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    James Smith, P, Cincinnati – NFL Draft Player Profile

    Every year, a league-wide trial of sorts occurs for special-teams players entering the league. Many join with teams as late-round picks and undrafted free agents, hoping to use the offseason as an audition to earn a lasting role. Does Cincinnati punter James Smith have the necessary tools to be selected late in the NFL Draft, or will his path forward be more challenging to traverse?

    James Smith NFL Draft Profile

    • Position: Punter
    • School: Cincinnati
    • Current Year: Senior
    • Height: 6-foot-5
    • Weight: 235 pounds

    Tony Pauline’s James Smith Scouting Report

    Positives: Nice-sized punter with the leg strength to flip the field. Shows the ability to handle the bad snap, effectively punts under pressure, and quickly gets the ball off his foot.

    Drives punts for long distances. Possesses good size and can make the tackle when necessary.

    Negatives: Very inconsistent with his hang time. Takes an unconventional run-up to get the punt away.

    Analysis: Smith possesses the size and leg strength to make an NFL roster, but he must brush off the details of his punting, especially the delivery of the ball.

    James Smith Player Profile

    Australia has long been one of the NFL’s most consistent producers of special-teams talent. Kentucky punter Max Duffy hails from the subtropical continent, and so too does Cincinnati punter James Smith.

    Like Duffy and many others before him, Smith got his start playing Australian rules football in his home continent. Smith played for the Wangaratta Rovers from 2013 to 2017. However, he had his eye on an eventual transition to American football. He trained for a punting role and entered the recruiting database for the 2017 season, and promptly found an opportunity with the Cincinnati Bearcats.

    James Smith’s career as a Cincinnati punter

    Having immense kicking experience from his days in the Australian rules football league, Smith quickly took on an increased role on Cincinnati’s special-teams unit. Listed as a true freshman in his first season, Smith punted the ball 64 times, averaging 42.0 yards per punt with a long of 65 yards. In 2018, Smith saw an uptick in his production. This time, he amassed 59 punts for an average of 46.6 yards per punt. His increased efficiency earned him a spot as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s best punter.

    Smith carried his role as Cincinnati’s punter through the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He punted the ball 112 more times over that span. Overall, Smith earned first-team All-AAC honors twice and second-team All-AAC honors a third time. He was also an All-AAC academic selection in 2019. After the 2020 season, Smith chose to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, forgoing the extra year of eligibility provided by the NCAA.

    James Smith’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft

    As he makes the leap to the National Football League, Smith faces an uncertain future. The Cincinnati punter, who turns 27 years old this coming August, clearly has the size and the leg to earn a tryout in the NFL. His longest punt in college was 72 yards.

    However, for all his talent, Smith will need to become more polished and consistent at the NFL level. As Tony referenced above, Smith’s hang time can fluctuate, and his running wind-up may be a bit more dangerous in the NFL against faster and more athletic defenders. Smith’s size affords him some tackling ability, and he has upside with his leg strength. Consequently, teams may see their later-round picks as better spent elsewhere.

    Nevertheless, whether he heads to the NFL as a draft pick or an undrafted free agent, Smith should get an opportunity to prove himself. Like the Vikings, Saints, Dolphins, Cardinals, Cowboys, and Steelers, many teams have potential long-term questions at punter. Smith could prove to be a cheap, cost-effective option.

    [su_button url=”https://www.profootballnetwork.com/nfl-draft-prospects-2021-updated-big-board-player-rankings/” style=”flat” background=”#540008″ color=”#ffffff” size=”5″ wide=”yes” center=”yes” text_shadow=”0px 0px 0px #000000″]Keep Reading! 2021 NFL Draft Prospects: Pauline’s updated big board, player rankings[/su_button]

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