The biggest decision of the Tennessee offseason came from star offensive lineman Trey Smith. After battling back from two stints of blood clots, nobody would have blamed Smith for heading to the NFL early after a successful junior season. But the former five-star prospect chose to return to Knoxville to play out his senior season.
Former NFL executive and now analyst Gil Brandt shared on Twitter today that Smith may have been one of the first offensive linemen off the board had he declared.
I generally believe almost every college player benefits by exhausting their eligibility before entering the draft, but there are some exceptions. @Vol_Football OL Trey Smith would have been in mix this year as the draft's top OL had he come out. One to watch in 2021. pic.twitter.com/T7j7QNRh2L— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) April 13, 2020
Is that true? Talent wise, certainly. But Smith’s situation goes much deeper. NFL team would want to dig deep into Smith’s medicals, something that would have been particularly difficult this year with limited contact due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Smith was sidelined during the 2018 offseason with blood clots in his lungs. After working to get back on the field, the issue resurfaced later in the year. Smith was held out of contract drills for the entire offseason in 2019, slowly working his way back into the starting lineup. He was able to finish the 2019 season as a starter, returning to his dominant self.
Most believed that Smith would go ahead and enter the draft in an attempt to avoid a potential setback, but that didn’t happen. Smith now has a chance to really distance himself from his medical issues by putting together a strong senior campaign. If he’s able to do that, there’s no reason why he can’t be a first round selection in April of 2021.
It’s a risky decision, but with how things have played out this draft season, you can make the case that Smith’s call is already correct.