Welcome to part two of our ten part series called “Welcome to the Big Show” where we give you an in-depth look into each of the Vikings ten Draft selections of 2012.  Brett did a fine job handling Part One, a look at Matt Kalil, and now we move onto our other first round pick, Harrison Smith.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Born on Groundhog’s Day in 1989, Harrison Smith grew up as an extremely gifted athlete.

From a young age, adults took notice of Smith’s leadership abilities and willingness to include everyone.  His mother received calls from summer camp counselors telling stories of Smith comforting kids through the night as they cried from being homesick, and often including other kids in activities even when other children considered them outcasts.

Smith went to high school at Knoxville Catholic where he was a do-it-all player.  Heck, he was even a solid basketball player.  He ran wild as a running back, was a gifted receiver, and showed prowess on defense, and even averaged 14 yards per punt return as a senior.  In 2006, he was selected as Tennessee’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year.

Having grown up at a Catholic school with a strict dress code, Smith got to Notre Dame and let his hair grow out.  While drawing comparisons by some to Justin Bieber, he preferred the Scooby Doo comparisons and embraced the “Shaggy” role when Halloween rolled around.

He was a four star athlete coming out high school, with some schools envisioning him on offense and some wanting him to play defense.  With offers on the table from a number of schools that included Tennessee, Auburn, and Alabama, Smith ended up choosing Notre Dame.  His decision not to play for Tennessee ended up seeing his family be semi-spurned in their hometown.

At Notre Dame, he graduated from Mendoza College of Business with a management-entrepreneurship degree and enrolled in a graduate studies program.

THE ATTRIBUTES

Height:  6’ 2”

Weight:  213 pounds

Arm Length:  32 5/8”

Hand Size:  10 1/8”

Forty Yard Dash:  4.57 seconds

Vertical Jump:  34”

Broad Jump:  10’ 2”

Bench Press:  19 reps

3-Cone Drill:  6.63 seconds

20 Yard Shuttle:  4.12 seconds

THE SKILLS

POSITIVES

  • Good athleticism
  • Large frame
  • Strong Play Recognition
  • Excels in Zone Coverage
  • Play intelligent football
  • Plays well balanced, equally as effective against the run as the pass
  • Rarely misses tackles
  • Always around the football
  • Plays the ball well once in the air
  • Quick acceleration
  • Has decent hands
  • Uses good technique in taking on and shedding blockers
  • A natural leader on the field
  • Able to play both safety positions
  • A vocal leader on defense
  • Durable
  • Known to be coachable

NEGATIVES

  • Does not have elite speed
  • Does not often deliver knockout hits
  • Interceptions dropped off senior year
  • Struggles in man coverage
  • Can appear stiff at times
  • Can get caught out of position
  • Often has to catch up to receiver from behind
  • Can fall for double moves and jukes
  • Not prone to the big play

COLLEGE PRODUCTION

At Notre Dame, Smith and his teammates had to endure a major regime change, and he was often switched from position to position.  He has started games at free safety, weakside outside linebacker, strongside outside linebacker, as well as weakside inside linebacker.  Not only did Smith manage to stay productive despite the position changes, but his leadership on the field and in the locker room has often been credited for Notre Dame’s defense having a good transition from Charlie Weis to Brian Kelly.

Unlike most safety prospects, Smith has been durable his entire career thus far, having played in all 51 games since his freshman year, having started in 47 of them.  In that time he recorded 309 tackles, 187 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for a loss, caused two fumbles, and recovered a fumble.  He also had seven interceptions, but they all came in 2010.  He also had 28 defended passes.  He even rushed the ball twice at Notre Dame, collecting 58 yards.

COLLEGE HIGHLIGHTS

THE SELECTION

The Vikings addressed one of the roster’s biggest offseason needs by combining their second round pick with their fourth round pick to trade up to the 29th overall spot and select Harrison Smith.  Smith had often been connected to the Vikings prior to the Draft for a number of reasons including his obvious skill, their obvious need, the fact that the Vikings staff coached him at the Senior Bowl where he excelled, and also Rick Spielman’s apparent liking of Notre Dame players.

The pick was met with mixed reviews, especially the fact that the team traded up to do so, as not all fans are sold on Harrison’s ability to play at the NFL level.  In practice, Smith regularly lined up against current Vikings tight ends John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph.

Smith did not attend the Draft in New York City.  Instead, he watched the event live on television at his home in Tennessee with friends and family.  He kept to himself at his own party, however, as he distracted himself from the suspense by shooting baskets in the driveway and taking his dog for a walk.  When he received the call from Rick Spielman, the house predictably erupted with joy.

He did not know if the Vikings were interested in him, as the team did not show interest for the nearly three months since the Senior Bowl took place.

SCOUTING REPORTS

Sideline Scouting

Walter Football

The Fifth Down

National Football Post

NFL Soup

QUOTES

From Smith in a 2011 interview:  “I think the reason most guys play, I know the reason that I play, at the start of the year, it’s not, in my mind, it’s not that we need to win every game. In my mind, it’s the next play, I’m going to beat the guy I’m going against and that’s why you play the game. Because your ability to beat the guy across from you is so satisfying, that just keeps you going, because you want more of that. And so to me, the next play that I play, that’s what I want to do. I don’t care who the team is, I don’t care what our record is, I don’t care how many games we have left. I don’t care if it’s practice. That’s the mind set that I have and I know a lot of other guys have.  So it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. I want to beat the guy that I go against next play.”

