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    Maason Smith’s Draft Profile | LSU, DT Scouting Report

    If Maason Smith can reach his ultimate ceiling, he has the 2024 NFL Draft scouting report to be one of the class's best defensive linemen in time.

    There was a time when LSU’s Maason Smith was viewed as the potential DT1 of the 2024 NFL Draft. Now, near the conclusion of the 2024 cycle, how has Smith’s scouting report held up against the test of time and enhanced scrutiny? Can he be an impact player in the NFL?

    Maason Smith’s Draft Profile and Measurements

    • Height: 6’5 1/8″
    • Weight: 306
    • Length: 35″
    • Wingspan: 84 5/8″
    • Hand: 8 1/2″
    • Position: Defensive Tackle
    • School: LSU
    • Current Year: Junior

    Upside has always been the promise with Smith. Three years in, it’s fair for evaluators to want more to bank on. However, that upside remains apparent, just as it did when he joined the LSU Tigers as a five-star recruit with offers on the table from Alabama and Georgia.

    Smith hit the ground running for the Tigers. He played in nine games as a true freshman, starting four. In his first career game against McNeese State, he accumulated three sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. On the year, he racked up four sacks and five TFLs.

    2022 was supposed to be the next part of Smith’s breakout, but at the conclusion of the team’s very first defensive drive, he tore his ACL while celebrating a stop. That injury sidelined Smith for the rest of the year and cast a shadow on his 2024 NFL Draft projection.

    Entering 2023, the biggest question surrounding Smith was how he would return and rebound from his torn ACL. Would he lose any of the elite explosiveness that made him such an enthralling up-and-comer?

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    At the very least, Smith looked close to 100% in 2023. There were times when he showed less comfort, but he still proved very productive against both the pass and the run, accumulating 28 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, and two pass breakups.

    Later, Smith reaffirmed his athletic potential at the 2024 NFL Combine, logging a 5.01-second 40-yard dash, a 7.62-second three-cone, a 9′ broad jump, and a 31″ vertical in the 81st percentile. Smith has every raw tool a coach could ask for, but how does it come together on film?

    Smith’s Scouting Report

    Strengths

    • Nuclear power plant with hyper-elite length, lean mass, and a seven-foot wingspan.
    • Hyper-explosive DL with an elite first step and gap-obliterating momentum generation.
    • Amped-up mover with searing lateral burst, energy, and the agility to execute spins.
    • With combined explosiveness, length, and frame density, has elite raw power capacity.
    • Has the power capacity to shock linemen at contact with full extensions inside the torso.
    • Can violently extend and stack run blocks off the snap, then shed and swallow runners.
    • Overwhelming stacking strength makes him a displacement-halting force up front.
    • Improved in 2023 at properly acquiring leverage and loading his base to gain control.
    • Flashes hand-fighting excellence, levying bull-rush, arm-over, and rip combos from outside.
    • Can bait blockers into lurching with lateral jabs, then win with oppressive swim moves.
    • Has a menacing power profile and arsenal and has flashed the ability to build off power.
    • Unique bend allows him to work the corner and splice past blockers with ankle flexion.
    • Comes off the line with bristling heat and can work through contact on second attempts.
    • Actively uses his length to obstruct the passing lane when he can’t get to the QB.
    • Translates well as a 3-tech but has the versatility to rush from 4i and 5-tech.

    Weaknesses

    • Is a bit high-hipped and stiff on change of direction, which can impact recovery capacity.
    • Hip stiffness can sap lateral agility and transition freedom on direction changes.
    • Stiffness can inhibit his ability to fully shed blocks after stacking and ripping anchors.
    • With his length, sometimes gets over-extended, exposing himself to snatch-and-traps.
    • Tends to engage power rushes with pads too high, exposing his frame to combo blocks.
    • Tall pad level can stall out base load and power drive as well as erode contact balance.
    • At times, struggles to sustain proper pad level and base load when stunting across gaps.
    • Can still be more controlled with his base alignment on stunts and vertical rushes.
    • Has the ability to stack moves but ad-libs at times, resulting in inefficient hand loading.
    • Overall pass-rush and hand-fighting consistency can improve on a down-to-down basis.
    • When taking run defense reps from 5-tech, can be late to read and react to option plays.
    • Tore his ACL at the start of the 2022 season, leaving long-term durability as a concern.

    Current Draft Projection and Summary

    Smith grades out as a top-100 prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft. He’d present the best value in the mid-to-late Day 2 range, but with his high-end physical tools, there’s a chance he goes off the board even earlier.

    Smith has long been billed as a high-upside prospect, and that’s from where his primary appeal is derived. At 6’5″ and 306 pounds, with 35″ arms and a wingspan over seven feet, he’s a lab-built defensive lineman with elite vertical explosiveness, take-on strength, and power capacity.

    At his best, Smith gives evaluators a look at how dominant he can be with his traits. In run defense, he can effortlessly stack blockers, shed with violent swims and rips, and envelop ball carriers within his reach.

    Smith is built to minimize displacement in run defense. Meanwhile, as a pass rusher, he creates it at a high level with his raw power capacity. With his burst and length, he can blast opponents back into the pocket, and he flashes exciting rushing versatility as a stunting lineman as well.

    MORE: Top DTs in the 2024 NFL Draft

    Smith is still fleshing out his rush arsenal, and his ambiguous flexibility is the ultimate final piece in distinguishing his ceiling. His hip stiffness limits him in multiple phases and detracts from his leveraging at times — but he has reps at the opposite end of the spectrum, bending under tackles from 5-tech with impressive ankle flexion.

    If Smith can unlock the level of flexibility and comfort that he displayed pre-ACL tear in 2021, he has the upside to be an alignment-versatile impact starter in the mold of Stephon Tuitt. But even if he fails to develop far past his current profile, he still holds rotational value as a strong run defender and an undeniable power presence.

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