Unfortunately, there aren’t many draftable prospects when your team wins three games in a season. Fortunately for the Vols, there are at least two that will be drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Trey Smith is one of those kids. His career at UT didn’t end so well in terms of overall team accomplishments, but he should be able to find himself a new home by the end of the draft.
Trey Smith’s Career In Knoxville
Smith was the prize of the 2017 recruiting class. Not only did he prove that Butch Jones still had what it took to bring in the top guys, but Smith also represented a major foundational piece for the offensive line and the offense, in general.
He started all 12 games during his freshman year and finished on the All-SEC Freshman Team roster as well as the All-SEC Second Team roster. Smith came in as an offensive tackle, but alternated at both tackle and guard. He’d eventually settle into the guard position heading into 2018.
2018 was a tough year. Smith started the first seven games and was playing well until blood clots in his lungs -that initially appeared in February of that year- shut down the rest of his season. Things looked pretty bleak, but he never called it quits and eventually worked his way back onto the field for the 2019 season.
Smith had an excellent 2019 season, capturing All-SEC honors will playing left guard. He won the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award, the first-ever Fritz Pollard Trophy, (an award given to the collegiate player who has exemplified extraordinary courage, community values and exceptional performance on the field), and was the SEC’s Offensive Lineman Of The Week after the Vols’ Week 6 win over Mississippi State.
And in terms of stats, he did just about as good as any offensive lineman could ask for: He didn’t allow a single sack all year long.
2020 was another great year. Smith won All-SEC honors again and was also named second-team All-America. He declared for the NFL Draft after declining to return for a fifth year.
How are his prospects looking for the draft?
Here are the latest mock drafts that include Smith:
- Dane Brugler, The Athletic: Round 4, Pick No. 135; Green Bay Packers
- Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Round 3, Pick No. 80; Las Vegas Raiders
- Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Round 4, Pick No. 118; Los Angeles Chargers
- Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Round 2, Pick No. 61: Buffalo Bills
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
As we saw, Smith is bouncing between third- and fourth-rounds, with most of the bouncing staying to the side of the fourth round. That’s a bit odd to me because, subjectively speaking, it’s hard to find a ton of issues with Smith’s game.
That can’t be fixed, at least.
He’s an absolute monster at 6-foot-6, 330-pounds and he puts every bit of it to use when on the field. Most defensive linemen aren’t going to out-muscle him, especially if he’s able to anchor down. Smith is also exceptionally quick and agile for his size, evidenced by the 7.43 3-cone he ran during his Pro Day. He’s better suited for a power scheme and it’s almost a guarantee he will become a starter with proper coaching.
There are some issues in pass protection. Your elite pass-rushers can take advantage of his at-times sloppy technique and speed is definitely his Kryptonite. But he’s solid enough and athletic enough to where he can be an above-average pass-blocker in the NFL.
And of course, there’s him as a human being. Smith is one of the best people to ever grace the field in Neyland Stadium. He has a tremendous heart and work ethic, one that is oftentimes unmatched. He’s going to work his ass off and make an impact in the community regardless of roster stature.
Smith’s technique is what is most alarming about his on-field play and when you combine that with his medicals, you can see why he’s not a top-50 pick. But at the same time, the potential is there for a Pro-Bowl-type player and the NFL is all about potential. One would think that hold more weight in the pre-draft process, but alas, here we are.
As long as the blood clots are subdued, then whomever drafts Smith will be happy. They are going to get an elite athlete who will work endlessly at his craft to get better. And if he reaches his ceiling, then he should be a 10-year starter with Pro-Bowl potential, at minimum.