Rick Spielman to Peter King:  “When our coaches coached the Senior Bowl, they fell in love with Harrison Smith.  At safety, the depth after him got really thin. So we felt that was a guy we really wanted to get where we got him.”

Smith on being coached by the Vikings at the Senior Bowl:  “I thought I played well and did a good job and tried to do what they wanted me to do, but they never said anything about that they were going to draft me.  There were a lot of good players down there. I think it was just trying to get to know each other well and at the end of the day, I think they think I’m a good fit for them and I 100-percent agree.”

Leslie Frazier on the selection of Smith:  “The fact he can play in the box or play deep; it’s hard to find those guys.  That’s why the safety position is not as deep, because it’s hard to find guys who are able to do both. He has the ability to be effective in both areas.”

Smith on wanting to be a starter:  “Who doesn’t want to start? Why would you want to play the game if you don’t have that competitive fire to go out and compete every day? To me, I think it’s an honor for them to think highly of me to spend such a high pick on me. I want to back them up.”

Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly on the regime change at Notre Dame:  “In that transition, he was all in.  He bought in from Day One and never looked back. He really took over the team in my first year here and continued by the way he handles himself. He’s professional, hard-working, dedicated and he had the respect of his teammates.”

WHERE HE FITS

Smith is likely to immediately step into the Vikings starting lineup at free safety.  As of right now, it looks like he will start across from strong safety Jamarca Sanford, but it sounds like they wouldn’t hesitate to put Smith himself at strong safety if they feel they can find a better combination.

Since middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley may not turn out to be a three down player, I wouldn’t be surprised if the football savvy Smith ends up calling plays and taking charge of adjustments from the middle of the field.  He may even end up wearing the helmet with a mic in it.

With Antoine Winfield seeing a reduced roll, we may see the leadership baton passed off in this secondary sooner rather than later.

GRADES

Adam’s Grade:  A-

Brett’s Grade:  B+

16 COMMENTS

  1. Welcome to the Vikings Harrison Smith. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he’s a big improvement over what we had last year.

  2. I like this pick a lot, wish we coulda stayed put and drafted him but I think NYG, Indy, or StL would have drafted him so its a good move. I just hope, pray that he wont be next to Jamarca Sanford. I don’t agree that he would be moved to SS, I see him as more of a FS, he is a lot better in coverage than anybody thinks.

  3. I like the pick. People talk about some players having elite speed and size saying its a plus because you can’t teach that. The thing I love about Harrison is that he has the leadership qualities that you also can’t teach. I would predict he’ll be a team captain by no latter than his 3rd year and by drafting him, we have a player to QB our defense. I feel as if he’s the type of player that won’t let others give less than 100% and is exactly the type of leader we need as we remake this defense.

    Plus, people complaining about having to trade up to get him need to realize the NFL is unpredictable. If you can get the player you want, you get him. If Spielman waits, many things could happen. Maybe teams below the Ravens don’t want to trade out of their spot. Maybe someone else trades ahead of the Vikings to draft him, or for all we know, maybe an unexpected team takes him. Sure, maybe he would’ve fallen, but when the price is only a 4th round pick (which we had 4 of), we would’ve been dumb not to make the trade!

  4. paul krause.2

    with these first two picks we made good decisions at positions of great need

    we’re making progress, but ponder is still the key

  5. i was excited that we took him and kalil…these were the first two picks i wanted….they fill two major holes with good quality players with tons of potential. Now hopefully some of the other picks turn out well…

      • I think the name should still stick. After all doesn’t WTF stand for Winning Through Fleecing?:) That’s what Spielman did to the Browns.

        • haaha, good one. besides, it takes longer than a couple of days to tell how he really did, and then there’s the FB-TE and the kicker

          • oh please…he made out pretty good through round 3 which were gimmies…after that idk wat he was thinking….drafted another subpar fbs…im sorry but i didnt realized it took 30 of them to make a roster…and cb in the 5th that has to be converted to safety to make the team and in a panick pick a kicker in the sixth..which would have been available as a undrafted free agent….plus the free agency….the name isnt changing two smart safe picks….doesnt mean he has a clue..sry

            • Tell me how you really feel! I’m just messing with you man.

              I disagree overall about the draft. I think there were two questionable picks… But other than that, I think he did great. Obviously, only time will tell though once we see how these guys do over the years.

  6. Can’t wait to watch this guy play. I know some people are unhappy with trading up, but what would have happened if the Vikes stayed put and Smith came off the board? There is a big gulf between him and the next safety and if the viking had of come out of this draft without addressing arguably their biggest need there would have been an uproar! He’s seen as the best zone safety in the draft, can’t complain with that. My only wish was that they traded up for Randle, it wouldn’t have cost much at all and would have filled another huge need. As bad as our secondary is, I don’t think CB is a huge a need after the FA signings, Cook’s return and a healthy Winfield. It might take a while to judge how good the rest of the late round picks were.

  7. What I like the most is that he fits our scheme perfectly .. He is a zone guy, and that is exatly how they vikings intend to use him. He can come in and be a day one starter, and then hopefully we won’t see our team getting burned time after time by a 4-vertical or anything in that nature

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