- Position – DT
- Height – 6’3″
- Weight – 312 lbs
- College – Eastern Michigan University
- Year – Senior
- Games Watched: vs Northern Illinios (2020), vs Wisconsin (2021), vs Toledo (2021), vs Western Michigan (2021), vs Central Michigan (2021), vs Liberty (2021)
- NFL Comparison – Johnathan Allen (WAS)
At his height and weight, Michael Smith Jr. is a prototypical 4-3 defensive tackle. His biggest strength visible, when watching the film, is his high motor. The guy gets off the snap and is hunting for the ball. Whether it’s a loss of five yards or a gain of three, he seems to make an impact on the play, regardless of what down it is. The fundamentals are established with Smith Jr., clearly with the way he challenges double-team blocks to hold his gap and not give up the big play. He can also get down the line of scrimmage when the play is away from him and prevent running backs from trying to cut back upfield. This is just what he does in the run game! On passing downs, he is quick to locate the ball and get his hands up to knock down passes (even securing an interception against Western Michigan) with his high-level awareness. I compared him to Johnathan Allen because of his ability to go 100 percent every play. Like Allen, Smith Jr. has an extra gear that causes havoc for an offensive lineman. Eastern Michigan had smaller guys in on third-down blitzing plays, but I really think Smith Jr. could pin his ears back and get to the quarterback on passing downs. The new defensive tackles of the league have evolved to being quicker and being more than just gap-stuffers. SMITH JR. IS JUST THAT!
It may sound cliché, but Smith Jr.’s biggest strength is what leads to some of his weaknesses. His high motor does eventually run out, and when he’s tired, he’s not nearly as effective as he should be. Eastern Michigan has three or more d-line packages, and in that system, he had plenty of time to catch his breath. But on the smaller NFL rosters, he’s going to have to be able to play a lot of downs. Another thing he’ll have to improve on is getting off blocks. He excels at holding his gaps, but if he was better at disengaging and making a play in the backfield, he’d have more tackles for loss and probably be a bigger name in this defensive tackle-heavy draft.
Smith Jr. started off as an offensive lineman whose aggressiveness allowed him to easily transition to defense. His ceiling hasn’t even been discovered yet, and he could end up a last-day draft pick with the defensive line class being one of the best we’ve seen in recent years. But I would be flabbergasted if this guy doesn’t make it on an NFL roster by next season.