushers in close quarters. He does, however, get caught at times playing too high and needs to use those hinges to sit down on his hips more consistently.
Hand Counters: See Above.
Length: Smith should meet NFL thresholds in every room across the league to play on the outside. He’s got sufficient anatomical length but more importantly, he plays toward the outer orbit of his hands as a player, effectively stacking and extending to keep a clean chest. He forces hand fighting early in reps as an outside rusher and leaves himself enough room to convert an angle late in the rep.
Hand Power: See Above.
Run Defending: There are a few too many reps where he’s catching blocks and not able to generate knock-back or own the LOS. Ohio State also rotated him out in the games I watched in heavier run situations but I thought he was the Buckeyes’ best run defender on the edge in all phases. Showed good reactive quickness when optioned off of, the quickness to surf and crash off the backside of the LOS, penetration skills to slash through a gap or otherwise work overtop of blocks, and offered some consistent juice from a stationary/stacked position. Awareness was good to crash down and blow up pullers in the power run game, too.
Effort (Motor): Effort and motor are strong—he’s worked hard off the backside of a rolling pocket to get involved in plays and managed to manufacture pressure. Smith hasn’t allowed a lack of finishes in the passing game to deter his effort and energy—he’s got a very disproportionate number of pressures versus logged sacks. From a functional power and strength perspective, I’d consider him to be sufficient. He can get knocked around in high traffic areas against power players but shows effective recovery balance after contact.
Football IQ: See Above.
Lateral Mobility: Smith is fairly fluid. He’s not the most dynamic to flip and drive his hips open when needing rapid width, but he’s stepped down into the teeth of a pull effectively to slam shut an interior lane. Inside counters out of his rush stem have flashed and should allow him a two-way go against oversets or when aligned in wider angles.
Versatility: Smith took on a fairly diverse role with OSU and showed the ability to successfully handle drops to go with his skills as a pass rusher. I think he’s got the ceiling of a starting EDGE and can play in a multiple-front scheme.
TDN Consensus: 75.50/100 (Third Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 77.50/100
Marino Grade: 76.50/100
Harris Grade: 72.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 75.00/100
Weissman Grade: 76.00/100
Parson Grade: 76.00/100