It would have been totally understandable if Trey Smith had opted to go pro this offseason. Finally healthy, Smith beat blood clots in his lung twice to put a full season together in 2019. Not only did he put a full season together, he returned to his dominant form.
Suddenly a path to the NFL was clear, but Smith chose to come back to Tennessee for one more year. Smith is now one of the best offensive lineman returning to the college ranks for the 2020 season. If he remains healthy for all of 2020, his NFL stock might just been back to where it once was following his freshman season.
As it turns out, Smith’s decision may have already turned out to be the correct one. The COVID-19 shutdown forced teams to do things differently this draft season, limiting access to players during what would typically be time for visits and medical checks. That uncertainty could have led to Smith slipping down draft boards. But now he’s got another year to prove himself, and hopefully a normal draft process in 2021.
ESPN’s Todd McShay believes in Smith’s talent. The NFL Draft analyst placed Smith 30th on his initial 2021 draft board, calling him the best guard on the board.
After two seasons at left tackle, Smith kicked inside for 12 starts at left guard. He has some injury history, but he projects as the top NFL guard in the class with some versatility.
Smith started his Tennessee career at guard, before kicking out to left tackle as a sophomore. With two five-star tackles coming into the fold during the 2019 season, Smith went back inside to stay.
The former five-star prospect will anchor the Tennessee offensive line once again, which now may be the strongest part of the roster. Another strong season could shoot Smith into the middle parts of the first round, with the medicals pending.
His draft process and ultimate landing spot will be fascinating — and likely unpredictable.