Saturday, April 27, 2019

Vikings select USC LB Cameron Smith in the fifth round

Photo: Trojans Athletics

The Vikings waited until the fifth round to pick their first defensive player. USC linebacker Cameron Smith brings depth and competition to the roster. 

The Vikings finally used a draft pick on a defensive player in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Minnesota added more depth to the linebacker room by selecting USC linebacker Cameron Smith. A sound run-stopper for the Trojans, Smith possibly projects to play as an inside linebacker. He graded very high in the PFF metrics as a run defender, earning an 88.4 grade in 2018. With the Vikings, Smith thinks his versatility will be important. 

"I feel like I can do whatever they want me to do to be honest with you. I feel like I have so much more to learn and I can get a lot better and I think that getting there and working with the linebackers coach and some of the veterans there, I just think I can learn a lot," Smith said after the selection. "Whatever they need me to do, if it’s play the bigger package and stop the run or even come in and play on third down and do whatever they need. I am really confident in whatever they ask of me. I am just ready to contribute as much as possible.

Smith was named USC’s Most Valuable Player on the 2018 roster, tallying, 81 tackles.  He became the first Trojans player in 40 years to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons. He started 44 games, showing off his physicality at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds. Smith feels like a pure middle linebacker who can help against the run. His instincts are something he thinks will help him translate to the next level.

"I think my instincts are going to take over. I remember getting there to USC my freshman year in the spring. When the game gets picked up and everyone else is playing faster, I just feel a true player plays faster. I’m just excited to feel that speed," Smith said. "The unknowing part is just different. Everyone talks about it but I think if you are a football player, you adjust to whatever is going on. I am excited to be there and just start working with the team."

Athletically, he ranks in the the 92nd percentile in the vertical jump and falls into the 85th percentile in the broad jump, according to his MockDraftable chart. He doesn’t possess the strength component and put up just 15 reps on the bench press. The overall explosiveness metrics show up in the data and it’s possibly an area the Vikings prioritized.

With his tackling skills and run-stopping ability, there is room for him to grow physically to add strength. It’s unclear how much value he can provide in coverage, due to a low sample size of targets, but his volume of tackling jumps out. He contributed immediately as a true freshman until he tore his ACL in the late portion of 2015. Prior to his injury, Smith was leading the team in both tackles and interceptions. He also grabbed three interceptions in one game against Utah in Week 7.

Minnesota has consistently wanted to add depth and special teams ability to the linebacker room in late rounds. Smith projects as someone who can help on coverage units while he develops as a defender. Nonetheless, with his productivity and tackling skills, he could push for early playing time. 

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