The University of Alabama-Birmingham football program has overcome historical adversity to become a success story. Despite this, they haven’t had a player drafted to the NFL since 2015. This year, they have two legitimate prospects. Can one of them — UAB linebacker Jordan Smith — overcome his own adversity to be selected in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Jordan Smith NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: UAB
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 6’5 7/8″
- Weight: 264 pounds
- Wingspan: 83 1/4″
- Arm: 33 3/8″
- Hand: 9 1/4″
Tony Pauline’s Jordan Smith Scouting Report
Positives: Florida transfer who was an impact starter for UAB the past two seasons. Incredibly athletic defensive front-seven player who can be used up the field or in space. Breaks down well and effectively uses his hands. Agile, easily changes direction or redirects and quickly alters his angle of attack in pursuit. Remains disciplined with assignments. Fluid and smooth.
Gets depth on pass drops, covers a lot of area on the field, and easily gets out to the flanks pursuing the action. Forceful up the field, terrific as a pass rusher and bends off the edge. Remains disciplined with assignments and does not run aimlessly around the field. Quickly locates the ball handler, explodes through gaps, and gives effort defending the run.
Negatives: Lacks bulk and strength and struggles to get off blocks. Doesn’t stack well against the run.
Analysis: Smith is an athletic prospect with outstanding size and speed as well as growth potential. He displays himself as a well-rounded, three-down defender, and should only improve as he gets more playing experience. I project Smith at outside linebacker in a 3-4 system, as he can rush the passer or drop back into coverage on passing downs.
Jordan Smith Player Profile
A Georgia native, Jordan Smith began his path to the NFL Draft playing football at Lithonia High School. Noticeably bigger, stronger, and faster than those around him, Smith began to garner national attention as a junior. In 2014, he racked up 10 sacks for the Bulldogs and earned effusive praise from Bulldogs’ head coach Marcus Jelks.
“He’s so tall, long, and rangy. He’s got really long arms. His first step off the ball is one of the best. His better playing days are in front of him. Once he learns a few things and gets in the weight room.”
His performances also earned him a three-star rating from 247 Sports. It was the start of a rollercoaster recruiting process for Smith. In early June 2015, he announced his Top 10 schools, with Clemson pegged as his preferred option. However, on July 29th, Smith committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks.
As the fall of 2015 turned into winter, however, things changed at South Carolina. After a disappointing start to the season, there was a turnover of the coaching staff. The staff that had recruited Smith were no longer there. As a result, Smith de-committed, reopening his recruitment on December 7th. Just six days later, he joined the Florida Gators.
Jordan Smith’s college football career
Although clearly athletically gifted, Jordan Smith was a raw talent when he arrived in Florida. A lanky 220 pounds in a nearly 6’7″ frame, Smith would need to bulk up if he was going to match the physical rigors of the college game. Because of this, he redshirted his freshman season in 2016. However, he was expected to become a major factor in the Florida defense in 2017.
That 2017 season for the Gators never came. Smith and multiple Florida teammates were suspended from the program following a credit card fraud scam. Pleading no contest to a third-degree felony, Smith was hit with a two-year probationary sentence and $521 in court costs. Consequently, his time at Florida was over.
Smith’s path to redemption — and ultimately the NFL Draft — began in Kansas. Playing for Butler Community College at the JUCO level began to rebuild his football career. He racked up 77 tackles, including 22.5 for loss, 11 sacks, 3 pass breakups, and a forced fumble. His performances caught the attention of UNLV and Marshall. Instead, Smith committed to play linebacker at UAB in December 2018.
Finding redemption at UAB
Smith immediately impressed for the Blazers. In his third game for the program, he logged his first sack in a nationally televised game against South Alabama. By the end of 2019, he had amassed 8 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. As a result, he ranked ninth in Conference USA for tackles for loss and fourth in sacks.
Smith built on that performance in 2020. In a shortened season, he continued to rack up impressive statistics. Once again, he was prominent on the national stage as UAB faced Miami in the Hurricanes’ season opener. Smith recorded his career-high for tackles in the Miami game. He also secured two tackles for loss against the highly-rated D’Eriq King.
Career-high single-game sacks and tackles for loss came against Rice late in a season where the UAB linebacker achieved first-team All-Conference USA honors. As a result of his performances, Jordan Smith’s path to the NFL Draft achieved a significant boost with an invite to the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Analyzing Jordan Smith’s NFL Draft profile
There is no better way to describe UAB linebacker Jordan Smith as an NFL Draft prospect than to echo his former high school coach’s words. Tall, long, and rangy is exactly what Smith is. Except there have been some changes from the lanky kid that suited up at Lithonia High School.
Leaving Lithonia at 220 pounds was never going to work in the college game. Smith has bulked up by an impressive 35 pounds. The weight gain hasn’t had any obvious detriment to his game. He still possesses the speed that helps him to shoot into the opposition backfield as if he was fired out of a cannon. Only now, he has the power behind him as well.
One problem that players of Smith’s size often have as pass rush players is their ability to bend around the edge. However, the UAB linebacker has showcased examples of impressive bend during his career. He also demonstrated that skill set on the first day of Senior Bowl practices. Smith embarrassed potential NFL Draft first-round offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood in one-on-ones with a beautiful dip around the edge.
What are the potential concerns with Smith?
There are on and off the field concerns to consider when analyzing Jordan Smith’s NFL Draft prospects.
On the field, he relies solely on his athletic traits to win. Explosive off the line and strong, he relies on those two things to get home. However, in the NFL, that alone isn’t going to allow you to maximize your success rate. It would be best if you had a pass-rush plan and toolbox of moves. Smith hasn’t regularly showcased that he possesses either. That being said, there were some positive signs during his first Senior Bowl practice session.
Off the field, there will be the inevitable questions about his involvement in credit card fraud. However, these are light concerns at this point. Smith is clearly remorseful of his actions and understands the consequences. In an interview for AL.com, Smith talked about the lessons he has learned from his adversity.
“It’s really just having love for the game and having it taken away from you. It got taken away from me for just a short amount of time. That drove me to be better. I had to better myself because something that I cared about was taken away from me because of a bad decision.”
Jordan Smith’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Having played predominantly as an outside linebacker, Jordan Smith’s best fits in the NFL Draft would be with a team running a 3-4 defensive scheme. Of course, in the modern game, teams are more inventive with their defensive packages, but Smith would benefit most from playing in a team that blitzes from the outside linebacker position.
Some teams that have a need at that position include the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers.
How high could he be taken in the 2021 NFL Draft? Tony Pauline has a third-round grade on Jordan Smith as his 88th-ranked prospect in his latest big board for Pro Football Network. With a standout performance at the Senior Bowl, he could further solidify or enhance that expectation.
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