Sometimes, it’s hard to separate personal bias when scouting a player, whether it be for the draft or one already in the league. Everybody does it to some degree. Whether it’s due to their size, school, play-style or something even as arbitrary as a players’ number, there’s bias in the scouting community. People don’t want to admit this, but there’s even racial bias in the NFL. If you see a small, white receiver and someone ask who he compares to, who is the first name most people throw out? I bet you said Wes Welker. I gave you one characteristic of this player’s game and you already assumed he was a Welker-clone. It’s okay. It happens.
The draft community has a lot of these biases. Would you want to draft a USC quarterback of late? What about an LSU defensive lineman? What about a player with a familiar last name, like Derek Carr’s in this draft class? The player we are going to look out today has a bias that needs to be thrown out the window. Telvin Smith is a linebacker from Florida State who helped the Seminoles win the National Championship in 2013. But his small build will remind many of first round bust Ernie Sims from FSU. So this begins our scouting report on Telvin Smith, who I want you to keep an open mind about. Let’s take a look at Telvin Smith’s measurable compared to other linebackers since 1999:
Telvin Smith measured in at the combine at 6’3, 218 pounds with below average arm length (32 1/4″). At 218 pounds, he is the lightest linebacker to come into the league since 1999. Smith doesn’t have a rocked up build and he doesn’t have a big frame to add girth. He doesn’t do well when engaged on blocks and will never be able to take on guards and shed in the run game. Smith likely won’t be able to match up in one-on-one coverage with tight-ends, because he will be severely over-matched due to his size. He has a few major flaws in his game and he will likely be removed from most 3-4 teams’ draft boards and even some 4-3 teams as he is exclusively a weak-side linebacker.
But this is what I know, Telvin Smith can play in this league at a high level despite his short comings. If you put Smith in the right system with the right coach, this is a player you can get in the early rounds that can dominate. Smith was the best linebacker at Florida State and was the tone-setter for the defense. The rest of team fed off his energy and desire to win.
When Telvin Smith is free to just play sideline to sideline, there is not a better linebacker in the 2014 class. He does such a great job at fighting through trash to find the ball carrier, never taking his eyes off the man. The next play is an example of just how fast he can fly to the football, even when he doesn’t have the best angle. Duke runs their running back on a swing pass and a receiver tries to block and then cut Telvin Smith low.
Smith makes the play, even after being blocked from behind and having to recover from his poor angle. This type of play may not shock or wow the average fan, but plays like these turn big gains into much smaller ones. The run and chase type linebackers are now coveted more than ever with teams running more spread offenses and read option. For Telvin Smith, the worst case scenario is that you spend a 2nd or 3rd round pick on a nickel linebacker who becomes a special teams ace who will work hard every day to improve the team. That’s his floor. But I think this player will be much better than that. I can see Telvin Smith being a player whose best football is still ahead of him and who thrives in a speed-built defense.
How He Fits For The Dallas Cowboys
With Bruce Carter under-perfoming in 2013, the Cowboys could use Telvin Smith as a true read-and-react weakside linebacker. Unlike Carter, Smith shows instincts and has a nose for the ball. Smith excels in zone coverage and would be a perfect fit for what the Cowboys are trying to do on defense.
I thought Telvin Smith played out of position in 2013 for the ‘Noles. For most of the season, he played middle linebacker for the team. But what I love more than anything about Smith, very similar to Sean Lee, is that he has instincts in the run game that can’t be taught. He makes things seem so easy. Check out this play that he makes on the opening drive of the game against Pittsburgh:
Smith read the hole and arrived faster than the running back could have even imagined. With Will McClay and Rod Marinelli looking for speed at every position, Telvin Smith needs to be a consideration for the Cowboys in the second or third round as a possible replacement for Bruce Carter.