Braden Smith capped his Auburn career by becoming a first-team AP All-American after traveling all the way from a decorated high school career in Olathe, Kansas. Later this week, he should be a fairly high draft pick for some team needing a solid offensive guard in the 2018 NFL Draft.
After starting all thirteen games as true freshman and earning an All-SEC Freshman Team nod, Smith remained a stalwart on the Auburn offensive line. He got noticed with accolades every year since then before reaching the All-American First Team as a senior.
In a pretty solid class for offensive guards, Smith is near the top, rated as the sixth-best guard in the pool. By all accounts, he should be an early round pick due to his production in the run game.
What’s Smith’s biggest strength? Literally... strength.
35 reps on the bench press, a 5.22 40-yard dash, and a vertical jump of 33.5 inches show that Smith is a physical specimen, who checks in at 6’6, and a shockingly trim 315 pounds. With the different positions he played in college, he’ll be a possible guard or tackle in the NFL.
Although he’ll most likely end up on the interior in the NFL, with “mauler” strength and good initial power to take advantage of the defender across the way, he’s also got the skills to be a serviceable edge blocker in the pros. He’s strong enough to withstand a bull rush from nearly anyone, and he’ll get better at dealing with the speed rush that’s become so prevalent in the NFL game.
As for what he needs to work on, schemes beyond straight-up man-to-man blocking can become a bit of a task for him. Smith has had some issues cleanly getting out on pull situations, and when the defense throws something like a stunt or a twist, his feet aren’t quite quick enough to deal with getting into position sometimes.
So who does he compare to? Look north to former Wisconsin Badger, and current Cleveland Brown Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler was another road-grader run blocker with similar limitations in his pass blocking, but he earned a first round pick in 2012. Now, Braden Smith is expected to go in the second or third round (mainly due to the number of other top guards in the class). He’s a threat to be Auburn’s first player taken in the 2018 NFL Draft that begins this Thursday.