Just about everyone sounds convinced that the Vikings will seek out cornerback help in the 2015 NFL Draft, with top tier prospects like Trae Waynes and Marcus Peters getting a lot of attention as potential first round selections, but it is entirely possible that the Vikings will also be looking for depth at the position later on in the weekend.
It is important to note, when talking about the Vikings draft “needs,” that the depth chart in the secondary has not gotten worse this offseason. In fact, by adding veteran Terence Newman, the Vikings have arguably gotten better via that one addition and the assumption that continuity leads to improvement. Adding more talent to a group that features Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Captain Munnerlyn and now Newman certainly can’t hurt the team’s competition situation in Mankato.
Snagging a small school prospect like Towson’s Tye Smith might turn into a late-round (or undrafted free agent) steal that pays dividends for the Vikings down the road. Smith (6′ 0″ and 184 pounds) has a nice frame for an NFL cornerback and seems like a player with the upside to develop into more than just training camp fodder.
Smith underwhelmed at the NFL’s Scouting Combine, especially in the forty yard dash where he posted a time of 4.6 seconds, but he admittedly added too much weight prior to the event. In an effort to bulk up, Smith checked into the Combine 25 pounds heavier than his playing height in 2014, and he dropped nine of those pounds prior to his pro day. At the pro day he posted improved times of 4.47 and 4.51 seconds, with another attempt being clocked at 4.61 seconds while running into a heavy headwind.
“It went pretty good, I felt faster,” Smith said of his pro day performance. “I’m way faster than I was at the combine and I’m more fluid in my hip changes. I feel more explosive at this weight even though I dropped a couple of pounds. I’m hearing it was a positive, good day. I felt way more comfortable because this is where I played and all my brothers are here.”
Smith had dinner with Saints representatives and talked extensively with the Eagles on the days of Towson’s event, according to the Baltimore Sun. 23 teams were in attendance for the pro day, which was highlighted by pass rusher Ryan Delaire, but the Vikings are not known to have been there.
As a three-year starter, Smith accumulated 312 tackles, six interceptions, six forced fumbles and knocked 25 passes out of the air in a way that reminds this hack blogger of Mr. Rhodes himself.
“He’s long with good hands, runs well,” Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said of Smith after the pro day performance. “Good change of direction, good hips, all the things you look for in a corner.”
According to his NFL.com Draft Profile, Smith’s 20-yard shuttle time was the sixth best at the Combine, despite his added weight. In a lot of ways, this is a better measurement of a cornerback’s athleticism than the forty yard dash anyways.
One can hardly blame Smith for adding so much weight prior to the Combine, as his greatest weakness was his bulk and strength. This was best illustrated by West Virginia’s star receiver Kevin White embarrassing him on the field. If he can bulk up and still play at an adequate speed, however, then Smith will surely be a candidate for somebody’s active roster next September.
Smith has the attitude and awareness to compete at the next level, and his closing speed and punch-you-in-mouth style of tackling has to appeal to defensive coordinators and special teams coaches alike. Thus, he is certainly a name to keep track of as the NFL Draft gets into the later rounds this year.