This is a post that should’ve been written after the 2014 regular season. And though it’s overdue, it’s no less deserved. As first reported by Darren Wolfson, Harrison Smith is expected to be named to his first Pro Bowl this week. ESPN’s Ben Goessling confirmed the report, making Smith the third Minnesota Vikings player represented in this year’s all-star contest. He’ll join Adrian Peterson and Everson Griffen in Hawaii next Sunday.
Goessling reports that two league sources confirmed Smith’s selection will be made official after tonight’s NFC Championship Game. Smith finished the season with 66 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and two interceptions in 13 total games. Though he missed nearly four games with a knee injury, Smith proved invaluable to Mike Zimmer’s defense. And even if his stats weren’t as eye-popping in 2015 as they were in 2014, Smith’s greatness didn’t go unrecognized by the NFL.
Pro Football Focus, an analytics site that breaks down every NFL snap, awarded Smith the highest grade among all safeties this season. He was nearly six points better than New England’s Devin McCourty and almost seven points better than Eric Berry, the league’s Comeback Player of the Year:
Top 5 Safeties by 2015 Season Grade:
H. Smith 98.6 -MIN
D. McCourty 92.9 -NE
E. Berry 91.9 -KC
M. Jenkins 90.5 -PHI
W. Thurmond 88.1 -PHI
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 13, 2015
In Week 16, Smith’s play against the New York Giants earned him honors for the Bridgestone Performance of the Week. His pick-six of Giants quarterback of Eli Manning — the fourth of his four-year career — helped the Vikings clinch their first playoff berth since 2012. “Harrison is a good football player,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said after the game, per the team’s official website. “He’s instinctive, quick-thinking, active.”
Before the season, the Vikings picked up Smith’s fifth-year option for 2016, but his recent play could earn him a multi-year deal before the end of that contract. Since the Vikings selected Smith in the first round (29th-overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft, he’s started 52 games at free safety.